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Madagascar Holds Crucial Presidential Vote

Voters on the island nation of Madagascar are casting ballots in their first presidential election since a 2009 coup.

Thirty-three candidates are vying to become president, with none is expected to receive enough votes to avoid a December runoff election.

Observers say voter turnout Friday was initially light but picked up as the day progressed.

Polling has been mostly peaceful. However, government officials say a district chief was killed near a polling station in the southern Benenitra region.

In 2009, current leader Andry Rajoelina seized power from President Marc Ravalomanana with the help of the military.

Mr. Rajoelina took over as transitional leader but failed to follow through on his promise to hold elections within two years.

Both Mr. Rajoelina and Ravalomanana were barred from running in the presidential election.

The coup is widely considered to have sent the already impoverished African island nation of 22 million people into an economic crisis.

Madagascar is now one of the least developed countries in the world. The World Bank says 92 percent of its citizens live below the poverty level.

Thousands of observers, including some foreigners, are closely watching Friday's vote amid worries about the government's capability to handle the election. There are also worries about whether all the candidates will accept the results.

If no single candidate wins over 50 percent of the vote, a runoff will be held on December 20, along with parliamentary elections.

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