Elections in 2013 were meant to bring stability to Madagascar. Now, a new political crisis pitting the executive against the legislature has emerged, putting national reconciliation and economic development at risk, writes Naseem Ackbarally from Antananarivo.
Madagascar’s politicians have plunged the island nation into a new political crisis. Less than eighteen months ago, the election of President Hery Rajaonarimampianina was supposed to herald the end of the previous crisis, which was caused by a 2009 coup. On 26 May, the opposition claims 121 members of the 151-member National Assembly voted to impeach Rajaonarimampianina. The president rejected the vote, arguing that there were not 121 parliamentarians present. On 13 June, the High Constitutional Court (HCC) ruled in favour of the president.
Although the opposition rejected the HCC’s ruling, Rajaonarimampianina is still in post. The airwaves are now divided between supporters and opponents of the president. The former stress the need for stability; the latter claim government incompetence.
The Malagasy military has voiced its concerns. On 30 May, senior officers denounced attempted impeachment and called on all sides to accept the then-upcoming HCC ruling. “We defend the institutions under the Republic”, they said. Unsurprisingly, some parts of the opposition camp have seen the military’s words as political intimidation.
The US has called for all parties to respect the rule of law and initiate a national dialogue. US State Department spokesperson John Kirby said, “The country has made good progress since…its return to democracy in 2013. We hope the present development does not compromise the gains.”
The Indian Ocean Commission’s (IOC) General Secretary Jean Claude de L’Estrac believes the present situation “emanates from the absence of a clear presidential majority,” despite Rajaonarimampianina coming to power “in a credible and transparent election”. De L’Estrac argues that it is not for the international community to play the leading role in mediating this new political crisis. “Now that a government has been elected, the country is stabilised; it is for the population, for the political class to solve this problem in a spirit of dialogue and of responsibility as in all democracy,” he told New African.
The political battle has economic costs. “We are concerned about this instability because it will ruin all the efforts to revitalise the [economy],” Sendra Rakotovao, executive director of the Syndicat des Industries de Madagascar, told New African. Ntsoa Randriamifidimanana, president of the Federation of Malagasy Employers, argues that foreign investors could be put off due to the instability and has called on the political class to prioritise economic development over political interests.
Taovina Ralamabomahay, a political journalist and author, agrees. “The political, economic and social situation is unhealthy in Madagascar. Nothing has changed despite the elections of 2013. There reigns a terrible climate of distrust,” he told New African. Despite the attractions the island offers, foreign investors, he argues, are put off because a political crisis emerges every decade. “Many Mauritians, who have invested in Madagascar, tell me that the problem here is that every time [there is a political crisis, they must] start again,” he explains.
It is not just big economic players that are worried about the impact on the economy. Nestor, a taxi driver, is exasperated with the politicians; they “cause instability and just don’t care,” he says, and adds: “This has a negative impact on the island’s economy, and the population are the first to suffer.”
For now, neither the executive nor the legislature appears willing to back down or enter into meaningful dialogue. Rajaonarimampianina has the power to dissolve parliament. While dissolution could remove the hostile majority in the National Assembly, it would likely calm matters. For the sake of Madagascar’s fragile political institutions and much needed economic development, all sides of the political divide must engage in meaningful dialogue, rather than political grandstanding.