Madagascar poll organiser denies graft claims

Marc Ravalomanana alleged Friday that journalists from the state broadcaster had been bribed to leave Ceni's offices during vote tallying.

Marc Ravalomanana (L), former Madagascan president and presidential candidate, speaks to supporters at his headquarters in Antananarivo on 7 November 2018, after the first round of Madagascar's presidential election. Picture: AFP.

ANTANANARIVO - Madagascar's Ceni election commission hit back on Saturday at allegations made by a leading presidential hopeful that officials involved in tallying results acted corruptly following this week's polls.

Marc Ravalomanana, one of three former presidents who are the poll frontrunners, alleged Friday that journalists from the state broadcaster had been bribed to leave Ceni's offices during vote tallying.

"I call on those who accuse us of taking cash to bring proof," said Ceni president Yves Herinirina Rakotomanana.

Ravalomanana's camp had also attacked Ceni for the slow progress in counting the votes cast in Wednesday's poll of which around six percent have been tallied so far.

"The law says that we have to release the complete results by 20 November - and that's what we'll do," added Rakotomanana.

Ravalomanana's campaign manager Anisoa Tseheno Rabenja had on Friday warned the "institutions responsible for managing this election" against "any attempt to steal it".

His fellow frontrunner Hery Rajaonarimampianina, who ruled from 2014 until September this year when he had to resign to contest the election, said that there were "numerous irregularities" in the polls.

A fraudulent electoral roll and pre-completed ballots were among the allegations made by Rajaonarimampianina on Thursday.

But European Union, African Union and Southern African Development Community observers have insisted the poll passed off normally and that any irregularities were isolated incidents.

The former French colony has struggled to overcome political divisions after a disputed 2001 election that sparked clashes and a 2009 military-backed coup.

According to provisional results released by the election commission on Friday, former president Andry Rajoelina was leading the tally of votes counted so far with 42.86%.

Ravalomanana was close behind with 40.18%, according to the results based on 1,350 polling stations out of 24,852.

Rajaonarimampianina trailed on 4.38%.

Both Ravalomanana and Rajoelina were banned from contesting the last elections in 2013 under international pressure to avoid a repeat of political violence that engulfed the island in 2009.

Madagascar is one of the world's poorest countries, according to World Bank data, with almost four in five people living in poverty.