Although there are 36 candidates on the ballot, the Malagasy presidential election has three principals: President Hery Rajaonarimampianina, who is seeking a second term in office, and his two main challengers, former heads of state Marc Ravalomanana and Andry Rajoelina.

After placing their votes, candidates urged voters to vote wisely.

“I call on all Malagasy people to make their choice in order to determine who will lead the country for the next five years,” said Malagasy presidential candidate Andry Rajoelina

Leading up to the vote, the three leading candidates have toured the country, making electoral promises to accelerate economic recovery while handing out sacks of rice and t-shirts from their thousand-dollar hired helicopters, according to Reuters.

Read: Madagascar election 2018: A troubled economy, protests and a pivotal court ruling

It is no wonder that all three principals stand accused by civil society groups of using their time in office to enrich themselves.

This is an especially abominable offence in a country where 80% of the population lives in poverty. A 2015 government study found that “disguised unemployment” was at least 20% and underemployment was rampant. The World Food Programme also estimates that one out of every two children is stunted by malnutrition and about 1,2 million people need food aid in the southern part of the country, where the frequency of droughts has increased over the past decade, pushing farmers deeper into poverty.

According to data from the country’s electoral commission, there are nearly 10 million registered voters in a country of 25 million people. To win the first round of voting, a candidate needs more than 50% of the votes cast but analysts do not expect an outright winner.

Should there be a need for a second round of voting, it will be carried out on 19 December and only the two top candidates will be involved.