On Dec. 19, voters in Madagascar will elect their next president in a second-round runoff pitting two ex-presidents and bitter rivals against each other. Marc Ravalomanana, the 68-year-old economic pragmatist who held the office from 2002 until 2009, will face Andry Rajoelina, the 44-year-old populist who ousted him from power in a 2009 coup and ran the country under an internationally isolated transitional government until 2013.
In first-round voting on Nov. 7, Ravalomanana and Rajoelina received 35.3 percent and 39.2 percent of the vote, respectively, far ahead of the other 34 candidates on the ballot, including the incumbent, Hery Rajaonarimampianina, who finished in third place with 8.8 percent. Since no candidate secured an outright victory of more than 50 percent, Malagasy law requires a second round of voting between the two top finishers.
Tensions driven by unresolved rivalries from Madagascar’s 2009-2013 crisis have been high. The 2009 coup in which Rajoelina deposed Ravalomanana resulted in the death of 40 civilians, plunged Madagascar into a protracted political and economic crisis, and forced Ravalomanana into exile in South Africa. An agreement to hold new elections in 2013—the “neither, nor” compromise brokered by the South African Development Community, or SADC—specified that neither candidate could run. Rajaonarimampianina, then a proxy candidate for Rajoelina, subsequently beat Ravalomanana’s endorsed candidate to become president.