Madagascar votes for new president

Madagascar votes for new president
Supporters of Jean Louis Robinson, Presidential candidate of the AVANA Party, attend his last rally in Antananarivo on Dec 18, 2013.

ANTANANARIVO- Madagascans voted Friday for a new president and parliament in run-off elections aimed at pulling the island out of the political and economic doldrums and restoring democracy.

Islanders hope the vote will end the crisis sparked by Andry Rajoelina's coup four years ago, which paralysed much of the government and caused foreign donors to cancel aid.

Both Rajoelina and the man he ousted in March 2009, Marc Ravalomanana, have been blocked from running, amid international pressure over fears of a return to violence.

Instead, proxy candidates took part and won the two top places during a first round of voting on October 25.

Freemason doctor and former health minister Robinson Jean Louis is seen as a slight favourite after winning 21.16 per cent in the first round.

He enjoys the support of exiled leader Ravalomanana, who spoke at his rallies via phone from South Africa.

His opponent, Hery Rajaonarimampianina, an astute businessman and former finance minister under Rajoelina, won 15.85 per cent.

Campaigning wrapped up on Wednesday with a heated televised debate, after both candidates earlier addressed thousands of supporters at rallies in the capital Antananarivo.

"We won't accept vote-rigging. The people are with us to survey the vote," said Jean Louis amid concerns over irregularities.

If elected, he vowed to allow his mentor Ravalomanana to return.

A few kilometres (miles) away, Rajoelina danced on stage at his protege's rally.

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