Friday, October 25, 2013

Low Turnout, Security Fears Raised Over Madagascar Polls

Low turnout, security fears raised over Madagascar polls

October 25, 2013

ANTANANARIVO. — Some international observers in Madagascar have expressed concerns that there might be a low turnout and security risks in today’s presidential polls.

“Just like all elections aimed at ending the crisis, the stakes are enormous. Look at all the material, equipment and other resources that have been deployed.

“We can say that those who have invested a lot really wish to win. But in an election there is no place for more than one winner,” said Fatma Samoura, the UN special representative in Madagascar.

She made the comments in an interview on Wednesday with Xinhua.

Thirty-three candidates, including 16 newcomers, are racing for the Malagasy presidency.

During the 30-day campaign, several widely seen as favourite bidders toured the Indian Ocean island country to seek support at budget-consuming massive gatherings.

Among the most influential were Jean Louis Robinson, who is supported by Marc Ravalomanana, former president ousted in March 2009 by Andry Rajeolina; Hery Rajoanarimampianina, former minister of finance, who is unofficially supported by Rajoelina; Edgard Razafindravahy, media tycoon, interim mayor of the capital and candidate of the TGV, the party founded by Rajeolina.

If none wins 50 percent of the votes in the first round, two leading runners will enter a second round scheduled for December 20, according to the crisis-resolving roadmap adopted in November 2009.

“Despite all the measures that have been taken by the organisers and by those who support the electoral process, there are always certain risks that we can not control”, Samoura warned.

“It is the first time that Madagascar introduced the use of single ballot . . . You should know how to use it”, explained the UN representative.

The A-3 sized single ballot lists all the 33 candidates approved by the Special Electoral Court, a special branch newly-created in Madagascar’s High Constitutional Court, each with his candidate number, his logo, his portrait underlined with his name.

For Samoura, the insufficiency of security measures is another preoccupying factor.

“There should be one policeman in front of each polling station, but the country is immense with an area of nearly 600 000 square kilometres and 20 000 stations.

Burned with its financial difficulties, does the country have the capacity to mobilise enough security forces to intervene in case of fightings or contests?” asked the UN representative.

She mentioned the fact that the distribution of voter cards failed to finish on time.
“The distribution which started one week ago is not completed yet, simply because all the volunteer groups helping with the distribution of the cards are not well trained,” she explained.

Maria Muniz de Urquiza, head of EU observers in Madagascar, believe all concerned parties have been trying to ensure a transparent election.

But “the campaign had been very uneven because there was no information or political activity in remote and enclaved areas,” she told Xinhua.

“The campaign had been focused on big cities. It failed to reach the population inside the country, which makes us fear about a not-so-big turnout rate,” the observer said.

— Xinhua.

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