End in Sight
The people of Madagascar on October 25 went to the the polling booths to elect a new President. The Presidential elections are taking place four years since Andry Rajoelina seized power from Former President Marc Ravalomanana following opposition protests backed by the country’s army.
The elections have invited attracted several observers worldwide, with member countries of SADC also sending a team. Some 33 Presidential candidates locked horns in the battle for the Presidency, with a possibility for a run-off poll slated for December 20 this year should none of the aspirants clinch an outright victory by garnering more that 50 percent of the votes to be cast on October 25.
A quick survey in Antananarivo city showed that only six of the 33 running for the top job appeared to be attracting public significant attention. The winner must garner over 50 percent of the total valid votes; but should none of them cross that margin then a second round of polls would be held pitting the top two contenders.
The run-off will be held alongside Parliamentary elections. The stage, according to officials, has already been set for the elections.
Over half of the Presidential candidates are independent, although the country’s mainstream political parties formed alliances. The fourth-largest island in the world pushed the election back to October 25 after initially planning them for May 2013 after ousted President Ravalomanana and Rajoelina reached a deal in January this year under SADC that none of them would stand.
However, the National Electoral Commission (NEC) of Madagascar said it was not prepared to hold the election, prompting the poll to be pushed back to July.
A political hiccup emerged again after Ravalomanana’s wife, Lalao Ravalomanana, announced her intention to run for the Presidency, prompting Andry Rajoelina to also say he would stand. This saw donors suspending financial support for the polls, pushing the election yet again to August.
Later, the Malagasy electoral court banned the candidacies of Rajoelina and Ravalomanana's wife. The court order also effectively another removed Former President, Didier Ratsiraka, from the race and the NEC subsequently set October 25 as the polling date.
The country’s latest development reports indicate that Madagascar's economy went down 4.6 percent in 2009, the year of the coup, after a landmark growth of 7.1 percent just the year before.
SADC suspended Madagascar’s membership from the regional bloc until the country returns to constitutional order, and has been instrumental – through the mediation of Mozambique’s Former President, Joaquim Chissano – in preparing the island for elections.
The country depends on tourism, agriculture, oil exploration, gold, chrome and nickel for economic development.
In 2012, the population of Madagascar was estimated at just over 22 million. About seven million people were registered to vote. Under President Ravalomanana there was substantial economic growth but the benefits were not evenly spread across the population, giving rise to tensions.
SADC launched its observer mission two weeks ago. The bloc deployed 300 observers from 14 member states to polling stations in Madagascar.
Namibia’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, who headed the SADC Observer Mission, told the media ahead of the polls that she was satisfied with the preparations and the way the Malagasy people conducted themselves during the campaigns.
She said the observer mission was guided by various instruments that including the SADC Treaty, the SADC Protocol on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation, as well as the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Elections. – IPP Media-African Elections Project-Southern Times Writer