Madagascar's Rajoelina expects re-election, with some divine help
Incumbent Madagascar President Andry Rajoelina, candidate in the 2023 presidential election, his wife Mialy Rajoelina and their three children, ride in a pickup truck to greet supporters during his re-election campaign, in Toamasina, November 11, 2023. (Photo by RIJASOLO / AFP)
(AFP) - Madagascar's outgoing president Andry Rajoelina expressed little doubt as he spoke to AFP about his predictions for the country's upcoming elections.
"I'm going to win, that's for sure, and in the first round," said the leader, who will seek re-election on Thursday and is banking on popular support and God to get him over the line.
Voters in the Indian Ocean island nation will elect a president on November 16, but the run-up to the poll has been marred by near daily opposition demonstrations after disputes over its regularity.
Rajoelina, 49, 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.
"My support is the people. Then my wife. And first of all, God, who guides me and protects me," Rajoelina told AFP on Saturday night, visibly drained after several hours of campaigning.
Earlier in the day, thousands had turned out to cheer him on in the eastern city of Toamasina, Madagascar's economic hub and largest port. It was the outgoing president's last visit before the first round vote.
While the island's second-largest city is accessible by road from the capital Antananarivo, dilapidated infrastructure hampers the journey.
Rajoelina arrived swiftly via private plane, with little time to see whether the opposition had staged one of their regular protests against him.
"The opposition wants chaos and to take the population into the streets, but they can't do it because the population supports me," Rajoelina said.
"Madagascar doesn't need another crisis," he added.
Several hundred people, mostly youths, gathered in the centre of Antananarivo on Saturday in protest at what the opposition calls an "institutional coup" to favour the sitting president.
- 'This is America' -
In Toamasina, crowds on foot, motorbike and tuk-tuks waited for several hours to catch a glimpse of Rajoelina.
A sound system mounted on the back of a pick-up truck played a campaign anthem to the crowd.
"There are people who walk for several hours" to attend the rallies, Rajoelina said.
"It's the love, conviction and hope that people put in me" that makes them come, he added, insisting that the only payment he offered the attendees was a Rajoelina T-shirt.
A few dozen metres from the beachside stage is a vast $9.5-million coastal development nearing completion called 'Miami', featuring restaurants, a basketball court, a skatepark and gardens.
"This is Miami, this is America," a passer-by joked to AFP.
The development is a glaring juxtaposition in a country where three-quarters of the population live below the poverty line.
Rajoelina said he had spent the last five years doing "everything to make up for Madagascar's lagging development".
Ahead of this week's election, he has made electricity provision a campaign pledge, as only 30 percent of the island's households are currently connected.
© Agence France-Presse