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SADC Mediators Prepare for More Madagascar Talks

Acting Madagascar President Andry Rajoelina (file photo)
Acting Madagascar President Andry Rajoelina (file photo)

As international mediators prepare for another summit on how to resolve Madagascar's two-year political crisis, Andry Rajoelina says his transitional government will push through with elections regardless of the decision. The country's three main opposition parties say the acting president is trying to force through elections that will not be recognized.

Acting Madagascar President Andry Rajoelina has said whatever mediation proposal the Southern African Development Community endorses next month, the government will continue on its own path toward elections.

Pro-government newspaper La Verite has called his declaration an ultimatum ahead of the meeting of SADC leaders and “participating parties” planned for Botswana next month. No decision on a mediation proposal was reached at previous meetings in Zambia and Namibia.

Mamy Rakotoarivelo, a spokesman for the party of ousted President Marc Ravalomanana, said the Gabarone summit is aimed at bringing all parties together to reach an agreement.

He says it is not an obligatory signing ceremony of an amended proposal, but first and foremost a negotiating session. He says Rajoelina is interpreting the proposal in his favor and it is normal that he is putting some pressure on, but as a SADC member Madagascar must adhere to SADC’s final decision.

The spokesman said he would not be surprised if Rajoelina pulled out of another international agreement that did not go entirely his way and worries the international community will not intervene in his refusal to share power.

He says what we know of Rajoelina’s personality is not going to change, that he has already, several times reneged on his word and signature, notably in front of the international community. He says his party is concerned about the position the international community will take faced with this intransigeance by Rajoelina to run Madagascar in a unilateral fashion, whatever SADC’s decision may be.

Andry Rajoelina has pulled out of previous agreements made in in Maputo, Addis Ababa and Pretoria since 2009, and in his speech said “No foreign country can force us to bend to their will,” and that he had already made “far too many concessions” in the mediation process.

Lawyer and political analyst, Sahondra Rabenarivo, predicts that if the Gabarone summit does not go Rajoelina’s way he will push through elections like the November constitutional referendum that has not been recognized by the international community.

“It will be just like with the referendum and done rather sloppily, and they will not be credible or transparent elections," said Sahondra Rabenarivo. "They will have control of everything from the media to screening candidates and so on. So right from the start you are going have have resentment, and opposition and boycotts and it’s just not going to get us out of this crisis.”

She said the referendum left Madagascar in a legal mess, with uncertainty over electoral laws recently passed without transparency, potential laws on political parties, and a lack of amnesty laws blocking opposition candidates who have been accused or charged with crimes during the past two years.

She also doubts whether the Independent Electoral Commission will be enlarged and truly independent as the proposal states.

“I just think it is all botched and most Malagasy," she said. "I think we were kind of hoping that the international community would be doing quality control and some kind of policing, unfortunately, to make sure that everyone plays the game fairly. But as it appears it does not look like that is going to happen.”

Opposition parties and lawyers say Rajoelina has failed to comply with referendum's demands for an enlarged and inclusive parliament, and for a consensual prime minister.

The United Nations says an 11-month electoral overhaul is needed for free and free elections, especially because one-third of Madagascar’s population of 21 million is not registered with identity cards.

Sahondra Rabenarivo agrees with the opposition that rushed elections run by the Rajoelina government will lead to further deterioration of the economic and political crisis that has left Madagascar in such a troubling state.

“He may win," said Rabenarivo. "They may run the election. But I do not believe it will be transparent, I do not believe it will be credible, and I do not believe it will be accepted so from day one. I think the opposition are right in saying that immediately you are going into crisis number five or whatever it is. Already we are in a situation of tension and uncertainty and a lot of greed and everything negative, and for that to persist is almost unbearable to think about actually.”

Rajoelina seized power from Mr. Ravalomana in a 2009 coup backed by the military.