Madagascar’s former presidents Andry Rajoelina and Marc Ravalomanana were neck-and-neck in the country’s presidential race according to partial results published by the electoral commission on Thursday. Rajoelina won 43.5 percent of votes cast in Wednesday’s vote, while Ravalomanana secured 42.44 percent, according to results from 147 polling stations out of 24,852 nationwide. The country’s most recent president Hery Rajaonarimampianina trailed with 2.93 percent of the votes counted so far.The Ceni electoral commission estimated turnout at 47.18 percent. Following the vote, Rajoelina and Ravalomanana both told their supporters they were confident of victory. Rajaonarimampianina has yet to comment. A candidate must reach 50 percent to win outright, otherwise a second round will be held on December 19. Thirty-six candidates ran in the election, which is considered an acid test of the democratic credentials of the large Indian Ocean island nation which has a history of coups and instability.The key battle was expected to be between Rajaonarimampianina, 60, Ravalomanana, 68, and Rajoelina, 44, according to analysts and the findings of a banned pre-vote poll seen by AFP. Ravalomanana and Rajoelina are bitter rivals and it is the first time they have faced each other at the polls. Ravalomanana ruled from 2002 to 2009 until he was ousted in a military-backed coup, followed by Rajoelina who was in power until 2014, and then Rajaonarimampianina until earlier this year. Both Ravalomanana and Rajoelina were banned from contesting the last elections in 2013 under international pressure to avoid a repeat of political violence that engulfed the island in 2009. Campaigning for Wednesday’s polls passed off without incident and voting was peaceful, according to officials.Published in Daily Times, November 9th 2018.