The count of votes begins when Madagascar chooses the president

ANTANANARIVO (Reuters) – Madagascar on Wednesday voted the appointment of a president to fight unemployment, poverty and corruption on the island of the Indian Ocean, the outgoing president and two former chiefs of state. State leading a group of 36 candidates.

The first results are expected from Thursday, but with so many people standing, few people expect an immediate winner when announcing preliminary and then official results later in the month .

President Hery Rajaonarimampianina is seeking a second term and his two main candidates are former heads of state: Marc Ravalomanana and Andry Rajoelina.

If the vote is to take place in the second round, it will only concern the first two candidates and will take place on 19 December.

Cristian Preda, head of the European Union's observation mission, said his team deployed throughout the country had not yet detected any anomalies in the polls, which he said is essential for the restoration. democratic powers of Madagascar.

Observers are hoping for a second peaceful election since the upheaval of 2009, when Ravalomanana was forced to leave his post by Rajoelina-led demonstrations in a coup d'etat given by international organizations such as the African Union.

These events have resulted in an exodus of foreign investors from a country that is among the poorest in the world, despite reserves of nickel, cobalt, gold, uranium and other minerals.

People cheer as an election official posts a marked ballot after the presidential election in a voting center in Ambohidratrimo, Antananarivo, Madagascar, November 7, 2018. REUTERS / Malin Palm

Defense Minister Beni Xavier Rasolofonirina said 10,000 security agents had been deployed throughout the country to enhance security. Nearly 10 million people are registered on the electoral roll of the country on 25 million.

Vote Sahondramalala Nirisoa, a nurse in the capital, told Reuters: "I hope and I pray for a change."

Another voter, Erick Ralaiarimanana, a computer scientist in the capital, aged 40, said he hoped the next president would work for "the good of the Malagasy people."

Polling stations closed at 5 pm According to election officials at three polling stations in the capital, voter turnout would have been about 54 percent.

Each of the top three candidates is committed to accelerating the economic recovery in an economy whose forecasts the International Monetary Fund will increase by more than 5% this year, its highest rate in a decade.

Since the holding of peaceful elections in 2013, investors and donor governments have begun to re-engage after a four-year freeze that began after Rajoelina came to power.

But the island was hit by a new political crisis in April, triggered by a legal amendment by the Rajaonarimampianina government that would have prevented Ravalomanana from representing itself. Rajaonarimampianina then deleted that provision.

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Civil society groups accuse the three wealthy vanguards of enriching themselves, which everyone denies.

Ravalomanana is said to be "delighted" with the way the vote went. "This election is a turning point for the country," said Ravalomanana after voting in the capital, Antananarivo.

The electoral commission is expected to announce the preliminary result by 20 November. The High Constitutional Court is expected to publish the final result on 29 November.

Written by Duncan Miriri and Elias Biryabarema; Edited by Alison Williams

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