By Alain Iloniaina

Antananarivo - Madagascar has captured a renegade general who has been on the run since his botched coup attempt sparked a shootout two weeks before presidential elections, officials have said.

Officials offered a $50 000 (about R350 000) reward for the arrest of General Andrianafidisoa after he issued leaflets announcing an interim regime led by a military board. The announcement raised tensions before the December 3 poll.

"General Andrianafidisoa was captured by state forces at about 19:30 in a hotel in the centre of town," Lucien Victor Razakanirina, secretary of state for public security, said late on Tuesday.

He told reporters a combined force of soldiers, gendarmes and policemen took the general - known as Fidy - by surprise.

"General Andrianafidisoa put up no resistance," he said.

Officials say they are looking for Pety Rakotoniaina, mayor of the southern town of Fianarantsoa who ran in the presidential election, but say the hunt is not because of his close relationship to General Andrianafidisoa.

The mayor is being investigated for misuse of official cars, violating electoral law, threatening provincial and regional authorities with death and insulting the police, officials say.

Provisional results from the election - which must be confirmed by court before they become official - show incumbent President Marc Ravalomanana, a self-made dairy tycoon, with 54,8 percent of the vote on a 61 percent turnout.

Opposition candidates say they will contest the result.

Madagascans are hoping to avoid a repeat of the last election in 2001, when sitting President Didier Ratsiraka disputed the victory of Ravalomanana, leading to an eight-month crisis that teetered on the verge of civil war.

State television and his own private channel broadcast the Ravalomanana celebrating his 57th birthday on Tuesday.

"I know the current results are not yet official, but I hope and I know that we will be victorious," he said.

Madagascar is the world's biggest vanilla producer, a source of precious gems and has potentially rich mineral resources including oil, as well as many tourist attractions. But 75 percent of its 18 million people live on less than $1 a day.