Madagascar is in a political stalemate following the coup three years ago that led the elected president, Marc Ravalomanana, into exile in South Africa. The President of the Transitional Board, Andry Rajoelina, has not shown any real intention to relinquish power to an elected president. When the roadmap for a solution to the political crisis was signed in mid-September 2011, many saw a solution to the crisis. One year later, the flock looks just as difficult.
The roadmap was signed by ten political parties including the political groupings of former presidents Albert Zafy and Marc Ravalomanana. Only President Didier Ratsiraka failed to sign. The signing of the document, negotiated by the Southern African Development Community (SADC), triggered spontaneous applause from all those present, which saw the potential for a resolution of the political crisis following the March 17, 2009 coup.
The coup-maker Rajoelina in the UN
Immediately after the signing, Transition President Rajoelina was accepted as a head of state in the UN. In contrast to the embarrassing situation in 2009, when he was refused to climb the podium, this time he was given a speech at the 66th UN General Assembly.
In late October 2011, Rajoelina appointed historian Jean Omer Beriziky as new prime minister for a unifying government. In November, a government with ministers from various political groups was in place, including five from Ravalomanana’s group. Some time later, the two chambers of the National Assembly, the Transitional Council and the Transitional Congress, were also supplemented by people from groups other than Rajoelina’s group. However, President Zafy has stayed away from these transitional institutions because he believes that Rajoelina does not respect the road map’s demands for balance between the groupings. Rajoelina will make a one-sided transition, with France’s support, Zafy claims. The former colonial power is accused by many of supporting the coup maker Rajoelina, who is also a French citizen.
President Ratsiraka and Ravalomanana
After nine years in exile in Paris, President Ratsiraka returned to Madagascar. On arrival, he sang Edith Piaf’s song: ” Non, je ne regrette rien…” (No, I regret nothing…) before moving in with his companion to the five-star hotel Carlton. After a few weeks he returned to Paris, allegedly for health reasons.
Ravalomanana also wanted to take the wording of the road map seriously, and on Saturday, January 21, 2012, he made an attempt to fly in from South Africa. The Justice Minister had said he could come back, but that he would be arrested at the airport. Large crowds were gathered to welcome the deposed president back. The plane never came. Before it could land, Rajoelina had closed all international airports in Madagascar. The opposition claimed that this action showed that Rajoelina did not respect the road map he himself signed. Section 20 of the Road Map explicitly states that all gasmen, including Marc Ravalomanana, have the right to return to Madagascar “without conditions”.
In autumn 2012, the amnesty laws have not yet come into force, and it is uncertain whether Ravalomanana can stand for new presidential election, which is now set for May 8, 2013. Another round of elections is scheduled for July 3, at the same time as the election of a new national assembly.. With all the delays that have happened in the past, it is still not certain that these choices will be made.
Democracy Square Without Democracy
On the three-year anniversary of the inauguration of the so-called Democracy Square in the capital, ex-President Zafy participated in a marquee outside the gate of the square. None of the attendants were allowed to enter the square, and they were quickly dispersed with tear gas. The television station TV-Plus sent a clip from Rajoelina’s speech three years ago, in which he spoke with great words about the importance of democracy. The TV clip was accompanied by a report from today’s tear gas campaign.
Madagascar is a divided nation. Investigation into what really happened on “Red Saturday”, February 7, 2009, has never been initiated. Three years after the shooting of protesters in front of the presidential palace, a large crowd turned up to remember the victims. It is now claimed that 47 people were killed and 175 injured. President Ravalomanana was made responsible, but it was the leaders of the demonstrations who sent the crowd to the palace that they knew was guarded. The episode became a major factor leading to Ravalomanana’s fall.
When it commemorates the international community, there are signs of softening. It is the signature and implementation of the road map that underlies a somewhat softer attitude. The African Union (AU) and SADC have taken an active part in the mediation processes. The EU has appointed a new EU ambassador to Madagascar, and Rajoelina was given a speech at the UN. All international partners say they want to support a free and independent election process, but it seems Rajoelina will only support elections where he can secure power himself.
The EU provides assistance to Madagascar’s population through non-governmental organizations, but has not yet resumed state-to-state cooperation. When half of the government’s budget before the coup was secured by aid money, the cut in aid hits the country very hard. The United States continues to support humanitarian work by NGOs, although the possibility of duty-free importation of textile products manufactured in Madagascar has been stopped. As a result, more than 100,000 people were affected by unemployment. Norway closed the embassy in 2010 and now has only one embassy section that sort under the embassy in Pretoria.
In 2009, there was negative economic growth in Madagascar, with a decline of 3.7 percent. In 2010, growth was 0.3 percent. It may reach 2 percent in 2012, if nothing unexpected happens. See Countryaah.com for population and social condition of Madagascar. But this is far from the record year 2003, when growth was 9.8 percent. The World Bank reports that 77 percent of the population now lives in poverty, while in 2005 it was 68 percent. Many can no longer afford health care or schooling for their children. Cattle thieves rage in the south without the authorities being able to stop them. Corruption is flourishing like never before. Fundamental human rights are violated. There is no freedom of assembly, and political prisoners, journalists and others are still behind bars. The universities are on strike because employees are not paid wages.
Still, there are bright spots. The tourism industry is recovering. The mining industry generates increased revenues. The bureaucracy works, albeit slowly. It is possible to get things done in Madagascar through voluntary organizations. Many claim that if there is free elections and Ravalomanana gets a candidate as a candidate, he will win. Although he has made many mistakes, he is one of the country’s presidents who has done the most for his own country, supporters say. But as long as the nation bumps and goes, Rajoelina can reign as a monarchical king without caring about democratic rules of the game. But people’s impatience with Rajoelina’s rule is increasing. Unless the road map is followed up, Madagascar is in a dead end.