The government of Madagascar's de facto president Andry Rajoelina has resigned, in line with a regional mediation proposal to lead the country out of a two-year political crisis. On Thursday, several opposition parties signed an agreement recognizing Mr. Rajoelina as president until elections are held. But two key parties did not sign the document, while the party of ousted president Marc Ravalomanana may sign next week after submitting a counter-proposal calling for Mr. Rajoelina to have less power.
Mediators said Thursday that interim president Andry Rajoelina can start to form a new transitional government, in consultation with political groups that approved a proposal aimed at lifting the country out of a two-year political impasse.
The proposal from a South African Development Community (SADC) international mediation team was initialed by eight political parties Wednesday. However, it lacks the crucial support of Madagascar's three main political parties.
The proposal essentially allows President Rajoelina to remain in power until free and fair elections are held and to appoint a new prime minister proposed by the signing parties.
Mozambique politician Leonardo Simao, leading the SADC mediation team, said that while the proposal has been sent to the SADC and the African Union for review, Mr. Rajoelina could start consulting with parties on the next prime minister and then choosing members of an enlarged and more inclusive parliament and electoral commission.
Simao confirmed that parties loyal to former presidents Albert Zafy and Didier Ratsiraka "had decided to go their own way" and said those loyal to Marc Ravalomanana, who Mr. Rajoelina ousted in a March 2009 military coup, would initial the document "in the coming days," having shown some support at the signing ceremony.
"What they told us is they want to participate, that's why there were there and they even signed the supporting document. They need time to consult their leader, to present their report, and then to go to Maputo to initial the document," Simao said.
After meeting with SADC Thursday, Mr. Ravalomanana's representative Mamy Rakotarivelo said the party planned to sign the document "in under a week”" However, they want to consult with their exiled leader.
Rakotarivelo says they fundamentally oppose the recognition of Mr. Rajoelina as president of the transition and his power to pick a prime minister and lawmakers until the parliamentary and presidential elections.
He says that above all they do not accept the inordinate amount of power that would be given to a president (Mr. Rajoelina) who has been nominated and not elected.
He suggested that Mr. Ravalomanana's party should pick the prime minister to assure a minimum power balance to the transition, and party members would fly to South Africa to meet the exiled Ravalomanana on Friday.
Under the mediation proposal, Mr. Ravalomanana is only allowed to return to Madagascar when the authorities deem it safe and politically stable enough.
But Simao said that while SADC and AU would review and try to accommodate the parties' wishes in their final decision, the original contents of the "roadmap out of the crisis" document would not change. He estimated elections could be held in 11 months and he said the U.N. is working on electoral reform in the country.
Simao said that if the country rushed into elections, it could be the start of a whole new crisis.
Meanwhile, it remains to be seen whether a new prime minister and transitional government will represent Madagascar’s opposition parties, and if they don't have their agreement, whether this is the end of the political crisis or a start of a new one.