Madagascar voters elect new president in largely peaceful ballot

20 Dec 2013

image In Antananarivo, Ouza says she hopes the vote will mean a better, more peaceful future for her children. Photo: UNDP Madagascar

People in Madagascar voted Friday in a presidential run-off expected to end the country’s four-year political stalemate.

Close to eight million registered women and men were due to elect a president and 151 members of parliament. The vote is seen as an important step toward resuming development in a country where nine people out of ten live in poverty.

“I didn’t vote the first time because I was giving birth,” said Ouza, who resides in the capital, Antananarivo. “My choice is the legacy I leave for my children. I hope it will bring peace and harmony to Madagascar”.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) supported both the first and the second round of the elections, providing logistical support and advice to the Independent National Electoral Commission of the Transition (CENIT) - the electoral body which oversaw the poll.

With UNDP's support, a television debate was organized between the two presidential candidates.

“The people of Madagascar have pinned their hopes on this election,” said Fatma Samoura, the UNDP Resident Representative in Antananarivo.

“The election will pave the way for a return to constitutional order, and a resumption of foreign investment and development aid, which is extremely important given the precarity in which the country found itself in the last five years”.

CENIT will announce the provisional results by 7 January. 

From 15 to 19 December, UNDP sponsored a series of caravans, concerts and shows to educate and reach out to voters across the country.

UNDP, together with a women’s civil society organization, trained 140 women who ran to become members of parliament. The sessions covered media relations and outreach on the actual voting process. 

''There was a time when women were relegated to the background, but that era is now long gone. Women now have a key role to play in decision-making. I am now prepared to help my country emerge from this crisis,” said Assiata, one of the candidates who attended the trainings.

In efforts to promote a peaceful poll, UNDP also helped to establish a cell that monitored potential incidents from inside CENIT headquarters in the capital. The cell was staffed by representatives from the military, government and civil society organizations.

Staff there collected telephone reports from 480 mediators who sent early warnings from across the country. A dedicated computer programme was created where all these reports were filed, directly from the district level.

More than 140 incidents were registered but none of them disrupted the polls or led to any serious cases of violence. Six telephone lines were also made available for people to report any incidents from within their communities.

"This crisis and early warning unit was incredibly helpful in terms of knowing what risks were out there, and dealing with possible incidents,” said Fatma Samoura.