Opposition leading in Madagascar election

(First Edition)

Antananarivo (AP) - The opposition leader Albert Zafy surged into a big lead yesterday as returns filtered in from a run-off election expected to end 17 years of authoritarian rule in Madagascar by President Didier Ratsiraka.

With nearly 10 per cent of polling stations reporting results, Mr Zafy had 73 per cent of the votes. Turn-out among the 6 million voters was 79 per cent, the Interior Ministry said. In Antananarivo, the capital, Mr Zafy got 77 per cent of the vote.

Mr Zafy, a surgeon, led a mass democracy movement during the past two years that forced Mr Ratsiraka to share power with a transitional government.

Although they seemed headed for certain victory, Mr Zafy's supporters avoided any big celebrations: final results are not expected for a month. All six candidates eliminated in first-round voting on 25 November endorsed Mr Zafy, who led the field then with 45 per cent of the votes. Mr Ratsiraka got 29 per cent.