ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar (AP) — Madagascar’s incumbent president, Andry Rajoelina, held a commanding lead Friday as votes were counted in the island nation. The election was boycotted by the majority of candidates and marked by low turnout.

Preliminary results released by the country’s elections management body, Céni, showed the 49-year-old former DJ with 71.26% of the votes cast on Thursday, compared with his nearest rival Siteny Randrianasoloniaiko’s 10.67%. Former president Marc Ravalomanana sits third with just under 10.08% of the vote.

Ravalomanana is one of the 10 candidates who boycotted the election, alleging that conditions for a legitimate and fair vote hadn’t been met, but their names remained on the ballot.

Although less than 9% of polling stations had been counted by Friday midday, some pro-government media outlets in the country have already headlined an overwhelming victory for Rajoelina.

“It’s done,” screamed a headline in the Madagascar Express.

“Very likely victory in the first round,” stated La Vérité, a French language pro-government newspaper.

A low voter turnout marked the election, as many people appeared to heed a call by the collective of 10 candidates to stay away from voting booths. Civil society organizations and a grouping of the country’s main churches had also called for a postponement of the election.

Just under 40% of Madagascar’s 11 million voters cast their ballots, according to preliminary figures given by the elections management body.

The elections body is expected to proclaim the “provisional consolidated results” for the entire country between Nov. 24 and Nov. 25.

It will then be up to the country’s High Constitutional Court to proclaim the official results of the election at the beginning of December. A runoff has been scheduled for Dec. 20 if none of the candidates achieves more than 50%.

But the opposition has already said it doesn’t recognize this election.

“The majority of Malagasy people expressed themselves through the fact that they stayed at home,” said Hery Rajaonarimampianina, a former president speaking on behalf of the collective of 10 candidates that boycotted the election.

Most of Madagascar’s 30 million people live in poverty in a country whose economy is anchored in agriculture and tourism but is largely dependent on foreign aid.


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