17 September 2012 marks the one year anniversary of the signing of Madagascar’s groundbreaking Roadmap, through which the current President of the Transition, Andry Rajoelina, bowed to international pressure and agreed to allow for the unconditional return of his exiled predecessor, former president Marc Ravalomanana. One year on, this Indian Ocean Island has made little progress in terms of achieving a meaningful transition.
The biggest achievement of the past year has been the setting of election dates by the Independent National Electoral Commission for the Transition (CENIT) where Madagascar now looks set to hold its first round of presidential elections on 8 May 2013, with a possible run off scheduled for 3 July 2013. Parliamentary elections have also been scheduled for 3 July 2013 whilst municipal elections will take place on 23 October 2013.
Despite this step forward, the “unconditional return” of the former president remains outstanding. According to Malagasy law, presidential candidates must reside in the country for at least six months before the election date, which means that Ravalomanana must return to Madagascar by 8 October 2012: a deadline less than three weeks away.
Previous attempts by the former president to return to the island indicate just how difficult this may be. In January 2012, for example, Ravalomanana boarded a flight to his home country only to be denied permission to land in the capital city of Antananarivo. More recently, in August 2012, Ravalomanana’s wife, Lalao, was denied entry into Madagascar despite allegedly receiving the go-ahead from Rajoelina. Security officials at major airports now conduct excessive searches on planes flying in from South Africa in what many call pure intimidation tactics to warn the former president that he will be arrested upon his return.
In addition to an unwilling administration back home, Ravalomanana faces numerous hurdles to his return in South Africa. The country’s National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), for example, launched investigations into crimes against humanity on behalf of the International Criminal Court in August 2012 whilst a High Court in Gauteng served Ravalomanana with a court order confiscating his passport in September following a complaint by victims of the February 2009 killings during the coup. The former president’s legal team is working frantically to have this court order annulled so that he can return to Madagascar and contest the May 2013 elections.
Ravalomanana and Rajoelina are not the only candidates planning to run next year however, as the Southern African Development Community (SADC) is punting the idea that neither man run in order to maintain a climate of peace and stability in the country. This leaves room for a possible third candidate where sources indicate that the following political heads man may run, namely: the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Pierrot Rajaonarivelo; former Prime Minister, Tantely Andrianarivo; and the Deputy Minister for Infrastructure, Hajo Andrianainarivelo among others.
The next three weeks are therefore expected to remain tense as Ravalomanana will not only attempt to return to the island once more, which may in itself jeopardize security in the country, but third man candidates will up their electoral campaigns as each one vies for the most coveted position in the country.