Vote counting started Wednesday evening in Madagascar where citizens cast their ballots with hopes that a new leader will take this Indian Ocean island nation out of chronic poverty and corruption.
Polls closed at 17:00 local time after a day of generally calm and uneventful voting.
The 36 presidential candidates have all promised to improve the country's economy, create new jobs and end graft, but the three leaders in the race are familiar faces who offer little chance of a dramatic change, say political analysts.
"I was looking forward to this election because the misery in Madagascar is everywhere! Our country is rich! Why are the Malagasy people, for the most part, poor?" said Judith Rasolofo, 52, a housewife with five children. "I want to see something new in Madagascar!"
Bruno Bezara said he came to vote first thing in the morning.
"I was in a hurry to come and vote because it's very important," said Bezara, 65. "I want change because there are many things that do not work in our country."
The winner must take more than 50% of the votes cast and with such a large number of candidates, it is likely the race will go to a second round, scheduled for December 19.
The three former presidents who are the leading candidates have all voted. Former President Marc Ravalomanana, who ruled between 2002 and 2009, voted in his Faravohitra neighborhood, in the center of the capital, Antananarivo.
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