Madagascar is on edge. Some insiders predict that the unity government headed by the prime minister Jean Omer Beriziky could collapse soon. It could also be the case of all other transitional institutions. Further complex issues have emerged while the solution to the political crisis is moving at slow pace. Observers express concern about the situation prevailing in Madagascar.
Not a week passes by without annoying events occurring. The most bizarre one is the linking of Sylvain Manoriky – acting minister for fishing and marine resources – to sorcery against interim president Andry Rajoelina. The claim comes from the DTS, a police unit under direct control of the presidency. The peculiar event made headlines early in May. The episode resulted in much ado, and was widely condemned, even by the unity government.
The agreements for transition call for fresh elections this year, but the government seems unable to address the issue. Talking to Ban Ki-moon at the UN headquarters in New York early in May, Malagasy leaders spoke of their special focus on polls preparations and asked for more UN support. Yet, the recently formed Malagasy electoral commission is slow in communicating its agenda. The timid approach to the issue of elections pushed supporters of ousted president Marc Ravalomanana – in exile in South Africa since 2009 – to suspend participation in the transitional institutions.
Ministers faithful to Ravalomanana have not showed up for the weekly Cabinet meetings and the Ministers Councils since mid April. Accordingly, parliamentarians loyal to the former president refuse to take part in the current parliamentary session. Beriziky tried in vain to convince them to return to their duties. Meanwhile, their counterparts continue to discuss and adopt new measures to be applied under the transition. The debate is now focusing on revamping the electoral code and the creation of the Malagasy Council for Reconciliation. Parliament is discussing and approving new laws in that regard.
To overcome the political impasse, all leading forces in the country accepted to support a transitional journey based on consensus. A new government and other institutions have been formed with the support and presence of the opposition, giving an illusion of inclusiveness. In reality, President Ratsiraka’s party has to date ignored the wishes of all the factions supporting the transition. Besides, there are other political forces that refuse to participate in the debate because they feel it misleading. “The current government should stop existing as it is neither consensual nor inclusive,” said Brigitte Rasamoelina, chairwoman of the Malagasy Women Doing Politics party.
The regime has snubbed the international community that brokered the roadmap agreed last year. Authorities have shown willingness to comply only partially with the agreement. For example, the accord urges the government to create favourable conditions for national reconciliation. It calls thus for the cessation of any unjust judicial pursuit, immediate release of political detainees, respect of the freedom of speech and press freedom, among others. There is no much evidence of anything happening in this neighbourhood.
Arrests, abusive detentions, trials followed by condemnations never stopped. Crackdowns against media houses were particularly frequent over the last weeks. Lalatiana Rakotondrazafy and Fidèle Razara Pierre, co-owners of Free FM radio, were kept incommunicado at a police station on 3 May: the World Press Freedom Day. Events like this raise questions about the seriousness of the establishment to walk the path of democratic debate and reconciliation.
Harassment continues against Rajoelina’s allies. Some have been accused to plotting a coup against the regime. The situation is such that many decided to stand up and publicly ask for change. On May 19, a pacific rally gathering thousands of people in conflict with the regime took place in Antananarivo. As usual, military chiefs were zealous in ordering the security forces to disperse the crowd, claiming they have to protect persons and goods, and bring order in the capital. It is impossible for Madagascar to head for free and democratic elections if crackdowns on groups desiring to express their opinion continue. “An election is an occasion for people to defend their idea, to express their opinion. I’m worried as, even during the electoral campaign, the police will be ordered to disperse the crowd,” sociologist André Rasolo said.
The impoverished nation is indeed sinking further into a great socioeconomic crisis. Obvious signs are perceptible. Since January, people have protested against uncertainty and neglect with uncountable strikes. A relevant example comes from the education sector. Teachers have been protesting about the poor work conditions and falling value of salaries. They asked for a budgetary allocation of about € 50 millions. The government responded promising no more than € 6 millions, claiming the cut on the lack of financial backing from donors affected the state budget. At the same time, the state paid € 14 million to Air France for a second hand Airbus destined to Air Madagascar. In the wile, about 700,000 children cannot go to school because of poverty.
Repetitive violation of human rights lately pushed the Confederation of Christian Churches in Madagascar to express major concerns about abuses, corruption, and police violence. The body called for the respect of the fundamental values and life, a refrain repeated by the international community. It is clear that Madagascar is not walking along the way that would lead to free, transparent and credible elections.