The transition process has completely derailed with the decision by the Special electoral court to allow three politicians including the state president to run for the next presidential, now postponed to the 23 August, despite irregularities in their registration.
The political and economic situation in Madagascar is unlikely to stabilize anytime soon. Indeed, recent moves from some of its top politicians are putting the countries of the region and its main partners in a position where they can only resume sanctions against the Great Island, as it is called.
This could be dramatic since Madagascar’s GDP growth rate has been dramatically small last year with only 1,9% after a 0,6% rate for 2011 and -3,7% for 2010. In all circumstances, the country’s growth per capita has remained negative since the freeze of development aid, following the February 2009 coup by which Andry Rajoelina ousted his elected predecessor, Marc Ravalomanana.
A mortal blow to the transition process which was supposed to end with the presidential election, initially scheduled for the next 24 July, was given on the last 3 May by the Special Electoral Court, set within the framework of the transition roadmap agreed by all parties on the 16 September 2011.
Indeed, on that day, the Court announced a list of 49 candidates including three top politicians who all registered in controversial circumstances to say the list. Two of them, were allowed to register despite the fact that they did not meet one of the conditions which stipulates that a candidate must have been a permanent resident in the Island at least since six months before the election day. One is the former President Didier Ratsiraka who ruled the country from 1975 to 1993 and from 1997 to 2002. And the other is the spouse of Ratsiraka’s successor, Lalao Ravalomana. Furthermore, Ratsiraka also registered despite a wide consensus among the country’s partners that none of the former rulers of the country should run.
But the Court surprised everyone while accepting to register as a candidate the ruling President of the Transition, the former disc jockey and mayor of Antananarivo, Andry Rajoelina who replaced Marc Ravalomanana after the military coup of 2009. On the one hand, Rajoelina did not respect his promise not to campaign, made last January, under the pressure of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) member states who feared troubles if he or his rival, Ravalomanana (who lives in exile in South Africa and has not been allowed to return to Madagascar by Rajoelina) did campaign. Moreover, Rajoelina registered as candidate three days after the official close of the registration.
The only excuse Rajoelina could give to justify what is widely regarded in Madagascar and outside as a perjury was that since Ratsiraka and Ravalomana through his wife, were allowed to register, there was no reason why he could not do the same. And the three judges also explained that their decision to accept Rajoelina’s registration reflected their wish to guarantee political pluralism.
Besides, Rajoelina violated another provision of the electoral code by failing to resign on the 24 May, two months before the scheduled election day. On the 4 June, a meeting of last chance gathering representatives of the civil society, including the churches, of the political parties and of the military reached a consensus and urged the three controversial candidates including Rajoelina not to run. But the Electoral Court confirmed the illegal candidates on the 5 June, causing dismay and concern throughout the country and among the partners of the International Contact Group which includes SADC, African Union and European Union.
“This is another coup”, told SouthWorld an European diplomat who suggested that most probably the judges were bribed to take such decision. And the following day, the Court took another controversial while announcing the postponement of the first round of the presidential election to the 23 August, alleging that the decision was imposed by “force majeure”. But again, this decision was a blatant violation of the transition roadmap, since the choice of election dates is a prerogative of the Transition Electoral National Independent Committee (CENI-T) and of the United Nations.
In such conditions, nobody knows whether the elections will ever take place since both the EU and the SADC which was supposed to print the ballot papers in South Africa condemned the Court’s decision and the whole process as “irregularities”. On the 11 June, a French Foreign Affairs spokesperson confirmed that France decided already to adopt targeted sanctions by imposing a visa ban on the persons who block the transition process and the implementation of the roadmap for the exit of the crisis in Madascar. The measure clearly applies to Lalao Ravalomanana, Andry Rajoelina and Didier Ratsiraka who were invited by the French government to withdraw their candidacies. The same source also made clear that France, like the African Union and SADC will not recognise the result of the elections if these three candidates still persist to run. Besides, France, the EU and the African Union should decide on the 26 June in Addis Abeba, during another International Contact Group meeting about which measures to adopt against the perpetrators of such irregularities.
In the meantime, the atmosphere is becoming increasingly tense. According to an EU diplomat, the EU ambassador in Antanarivo, Leonidas Tezapsidis and several members of his staff have received death threats over the last weeks. In our interlocutor’s opinion, the sad reality is that there has been a kind of consensus between a large portion of the 600 members of the transition authorities, including Rajoelina, several ministers and many members of the transition parliament which have a vested interest in postponing elections to remain in office as long as possible.
Meanwhile, the government shows completely unable to fight three scourges. One is the invasion of locusts, in the South West of the country against which the government lacks funds to purchase pesticides. The second is the insecurity caused by the gangs of “dahalos” (cattle rustlers) which are active in the Southern part of the country. Eventually, the pillage of the country and more particularly of its last rosewood forests is continuing unabated. The question is whether or not a foreign boycott caused by the Malagasy leaders’ failure to abide by democratic principals can still cause a deterioration of the situation.