The people of Madagascar are waiting for the outcome of Saturday’s election.They hope the new leadership will lift their country out of political chaos and rescue it from economic ruin. It is a long list. Thirty three candidates competed in Friday’s presidential elections in Madagascar, far more than the last election in 2006. Parties are playing a subordinate role. “You’ll look for familiar candidates’ names in vain,” said Jean Herve Rakotozanany, a radio journalist who has been covering Madagascan politics for the last 15 years. Some of the candidates’ names were completely unknown to him. Initially it had seemed that well-known heavyweights such as Marc Ravalomanana and Andry Rajoelina would be contesting this election. Ravalomanana was president until the beginning of 2009. He was then ousted by Rajoelina and fled into exile.
In the meantime Madagascar has been without an elected government, the economy is in ruins and grinding poverty is spreading. The presidential elections have been postponed several times. One reason was a row over who would be permitted to compete. Both rivals, Ravalomanana and Rajoelina, had promised not to run for the post. But then Ravalomanana’s wife entered the race and Rajoelina also decided to take part after all. Both Ravalomanana and Rajoelina had failed to abide by electoral regulations according to the African Union (AU) and the southern African regional body SADC who were acting as mediators. Bowing to pressure, the two candidates withdrew from the race.
This left many Madagascans frustrated. They felt they had been robbed of their candidates and their right to vote. “Some say it is not the Madagascans who are running this election, but the international community which is pursuing its own interests,” said Rakotozanany. He personally does not believe that intervention by mediators will endanger Madagascan democracy.” After all, we Madagascans will be electing our president, ” he said.