Authorities violently dispersed opposition rallies denouncing govt interference in electoral process; political tensions could rise further and fuel violence around mid-November presidential election.
Opposition protests left two presidential candidates injured. Opposition coalition of 11 presidential candidates in Oct continued to protest to denounce lack of level playing field and demand disqualification of incumbent President Rajoelina from presidential race, saying he holds dual citizenship. Police and soldiers 2 and 7 Oct dispersed opposition rallies in capital Antananarivo with tear gas and rubber bullets, reportedly leaving opposition presidential candidates Andry Raobelina and Marc Ravalomanana injured. Amid unrest, High Constitutional Court (HCC) 12 Oct ordered one-week postponement of first round of presidential election to 16 Nov. Opposition demonstrations continued on almost daily basis until month’s end.
Tensions engulfed ruling party. Senate President Herimanana Razafimahefa 9 Oct said he had renounced interim presidency in Sept under pressure from govt officials, including death threats. In extraordinary session, ruling party-dominated senate 12 Oct voted to dismiss Razafimahefa on grounds of “mental deficiency”. Razafimahefa same day referred decision to HCC, which 28 Oct rejected appeal; HCC same day named new Senate President Richard Ravalomanana as interim president, reversing previous decision to put PM Christian Ntsay at head of “collegiate govt”. Collective of opposition candidates called Ravalomanana’s installation “very serious breach of the Constitution”. National Assembly President Christine Razanamahasoa 17 Oct highlighted “democratic backsliding”, calling for action from international community to prevent “internecine war”; colleagues in ruling party immediately denounced her remarks.
International community expressed concern over deteriorating political climate. UN Human Rights Office 10 Oct warned of “deteriorating human rights situation” in lead-up to presidential election, saying security forces used “unnecessary and disproportionate force” against peaceful opposition protesters. In joint statement, EU, U.S. and other govts 16 Oct expressed “worry” over “tense political climate”.
Madagascar’s recent elections marked an ostensible return to democracy, but unless the new government works hard to implement meaningful political, economic and social reforms, the prospect of further crisis is just a matter of time.
While the reality and extent of the coup announced yesterday by military officers is still uncertain, the latest events demonstrate the fragility of the situation in Madagascar and the urgent need for a new international strategy to end the long crisis. Negotiations should now focus on international support to the electoral process based on strict conditions.
Madagascar has been in crisis since the bloody upheavals in early 2009. Several rounds of mediation under the auspices of the African Union (AU) and others have not unlocked the stalemate.
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