Madagascar’s New President Vows To Fight Corruption

Madagascar President, Andry Rajoelina.                                                    Credit: @AfricanCurators


Madagascan President Andry Rajoelina used his inauguration speech on Saturday to pledge to fight corruption in a country where politics and business are widely seen as beset by graft.

Rajoelina regained power in the Indian Ocean by winning a second-round vote in December against Marc Ravalomanana after an election process in which both sides alleged they were victims of ballot fraud.

Rajoelina first ruled from 2009 until 2014 after he was installed by the army when then president Ravalomanana was ousted following violent protests.

“Nobody will be above the law, we will restore the values of the rule of law,” Rajoelina said after being sworn in by nine constitutional court judges at a sports stadium in the capital Antananarivo.

Madagascar is ranked 155 of 180 countries on the Transparency International index.

Rajoelina also pledged to boost growth in one of the world’s poorest countries, saying: “we will build industries in each provincial capital to create jobs.”

The ceremony was attended by President Hage Geingob of Namibia and President Edgar Lungu of Zambia, as well as former French president Nicolas Sarkozy.

In the run-off vote, Rajoelina took 55.7 percent and Ravalomanana won 44.3 percent.

Ravalomanana petitioned the Constitutional Court over alleged voting irregularities but later accepted defeat.

The two rivals were banned from running in the 2013 election as part of an agreement to end recurring crises that have rocked Madagascar since it gained independence from France in 1960.

Rajoelina, 44, is a former events planner and successful entrepreneur with slick communication skills.

Both candidates spent lavishly on campaigning, with promises and handouts distributed liberally to voters.


Court Declares Former Madagascar’s Finance Minister President-elect

Madagascar’s electoral court has declared former Finance Minister Hery Rajaonarimampianina president-elect, an outcome his defeated rival swiftly rejected.

The Friday ruling sustained the result of the December 20 vote, the first since a coup on the Indian Ocean Island in 2009.

“I urge goodwill from everyone so that we can build a prosperous and stable nation,” said Rajaonarimampianina, who was backed by the outgoing president, Andry Rajoelina, who spearheaded the 2009 overthrow of Marc Ravalomanana.

His opponent, Jean Louis Robinson, who alleges widespread rigging of the vote, said he would not accept the result and would continue to challenge the outcome.

“We contest the court’s decision in the strongest way,” he told reporters, after boycotting the formal announcement.

The electoral court said Rajaonarimampianina won 53.5 per cent of the vote to Robinson’s 46.5 per cent, confirming the electoral commission’s provisional results.

Robinson, who was backed by Ravalomanana, said he would not yet be calling on his supporters to protest on the streets of a country that has seen years of political turmoil, sometimes violent.

He plans to outline the vote’s “irregularities” to the Southern African Development Community and African Union. Both blocs had worked on a political deal to push Madagascar towards an election.

A drawn-out dispute is likely to stir up further the nickel-producing island’s volatile political scene and could delay restoring the external budget support needed to spur public spending and growth.

Madagascar Holds Presidential Election

The people of Madagascar began voting on Friday in a presidential election they hope will rebuild investors confidence and mend the county’s economy.

The economy has been in a bad shape since President Andry Rajoelina seized power in a 2009 coup.

It was the first vote on the huge nickel- and vanilla-producing island off Africa since the upheaval triggered by protests and mutinous soldiers that drew sanctions against Madagascar and prompted donors to freeze crucial budget support.

Election officials at one primary school in the capital, Antananarivo, showed the first voters and political party representatives the empty plastic ballot boxes before sealing the containers. The first ballots were cast shortly after 2300 ET Thursday.

“We need to end this crisis. As far as I am concerned, this election is our last chance,” a laboratory worker, Faly Richard Randrianarivo said. “The vote should allow our next leaders to tackle the high unemployment and our schools.”

Rajoelina, a former disc jockey, and the wife of the man he ousted, Marc Ravalomanana, were barred by an electoral court from competing. With no clear favourite among the 33 candidates, the election is not expected to produce an outright winner, meaning a likely runoff in December.

Initial results are likely to come in slowly on the island, which is a bit smaller than Texas. The electoral commission has until November 8 to announce a provisional count.

Presidential hopefuls have crisscrossed the Indian Ocean isle famed for its exotic wildlife and threatened rainforests, promising free primary education, better management of mineral resources and a crackdown on corruption.

