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Last Updated: Monday, 4 December 2006, 06:38 GMT
Madagascar leader ahead in vote
President of Madagascar Marc Ravalomanana on voting day, 4 December 2006
President Ravalomanana was favourite to win the election
Madagascar leader Marc Ravalomanana is set to be comfortably re-elected, official preliminary results from the country's presidential poll suggest.

Results from voting centres in the capital area gave him 70% of votes.

His nearest rival, former Prime Minister Norbert Lala Ratsirahonan, was credited with 10%.

In the last poll, in 2001, the island nation was pushed to the brink of civil war after then-incumbent Didier Ratsiraka refused to accept defeat.

Eventually, Mr Ratsiraka and many of his ministers went into exile in France and Marc Ravalomanana took over.

Photo choice

Mr Ravalomanana, a charismatic dairy tycoon known as "the milkman", needs to win 50% of the vote to avoid a second round run-off against any of the 13 other contenders.

Voters line up in the rain in Madagascar
Voters in the capital queued in torrential rain
Voting started slowly with people queuing in torrential rain in the capital, Antananarivo. They were asked to choose a card with a photograph of their preferred candidate.

Bad weather caused power cuts in some areas, forcing officials to start counting ballots by candlelight.

Reuters news agency reported that voters burnt a ballot box in the coastal town of Toliara.

More than 14,000 observers were overseeing the vote. Some had warned of possible fraud.

Mr Ravalomanana had promised the ballot would be a model of democracy and transparency for Africa and the world.

map

"You know very well that it is a challenge for us to hold free, democratic and transparent elections," he told journalists after casting his ballot at a local school.

There was considerable controversy in the build-up to the poll with accusations of unfair access to the media and unconstitutional electoral process.

An election observer told the BBC that ballot sheets for four of the candidates had not arrived at a substantial number of polling stations across the country.

When asked about it before the election, President Ravalomanana told the BBC he was not personally responsible and did not see it as a serious problem.

The vice prime minister from the former regime, Pierrot Rajaonarivelo, was stopped from returning to the country to enter the race and an army general whose candidature was refused attempted a military overthrow.


SEE ALSO
Q & A: Madagascar election
01 Dec 06 |  Africa
Country profile: Madagascar
13 Oct 06 |  Country profiles

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