Madagascar’s uncertain future despite new political deal

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Another signature appended to another agreement! The president of the High Transitional Authority (HAT) of Madagascar, Andry Rajoelina, last Friday signed an agreement to end the crisis in Southern African country. It calls for the organization of a constitutional referendum on November 17, parliamentary elections on March 16 and presidential elections on May 4. But distrust hangs heavy in the Malagasy political atmosphere. The political movements of the three former presidents, Marc Ravalomanana, Didier Ratsiraka and Albert Zafy, have denounced HAT’s decision to impose another unilateral solution.

Will Madagascar ever get out of the political quagmire since Rajoelina took over power in March 2009? The President of the High Transitional Authority last Friday signed a new political agreement that will ensure a return to constitutional order after 18 months of crisis. The former mayor of Antananarivo signed the agreement on Wednesday, August 11, along with more than 99 political groups after three days of intensive discussions. The agreement calls for the organization of a constitutional referendum on November 17, legislative elections on March 16 and presidential elections on May 4.

The agreement heralds the establishment of institutions that will lay the foundations of a Fourth Republic. It cites an amnesty plan, a new constitution and a new territorial division. With respect to the top job, although it agrees that Andry Rajoelina should continue to hold office as head of HAT until the inauguration of the next president, he is not allowed to contest in the presidential election. As for the HAT, it will be converted under the new agreement into the Superior Council of Transition, or the Upper House, and a Transitional Congress, which will be known as the Lower House. Issues related to the implementation of this agreement will appear on the agenda of a national conference scheduled for to take place froù August 30 to September 3.

Former presidents aloof

Despite the involvement of a large number of political movements in the new agreement, the Malagasy press and opposition remain skeptical. “This is not Andry Rajoelina’s first … if we were to consider the agreements he signed with the other heads of political movements in Maputo and Addis Ababa” writes La Tribune de Madagascar. “None of his previous commitments have seen the light of day”, Sarika Tsiky [[Her name has been changed in order to keep her anonymity]], an independent Malagasy journalist tells, “why should he respect those agreements?” Moreover, the vast majority of the many political parties that signed the agreement are a conglomerate of micro-parties contracted by Rajoelina,” she complains.

The elephants of the opposition, the three former presidents, Marc Ravalomanana, Didier Ratsiraka and Albert Zafy, have refused to participate in the dialogues, denouncing Rajoelina’s maneuvers to impose a unilateral solution. “What I do not understand is that this political agreement is based on the main content of the Maputo agreements. So why refuse them while negotiating with the major political movements only to adopt the opposite attitude with the other parties?” Fetison Andrianirina, from Ravalomana’s movement was quoted as saying by Despite the stifled political atmosphere, officials of Rajoelina’s TGV, Ravalomanana’s TIM, Ratsiraka’s AREMA and supporters of Albert Zafy, however, appended their signature to the document last Friday, although the individual positions of the three former heads of state, all in exile, remain unknown for the time being, says AFP.

The agreement also raises many questions. “There are still some gray areas”, L’Express de Madagascar states with concern, noting that “the agreement provides for two houses without specifying neither the composition nor their responsibilites. Only the appointment of members by the President of the HAT, proposed by the parties, is indicated in the agreement.” According to the final press communiqué giving official recognition to the negotiations, the political agreement takes effect right after its signing date, but Elia Ravelomanantsoa, president of Madagasikarantsika, says it “will not be validated until it has received approval from the national conference” which takes place early September. This agreement might be purely formal, and without any effect. “Rajoelina wants to remain in power as long as possible,” denounces Sarika Tsiky.

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