Andry Rajoelina, right, casts his ballot paper as an electoral officer looks on during a runoff presidential election in Antananarivo, Madagascar, Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

ANTANANARIVO- Former president, Andry Rajoelina, has taken an early lead against fellow ex-leader, Marc Ravalomanana, in the Madagascar presidential runoff election.

Rajoelina (44), who ruled the Indian Ocean island nation for five years until 2014, has 56% of the vote, the electoral commission stated on Thursday.

Ravalomana (69), head of state from 2002 to 2009, has received 44% as counting was ongoing. The two are vying against each other for the first time since political turmoil forced Ravalomanana from power in the resources-endowed but impoverished country.

After casting his ballot in the capital Antananarivo, Rajoelina was in buoyant mood. “I am a democrat and I will accept the verdict of the ballot box,” he said.

Rajoelina had earlier expressed confidence in the electoral process and appealed to Madagascans to vote massively.

Campaigning in the election was largely peaceful. Antananarivo was vibrant in the days before the vote with the orange T-shirts of Rajoelina dominant and the white-and-green regalia worn by Ravalomanana’s supporters.

More than 9,9 million voters participated in the first round of voting on November 7, representing a turnout of over 54%.

Rajoelina secured 39,19% of the poll ahead of Ravalomanana, who polled 35,29 percent.

Hery Rajaonarimampianina (60), the incumbent until resigning in September to seek re-election, was distant third with over 8,84%.

The fact that none of the 36 candidates won more than 50% of the vote culminated in a runoff.

Electoral authorities are expected to announce provisional results for the runoff on December 29.

The international community deemed the 2013 poll in the country of some 25 million people as fair and transparent.

CAJ News