Island country in grips of ‘institutional coup’ as voters boycott elections

An island nation is on reportedly in the grips of an ‘institutional coup’ as protests have erupted over the country’s election after many candidates staged a boycott.

Voters in Madagascar have been heading to the polls though many have complained the choice at the ballot box is limited. The situation has got so bad that in the capital of Antananarivo, a night-time curfew that ended two hours before voting started was put in place.

Many people said they were heeding calls by a collective of 10 candidates to stay away from polling stations.

The 10 candidates withdrew from the election this week, citing unmet conditions for a legitimate and fair vote, leaving voters with few options.

President Andry Rajoelina is running for re-election for the second time, though his democratic standing has been harmed by the security forces’ harsh crackdown on pre-election protests.

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Meanwhile, his popularity is being eroded by a struggling economy, a lack of social services, and widespread poverty. Opposition leaders – including two former presidents – in Madagascar have complained of an “institutional coup” in favour of Mr Rajoelina.

Oppposition believe he should be disqualified because he acquired French nationality in 2014.

The 49-year-old former DJ faces a significant challenge from Siteny Randrianasoloniaiko, a wealthy 51-year-old businessman. Mr Rajoelina says he is confident, declaring that “no one can take victory away from me”.

Rajoelina defended his dual citizenship, stating that he took on French nationality to ensure his children’s education in the former colonizing country.

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The highest court in the country ruled in his favour.

Critics also claim that both the National Electoral Commission and the judiciary lack independence.

The majority of Madagascar’s 30 million population resides in poverty in a nation where the economy is centred around agriculture and tourism but heavily relies on foreign aid.

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