After four years of endless meetings in Maputo, Pretoria, Gaborone and Addis Ababa and of commitments never adhered to and agreements reneged upon, mediators believe the crisis in Madagascar might soon be over. This follows the decision by a special electoral court in Madagascar to bar the three main protagonists in the current crisis from participating in upcoming elections. Coup leader and interim president Andry Rajoelina, Lalao Ravalomanana the wife of ousted president Marc Ravalomanana, and former president Didier Ratsiraka have been disqualified on technical grounds from the October poll, something the international community believes will give a fresh start to a country mired in political disputes since the coup in March 2009. This week the Southern African Development Community (SADC) mediator of the crisis, former Mozambican president Joaquim Chissano, told the Mail & Guardian that he believes an important milestone has been reached and the elections could provide an opportunity for Madagascar to emerge from the crisis. “We hope that this time the consensus will stick and it will lead the nation to the elections,” he said.
“The president of the transition, Mr Rajoelina, has declared that he was determined to be neutral and to ensure that there is peace and stability during the electoral process.”
However, the role of the international community in the setting up of the special electoral court, which last week published a final list of 33 candidates for the elections on October 25, has been contested in some political circles in Madagascar.
In the end, Marc Ravalomanana, who still lives in exile in South Africa, could emerge as one of the biggest losers. When given a chance to provide a replacement candidate after agreeing with Rajoelina that neither of them would run, he nominated his wife, who has been campaigning in Madagascar for the past few weeks – reminiscent of an Imelda Marcos or a Cristina Kirschner stepping in to take her husband’s place.
This tactical move by Ravalo-manana sparked anger in the Rajoelina camp. They perceived it as the young former disc jockey and mayor of Antananarivo, who was just 34 when he took power, reneging on his commitment not to run.
In May the electoral court validated the candidatures of Rajoelina, Lalao Ravalomanana and Ratsiraka, but the international community would have none of it, saying they wouldn’t accept the outcome of such an “unconstitutional election”.
A new special electoral court was then created to review the list of candidates. On August 17 it threw out Lalao Ravalomanana and Ratsiraka on the basis that they had not been in the country for six months before the election, as the Constitution stipulates.
Rajoelina was rejected because he presented his candidature after the deadline expired. Five other people on the list of candidates were rejected for failing to adhere to the Constitution.
On Wednesday the court also rejected a bid by Ravalomanana to nominate a substitute candidate, saying the deadline for substitutions had expired on August 21.