Madagascar will hold elections on Friday that organizers hope will end political tensions that erupted in a 2009 coup and will help lift the aid-dependent country out of poverty.
The island nation in the Indian Ocean plunged into turmoil after Andry Rajoelina, the current president, seized power with the backing of the military from former President Marc Ravalomanana.
Since then, Madagascar has been suspended from both the African Union and the regional group, the Southern African Development Community, or SADC.
A total of 33 candidates will participate in the election. Rajoelina and several key political figures have been barred from running in this race, as part of the plan to resolve the political crisis.
United Nations officials say Madagascar lost much-needed foreign aid because of sanctions imposed after the coup.