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The polls open today, October 25th, in Madagascar, and some hold hopes that they will close five years of instability. A military-backed coup in 2009 led by Andry Rajoelina ousted then President Marc Ravalomanana. The international community condemned the coup and swiftly instituted sanctions. Ongoing instability and international isolation has since dramatically increased the vulnerability of the island, with some 92% of the population now living below the poverty line. The elections, the first in five years, offer an opportunity to reverse an otherwise downward trend. But there are natural forces to contend with as well. (more…)