Madagascar imposes curfew in capital ahead of presidential voteWed, 15 Nov 2023 13:46:52 GMT

Authorities in Madagascar on Wednesday imposed a curfew in Antananarivo on the eve of a presidential election that is being boycotted by most opposition candidates amid high political tensions.Angelo Ravelonarivo, the police prefect in the capital, said the measure will come into force at 09:00 pm (1800 GMT) on Wednesday and last until 04:00 am on the day of polling.The move follows “various acts of sabotage” including the “burning of a polling station” and the “destruction of electoral materials”, Ravelonarivo told a press conference.Polls are due to open at 06:00 am and close at 05:00 pm on Thursday for a first round of voting that comes after more than a month of street protests.The Indian Ocean island nation has been shaken by a fierce battle between President Andry Rajoelina, who is running for re-election, and most opposition leaders, who have complained about an “institutional coup” in favour of the incumbent.Ten out of 12 opposition candidates on Tuesday called on voters to shun the elections, raising concerns about the vote’s regularity.”We appeal to everyone not to vote. Conditions for a transparent presidential election, accepted by all, have not been met,” said Roland Ratsiraka, one of the protesting candidates.”We do not want to participate in this fraud, it is a joke on Madagascar.”Since early October, the opposition grouping has led near daily, unauthorised protest marches in the capital that have on average drawn a few hundred supporters and been regularly dispersed by police.Rajoelina, 49, has brushed off criticism and expressed confidence that he will win another term in the first round vote.His government has repeatedly condemned the protests as moved by a “desire to overthrow power” and to “sabotage the electoral process”, accusing the opposition of “threatening the stability of the country”.- Further protests -Eleven million people are registered to vote in the country of about 30 million, which gained independence from France in 1960 and has a long history of disputed elections. The latest crisis erupted in September after Rajoelina resigned in line with the constitution in order to run for re-election.The president of the Senate was supposed to take over but declined for “personal reasons”, leaving the task to a “collegial government” headed by the prime minister, an ally of Rajoelina.The move was accepted by the Constitutional Court, which also dismissed appeals to have Rajoelina’s candidacy declared void over his dual French nationality, sparking opposition anger.The protesting candidates have called for a suspension of the electoral process and urged the international community to intervene.Speaking on behalf of the group on Tuesday, presidential hopeful Hajo Andrianainarivelo said the 10 candidates will continue to hold demonstrations “until there is an election accepted by all”.Rajoelina became Africa’s youngest head of state in 2009 when he took power on the back of a coup. After not running in the 2013 election due to international pressure, he was voted back into power in 2018 and has since held the reins in a country that remains among the poorest in the world despite vast natural resources.