"YES" leading in Madagascar's referendum vote

Friday, November 19, 2010

Pretoria - The "YES" side is likely to win Madagascar's referendum vote on the new constitution.

The provisional results, released on Thursday by the country's National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI), showed that the "YES" side was in the lead with 73 percent while the "NO" side had 26 percent.

The voter turn-out was put at 48.5 percent on the entire national territory.

CENI officials attributed the low turn-out to the errors that appeared on the electoral list, where almost half of the voters had been omitted on the final electoral list.

After most people had complained about not having been registered, the executive decided to extend the voting period from 4pm to 6pm, resulting in an increase of the number of voters in the afternoon.

The executive also decided during the voting process to soften some regulations for young people who had reached the voting age but were not yet registered on the electoral list.

The camps of the three former Malagasy presidents criticised the change of electoral rules in the middle of the voting exercise.

"Where on earth do you change voting rules in the middle of the voting exercise?" asked Emmanuel Rakotovahiny, from the camp of Albert Zafy.

About half of Madagascans are aged over 18 years and 7 051 809 voters are registered on the poll list. Altogether 18 172 polling stations were opened on Wednesday across the country.

The Madagascan people were asked to answer Yes or No to the proposed new constitution, which is considered to help consolidate Andry Rajoelina's grip on power.

The Highest Transitional Authority (HAT), headed by Rajoelina, considered the referendum as the first step towards ending the political crisis in Madagascar.

Meanwhile, the Madagascar government on Friday ordered civilians to evacuate areas around a military camp in the Antananarivo suburbs, where a group of mutinous troops are holed up.

Around 20 officers, who staged an attempted coup Wednesday but failed to win support from the rest of the military, are believed to be inside the camp around 15 kilometres from the centre of the city near the international airport.