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Rajaonarimampianina poised to win Madagascar election



With all votes tallied, Hery Rajaonarimampianina has a commanding lead in Madagascar's presidential run-off, although his victory speech will have to wait until a court rules on alleged voting irregularities.

The candidate -- who is backed by Madagascar strongman Andry Rajoelina -- holds 53.5 percent of the vote after an election that is billed as a way out of five years of political and economic crisis.

Incumbent president Rajoelina seized power from his rival Marc Ravalomanana with the backing of the army in 2009, sending the country's economy into free-fall.

According to the World Bank, the ensuing crisis cost the Indian Ocean island nation at least $8 billion.
With both men cajoled by the international community into not running again, the election was dominated by their proxy candidates.

But Ravalomanana's bid to return from exile on the back of a win by Robinson Jean Louis appears to have fallen short.

Jean-Louis won 46.5 percent of the vote, according to electoral commission president Beatrice Atallah.
But amid allegations of ballot stuffing and misreporting, with Jean Louis claiming "massive fraud", no victor has yet been declared.

That will have to wait the electoral court rules, with a verdict expected within 15 days.

Despite the mud-slinging, international observers gave the vote the green light and called on the parties to respect the electoral process.

With a seemingly unassailable lead and the backing of the current government Rajaonarimampianina remains the hot favourite to take control of the country.

Madagascar's likely next leader is a Canadian-educated accountant and occasional poet who is a relative newcomer to politics.

In 2009 he was thrust into the deep end as finance minister.

With perfect French and at ease in front of the cameras, Rajaonarimampianina reached the second round of the presidential election despite being largely unknown to the public just months before the campaign.

A European diplomat described him as "a technocrat whose hands may be a little less dirty than many others".

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