Madagascan President Steps Down Ahead Of Election


Madagascan President Hery Rajaonarimampianina stepped down Friday, in line with the constitution, to contest elections in which he will face rivals including opposition leader and ex-president Andry Rajoelina.

Rajaonarimampianina resigned two months ahead of the November 7 vote on the Indian Ocean island that has been beset by political instability.

“The time has come for me to resign in accordance with the constitution and today I have submitted my request to the constitutional court,” he said in a brief televised speech.

Mounting protests earlier this year forced Rajaonarimampianina to accept the formation of a “consensus” government tasked with organising the election.

Demonstrators took to the capital Antananarivo’s central square between April and June over Rajaonarimampianina’s efforts to change electoral laws that opponents said were intended to favour his party.

The proposals were overturned by the courts.

But the protests morphed into a full-blown movement to oust Rajaonarimampianina. Clashes between activists and the security forces claimed two lives and left more than a dozen injured.

Also on the ballot paper will be opposition leader Marc Ravalomanana, Rajoelina’s predecessor as civilian head of state.

Rajoelina removed Ravalomanana from power in a coup in 2009.

If no candidate receives more than 50 per cent in the first round, a second round of voting will be held on December 19.

Madagascar, a former French colony with a population of 25 million, has been endured decades of political crises and grinding poverty.

The country’s interim leader will be senate Speaker Riko Rakotovao.

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 Hopes Run-Off Election Ends Five-Year Crisis

Candidates in Madagascar’s run-off presidential election face off on Friday, December 20 for the final round in what voters hope will mark the end of five years of political and economic uncertainty in the Indian Ocean Island nation.

Both candidates failed to score a commanding victory in October’s first round, and voters may not deliver a clear mandate to either Hery Rajaonarimampianina, a former finance minister backed by outgoing President Andry Rajoelina, or Jean Louis Robinson, an ally of Marc Ravalomanana, who was deposed by Rajoelina with the army’s help in 2009.

However, old rifts may persist, extending a crisis begun by the 2009 coup that deterred investors and donors of aid to one of Africa’s poorest nations.

Parliamentary polls also taking place on Friday could lead to one camp holding the presidency and the other controlling the legislature, perhaps forcing them into a power-sharing deal.

Smooth elections could help restore the confidence of mining and other investors, revive the battered tourist industry and re-open the aid taps to a country of 22 million people, of whom 9 out of 10 live on less than 2 US dollars a day.

Candidates took part in a televised debate on Wednesday, December 18, and while many voters say it was informative, they also said that it did not change their decision on who to back come Friday.

“There was already a debate such as this one during the time of Presidents Zafy and Didier Ratsiraka, but this time all the aspects have been addressed,” said Lanto Rakotoarisoa, an Antananarivo resident.

“The leaders say they want national reconciliation but they can’t even agree on just one debate,” said Dizo Henri, another resident of the capital.

Political analyst, Gilbert Raharizatovo, said that none of the candidates have the experience to lead the country out of crisis.

“What Madagascar is looking for now is a man who’s able to organise (things), who has a vision, so that’s called a statesman. In Madagascar, it doesn’t really exist. Why? Simply because, in my opinion, a statesman is a man who’s been trained for long years to recognise what are the ethics of governance, the deontology of governance or the deontology of politics,” he said.

Much hangs on how the loser reacts and whether the army, which had backed Rajoelina, stays in its barracks this time.

In the first round Robinson secured 21 percent of the vote, while Rajaonarimampianina won 16 percent, both far short of the 50 percent plus needed for outright victory.

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.”