Madagascar imposed a curfew in Antananarivo on Wednesday evening and into the early hours of Thursday, the day of the first round of the presidential election, which is taking place against a tense backdrop, announced the capital’s police prefect.
“In view of the various acts of sabotage that took place” on Tuesday evening, “I will shortly be issuing an order instituting a curfew from 21:00” (18:00 GMT) and “until 04:00 in the morning” (01:00 GMT), said General Angelo Ravelonarivo at a press conference in Antananarivo shortly before Wednesday.
Referring to the “burning of a polling station” and “the destruction of various electoral materials”, the prefect warned against actions leading to possible arrests with “aggravating circumstance in this electoral period”.
The Malagasy people are called to the polls on Thursday to choose their next president. Polls open at 6am (03:00 GMT). Eleven million registered voters will have to choose between thirteen candidates.
Outgoing president Andry Rajoelina, 49, is seeking a second term. But tensions with the opposition on the large Indian Ocean island are running high: ten opponents and candidates united in a collective, including former presidents Hery Rajaonarimampianina and Marc Ravalomanana, called on voters on Tuesday not to cast their ballots.
They are contesting Rajoelina’s eligibility after a recent scandal surrounding his dual French-Malagasy nationality, and are calling for the electoral process to be suspended.
Opponents have been calling for demonstrations in Antananarivo since early October. The rallies, regularly dispersed with tear gas, have only won the support of a few hundred participants.
The opponents, who are calling for international intervention, have announced their intention to continue the protests in the coming days.