Many Malagasy are less optimistic, however, and fear the result will be disputed. That would risk prolonging uncertainty and more turmoil on the world’s fourth largest island, situated in the Indian Ocean, as it struggles to lure back foreign investors, tourists and donors.

A Better Future

Madagascar’s cash-strapped economy needs budgetary support back from foreign donors, its finance minister said.

Rajoelina, 39, rose to power after galvanizing popular anger at Ravalomanana’s perceived abuses of power. He spearheaded violent street protests in early 2009 and toppled the self-made millionaire after dissident soldiers swung behind him.

Diplomats said they were keeping a watchful eye on the military, still headed by a general who backed Ravalomanana’s ouster and whose commanders are seen as loyal to Rajoelina.

“The Malagasy want a president … who is not hungry for power. The people deserve a better future,” Rajoelina said late on Thursday in a pre-recorded address to the country.

Both Rajoelina and Ravalomanana agreed with regional states not to run for the presidency in order to help restore order. Analysts say the bitter rivals remain influential in the voting.

Ravalomanana, who fled to South Africa and remains there, has openly backed Jean Louis Robinson, a former minister during his presidency and regarded as a serious contender.

Publicly, Rajoelina has not endorsed a candidate. But two aspirants, Hery Rajaonarimampianina, a former finance minister, and Edgard Razafindravahy, are both widely seen as close political associates of the outgoing president.

One Western diplomat said flaws in the voting process were inevitable but that the alternative was another delay. Rajoelina first promised an election in late 2010.

“Everybody knows the vote cannot be perfect but everybody is playing the game,” said Lydie Boka of French risk group StrategiCo. “Given the circumstances, maybe that is the best they can do.”

Madagascar needs clean start, former PM turned candidate says

Madagascar President Andry Rajoelina’s reluctance to give up power has become a serious impediment to the island nation’s progress, his former prime minister turned rival, Monja Roindefo, said on Friday.

Seeking French support in a presidential election due in August, he told Reuters the Indian Ocean state deserved a fresh start and that this was not possible under any of the candidates having already served as president.

The vote aims to restore constitutional order after more than four years of political crisis that scared off investors and devastated the vital tourism sector.

However, the African Union and former colonial power France have rejected the candidacy of two former presidents and the wife of another, throwing the long-awaited vote into disarray and leaving nearly 40 other candidates vying for the post.

“The Malagasy people want a clean slate. They are fed up with elections being postponed… and with the arrogance of those who act as if they owned Madagascar,” Roindefo said in an interview.

When Roindefo ran for the presidency in 2006 he got just 21 votes in a ballot he said was rigged.

Madagascar slid into turmoil in 2009 when disc jockey-turned-politician Andry Rajoelina took power with military support and ousted Marc Ravalomanana. Donors froze budget support and the African Union shunned the state as a result.

Rajoelina and Ravalomanana both bowed to pressure from regional powers in January when they agreed not to run in the elections. But Rajoelina said in May the deal was broken when Ravalomanana’s wife, Lalao, said she would run.

The about face has generated political and economic uncertainty in the hilly island of 20 million, which is as vast as Arizona and Nevada combined and has major reserves of oil and minerals, including gold, chrome, uranium, cobalt and nickel.

France joined the African Union earlier this month in saying it would not recognize the vote if Rajoelina, Lalao Ravalomanana and another former president, Didier Ratsiraka, were candidates.

“They have to pull out, or else they’re trampling the nation’s interest,” Roindefo said. “Rajoelina is hanging onto power but the state is falling apart.”

Roindefo was Rajoelina’s first prime minister in 2009 but was quickly ousted and has since become a fierce critic.

He accused the government of reneging on its promises, mismanaging the country and bringing poverty and mortality rates to levels seen in war-torn states.

Social indicators in Madagascar have indeed worsened since the 2009 crisis, with 77 percent of households now living below the poverty line, one of the highest rates in Africa.

Roindefo, 47 and a consultant for foreign companies looking to invest in Madagascar, said his campaign, called “Beautiful Madagascar”, aimed to revive tourism, improve public infrastructure and ensure that “the Malagasy economy benefits the Malagasy”.

Oil and mining tenders should be primarily allotted to companies contributing to the island’s development and employing local youth, he said.