Madagascar inches to normalcy

… as Zim enters 'decisive stage'

Harare – The political crisis in Madagascar is inching closer to finality following this past week’s announcement by Transitional President Andry Rajoelina that he would not stand for elections scheduled for May.
The move has been attributed to Rajoelina giving in to international pressure, including from SADC, to be more helpful in resolving the four-year-old crisis.
Rajoelina (38) seized power following a January 26, 2009 military-backed coup that ousted President Marc Ravalomanana.
Madagascar was suspended from the counsels of SADC and the African Union until it returned to constitutional order.
SADC appointed Mozambique’s Former President Joaquim Chissano to mediate between President Rajoelina – who was officially declared head of the High Transitional Authority of Madagascar on March 21, 2009 – and Former President Ravalomanana, who had fled to South Africa. A key stumbling block in returning to constitutional order was a proposal that both President Rajoelina and his predecessor not stand in the elections.
But on January 15, 2013, Rajoelina said he would step aside to foster peace.
“I will not stand in the Presidential elections. I prefer to sacrifice myself rather than sacrifice 22 million Malagasy people. We want peace,” President Rajoelina said in a speech.
Ravalomanana agreed back in December that he would not contest.
Regional leaders were aware of President Rajoelina’s decision before he made it public, as reflected in a declaration on Madagascar of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation following a meeting of the Organ Troika in Tanzania.
The organ's declaration “(welcomed) and (commended) the undertaking made by HE Andry Rajoelina, President of Transition in Madagascar and HE Marc Ravalomanana, Former President of Madagascar to the effect that they will not stand for the forthcoming Presidential and Parliamentary elections.”
The Organ Troika urged Malagasy politicians to “assume their responsibility of peacefully delivering Madagascar out of the crisis”.
Last Tuesday, President Rajoelina pledged: “I will manage the transition until the end and I am ready to make a democratic transition. I wish all the best to whomever will replace me.”

 
Reactions

Naturally, the news has elicited a mixed reaction.
“Anything that promotes and encourages peace and quiet is extremely positive,” said EU Ambassador to Madagascar, Leonidas Tezapsidis.
According to AFP, the “international community” is expected to stump up a large part of the US$71 million election budget.
The Ravalomanana camp was cool at President Rajoelina’s news.
“Andry Rajoelina has followed SADC's recommendations. It is just one element. There are many other measures that have to take place,” Ravalomanana ally Mamy Rakotoarivelo said.
Foreign investors are keenly watching the situation, as they are eager to exploit the country’s oil, gold, chrome and nickel reserves.

 
The Road Ahead

Parliamentary polls in May and a Presidential election in July – as endorsed by SADC – are Madagascar’s immediate concerns.
Malagasy government members should resign from office 60 days before the elections date if they are contesting.
The Roadmap says “the President, the government, the heads of institutions and the entire administrative machinery of the Transition shall remain neutral during the transition period, particularly in the electoral process”.
SADC has also urged the Malagasy Parliament of Transition to enact legislation to grant “comprehensive” amnesty to both President Rajoelina and his predecessor.
“This amnesty should also be extended to the Malagasy security forces,” said the SADC Troika.

 
Focus on Zim

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe is headed for a similar watershed year. The main parties ‑ ZANU-PF and the two MDC formations – have been in a coalition government since February 2009 and elections are expected in coming months.
Since then, efforts to write a new constitution and hold elections have been stuttering, but there appears to be resolve to hold a poll in the first half of the year. The main contestants are largely the same cast from the last poll, with President Robert Mugabe leading ZANU-PF in electoral battle against MDC-T’s Morgan Tsvangirai, and the MDC’s Welshman Ncube.
Many deadlines in the electoral roadmap have been unmet over the past four years and it was unclear this past week if the parties had finally agreed on six remaining outstanding issues on the draft constitution.
Speculation is rife that should the constitution-making drive fail, President Mugabe will have to invoke his executive authority and call for a general election.
Drafting of a new constitution will continue thereafter.
What is of supreme interest in the lead-up to the polls is what, if any, role SADC will play in Zimbabwe.
As in Madagascar, SADC has asked a mediator – in this case South Africa – to assist the political parties craft a way forward.
SADC Executive Secretary, Dr Tomaz Salamao, recently said, “This process began after the 2008 elections, we have travelled this journey up until 2012, and now we have reached a decisive stage in which the Zimbabweans have to take full control of their destiny, and make decisions about who they want to govern them.
“We recommend that there be no further delays. We want free, fair and credible elections in Zimbabwe and to this end SADC needs to place its observers on the ground in due time.”
President Mugabe this week said Zimbabwe would hold “peaceful” and “friendly” elections as people had shunned violence.
 

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