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Madagascar Votes for New Constitution Wednesday

  • Peter Clottey

Madagascar’s former prime minister said he will not vote in Wednesday’s referendum for a new constitution, saying it would worsen the ongoing political crisis.

Analysts said, if passed, the new measure will solidify embattled President Andry Rajoelina’s hold on power.

Former Prime Minister Monja Roindefo said there are strong indications most Malagasies will reject what he described as Mr. Rajoelina’s plan to arrogate “more powers unto himself”.

“I don’t recognize this referendum [since] this election was organized unilaterally by Andry Rajoelina. And even the constitution was not elaborated [upon] by everybody; it has no respect at all for the national conference and the regional [peace] conferences. So, it [referendum] will not bring anything at all to Madagascar,” said Roindefo.

“It will just delay the resolution of the Malagasy crisis. So, I don’t think it is a good idea to [undertake] this referendum and I won’t vote, and I don’t recognize it.”

The new constitution would lower the minimum age for a presidential candidate from 40 to 35, paving the way for Mr. Rajoelina, who is 36, to run for office.

The government is promoting the vote as a step toward stability following the 2009 coup that ousted President Marc Ravalomanana and led to Mr. Rajoelina's installation.

Former Prime Minister Roindefo said Madagascar has turned into a rogue state on the international stage due to what he said was President Rajoelina’s “poor” leadership.

“The international community, the American government and the SADC [Southern African Development Community] as well as the European Union did not recognize the authority and the organization of this referendum. So, we need to seek another solution.”

The proposed constitution would also require presidential candidates to live in the country for at least six months prior to elections, blocking Mr. Ravalomanana, who is exiled in South Africa. The document does not set a limit on the duration of Mr. Rajoelina's transitional government.

Madagascar's three main opposition factions have called for a boycott of the vote. Critics say the referendum will not yield a lasting solution to the country's political crisis.

Madagascar has been in political turmoil since March 2009 when Mr. Rajoelina toppled President Ravalomanana with the support of the military. The African Union has refused to recognize Mr. Rajoelina as president of the Indian Ocean island nation, while Western countries have suspended non-essential aid.