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The East African : November 25th 2013
The EastAfrican OUTLOOK NOVEMBER 23-29,2013 the 2013 elections was resumed in August, enabling the October polls to proceed. This strategic move to exclude three bitter rivals and most polarising candidates from the contest shielded the first round from divisive politics. But it is unlikely to cushion the second round from tensions and uncertainty or forestall the spate of mass protests that toppled Mr Ravalomanana in 2009. As one observer in Antanan- arivo noted: ‘‘As we know, the problems rarely arise on the day of the vote. It is only after the results are announced.’’ Madagascar’s badly frag- mented power elite has resorted to the “Putin solution” — the proxy style Russian President Vladimir Putin developed to run the country with a largely symbolic president. This could prove a highly risky experiment. Proxy candidates Analysts have warned that, even though the original protagonists are not on the ballot, “the proxy candidates represent four years of bottled up frustration and bitter rivalry.” The December poll has raised government and three of the country’s four opposition parties on September 17, 2011. Brokered by SADC and en- dorsed by the Indian Ocean Commission, AU, the Francophone International Organisation and the United Nations, the pact outlined an exit path out of the crisis including organising free and transparent elections. The pact provided the frame- work for the Transitional Independent and National Election Commission to publish the election dates for both the first and the second round combined with the legislative elections. The electoral body should now work towards releasing the results of the December elections on time to forestall tensions and post-election uncertainty. Haunting the December elec- tion is a long-drawn out rivalry involving two political camps identified with the ousted former president, Mr Ravalomanana and President Rajoelina. A new Constitution endorsed by the 2010 constitutional referendum barred candidates who had not lived in Madagascar for the previous six months. This effectively excluded from future elections all opposition leaders living in exile, including Mr Ravalomanana who has been living in South Africa since 2009. Further, in 2012, the African Union demanded that both leaders withdraw their candidature from future elections as a way of reducing political tensions and giving the country a badly needed “cooling off” moment. And in January 2013, the two agreed not to present themselves for election. However, Madagascar was soon back on the brink. Mr Ravalomanana’s wife, Mrs Lalao, travelled back from South Africa to Antananarivo and submitted her name as a candidate. This prompted President Ra- joelina to renounce the the AU’s “neither Ravalomanana nor Rajoelina” deal, adding his name to the list of candidates just after the deadline. Adding to the crisis, Mr Ratsiraka, who had just returned from exile in France also submitted his candidature, breaking the six-month rule. In an unprecedented move, the international community withdrew financial support for the election, then slated for May 2013. In late June, an international Contact Group on Madagascar meeting in Addis Ababa leveraged the efforts by the AU and SADC to defuse tensions in Madagascar and return to the electoral agenda. This intervention by the region and international actors drew the ire of sections of the Madagascan society who charged that the barring of both President Rajoelina and Mrs Lalao was a violation of the country’s sovereignty. However, a decision by the Special Electoral Court struck off all three polarising candidates — President Rajoelina, Mr Ratsiraka and Mrs Lalao — from the approved electoral list and barred them from taking part in the election. Funding for Supporters of presidential candidate JeanLouis Robinson cheer at a rally in Antananarivo. Picture: File the stakes within Madagascar’s fractured power elite. On the one hand is the ubiquitous fear that the defeat for either of the two candidates could have implications for the rival camp, which could be reduced to political irrelevance, sidelined economically or their leaders forced into exile. On the other hand, a flawed or contested election risks plunging the country deeper into crisis and continued international isolation, with dire consequences for stability. Unlike other flashpoints like Somalia, Madagascar has been characterised as a slow-burning social and economic disaster. Fuelling this view is the growing public discontent and spiralling crime linked to growing poverty and the widespread feeling that since 2009, the political class has merely lined its pockets to the detriment of the general populace. Despite the risk of instabil- ity, policy experts are optimistic that a credible election will enable Madagascar to pull out of its political crisis. After the first round, head of the EU mission in Antananarivo Maria Muniz de Urquiza reportedly noted: “The conditions are there for a transparent and credible vote.” But African pundits are urg- The specter of vigilantism has raised fears of instability particularly after the December elections.” ing caution. The SADC mediator and former Mozambican president Joaquim Chissano, has indicated that the election could be only the beginning of the country’s “real transition,” and that it could take as long as five years for the country to get back on its feet. Nevertheless, a peaceful elec- tion matters for Madagascar’s East African neighbours, whose economies are intricately interwoven and interdependent. Geopolitically, Madagascar is widely considered part of SADC, the regional body that has steered efforts to end the crisis TAKING SIDES SUPPORT: In Mid-November, President Rajoelina ignited a fierce electoral storm when he officially announced his support for Mr Rajaonarimampianina. REACTION: Following the barring of his wife on the grounds that she had not spent the required six months before the election in the country, Mr Ravalomanana has publicly declared his support for Mr Robinson, the front-runner in the first round. REGULATIONS: Electoral rules, require public officials to be strictly neutral during an electoral process. Aninternationally-brokered roadmap demands total nonalignment OPTIMISM: Despite the risk of instability, policy experts are optimistic that a credible election will enable Madagascar to pull out of its political crisis and investor protection will attract regional and global capital flows. since 2009. But Madagascar has become increasingly integrated into the East African socio-economic bloc, and its crisis has hurt the region. Its protracted crisis has af- fected the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa), a free trade area with 19 member states including four East African Community member states — Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda. Further, the ripples of Mada- gascar’s crisis have also been felt in East Africa, which have serves as a gateway for tourists destined for the Indian Ocean country, with frequent flights linking regional hubs and Antananarivo. As such, East African nations should work within Comesa and AU to help Madagascar stage a credible and peaceful election in December. This will enable it to make a comeback on several fronts. A credible election accepted by all political actors will end decades of political bickering and infighting. Madagascar’s East African partners need to step up efforts to encourage Madagascar’s political class and the military to work towards the implementation of a settlement that maintains civil peace and delivers credible elections. Support should also go to the Independent Electoral Commission, which has heavy lifting to do to manage an election whose results have integrity. The second round is ex- pected to cause fewer logistical headaches in contrast to the first round, which some proved a nightmare for the ordinary voter who had to choose from a list of 33 presidential candidates printed on a single ballot paper. 33 But the electoral body has to eliminate problems in the electoral list, which prevented many potential voters from casting their ballot to ensure a flawless December run-off and avoid divisive electoral petitions. Moreover, a credible and peaceful poll would be an important step towards the readmission of on the Indian Ocean Island nation into AU. A free and fair election would end the international isolation and sanctions and win back suspended aid. The lifting of sanctions will enable the country to benefit from the Africa’s Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa), resuscitate tourism (one of the main sources of income for the island) revive exports, investment and a sustained drive for poverty reduction. It will also lure back tour- ists attracted by Madagascar’s rich heritage and natural environment, which has made it an attractive tourist destination. Kenya will particularly benefit from increased flights to Antananarivo and tourists from the Island nation. Madagascar needs a credible election to rebuild investor confidence and attract investors in oil and mining companies who were scared off by the chaos that followed the 2009 coup. A stable Madagascar will play a useful role in a new energy belt in East Africa stretching from Ethiopia through Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Mozambique. Credible elections Moreover, with about 90 per cent of Malagasies living on less than $2 a day, Madagascar requires a credible election to create a conducive environment to pull its people out of poverty and starvation, and wean them from dependence on humanitarian assistance. A peaceful and transparent election would end the dysfunctional government and widespread insecurity that have undermined food security. Some four million Malagasies are facing serious food shortages. According to Unicef, over 50 per cent of the country’s children are suffering stunted growth due to malnutrition. Besides famine, drought and locust swarms, which have destroyed crops, petty criminals and cattle rustler militias known as dahalo have killed many villagers and taken away their cattle. The World Bank recently launched an emergency food security project to curb hunger on the island, which was again hit by devastating cyclones this year. To reap the economic and political divide of a secure and democratic partner, Madagascar’s East African neighbours should now make every diplomatic effort to stem a post-election crisis after the December elections. Professor Peter Kagwanja is the chief executive of the Africa Policy Institute. This article is part of the Institute’s Citizen Security Project.
November 18th 2013
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