On 27 May, Madagascar will hold long-awaited legislative elections to elect the National Assembly (NA). These elections come close on the heels of the 2018 presidential elections that pitted the winner and incumbent President Andry Rajoelina against the outgoing president, Hery Vaovao ho an’i Madagasikara (HVM) leader Hery Rajaonarimampianina; and old rival Tiako I Madagasikara (TIM) leader Marc Ravalomanana – also a former president. With both Rajoelina and Ravalomanana previously banned from contesting the 2013 presidential elections under international pressure to avoid a repeat of the deadly political violence that engulfed Madagascar in 2009, both men and their supporters have since been fixated on a return to power.
Exemplifying the current balance of power, the 2018 presidential elections went to a second round that saw Miaraka Amin’i Prezida Andry Rajoelina (MAPAR) leader Rajoelina win with 55.57% and Ravalomanana come in second with 44.43% – Rajaonarimampianina did not make round two.
On 27 May the 810 candidates contesting 151 seats in the NA will include 111 MAPAR candidates, 65 TIM candidates and 469 independent candidates. Rajaonarimampianina did not submit any candidates’ names to the Independent Electoral National Commission (CENI). While this might sound like a lot, it is far less than the more than 2 069 candidates that ran in 2013 legislative elections – a drop ascribed to the increase in the registration fee from Ar400 000 (US$108) to Ar5 million (US$1 400). The political prize at stake is a stronghold in the legislature which has two chambers; with 151 members in the NA and 33 members in the Senate (of which 22 members are appointed by regional legislatures and 11 by the President). Because the former ruling HVM currently controls the Senate, Rajoelina needs to gain a majority in the NA to be able to maintain a level of control in the legislature.
[Note: In 2013 legislative elections, MAPAR won 49 seats; TIM, 20 seats; (VPM-MMM/Vondrona politika Malagasy Miara-Miainga), 13 seats; independents won 25 seats; and other political parties won 44 seats.]
So far, legislative elections have seen some concerns about enforcement of the electoral legal framework; allegations of electoral fraud at district level; electoral misconduct by candidates; and claims of civil servants abusing their positions or public resources to garner support. Such incidents have undermined efforts by CENI and others to ensure credible and transparent elections while security concerns remain a peripheral threat – mainly due to the growing risk posed by militarised bandits (known as dahalo) whose cattle theft activities have seen widespread killings, displacement, and smuggling. However, the government has increased security throughout the electoral process, and no substantive threats are foreseen at present.
Moreover, to ensure a smooth electoral process, CENI and the High Constitutional Court (HCC) have held workshops to increase voter awareness and participation. By CENI’s count, there are over 10 302 194 registered voters, over 300 000 (3.77%) more than in the 2018 presidential elections. However, it is unclear whether this will see increased voter turnout, with voter apathy yielding a 54% showing in the 2018 presidential elections.
Boosting the pursuit of transparency, Australia, Germany, France, Japan, Norway, South Africa, South Korea, Switzerland and the United Kingdom (UK) and the European Union (EU) have all supported the electoral process, with direct EU funding to local civil society organisations (CSOs) to observe the elections. Other observers include the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA), the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), the EU, and the African Union (AU).
Early consensus is that the legislative elections will likely affirm Rajoelina’s mandate and give him the necessary support in the NA to pass policies and laws which support programmes outlined in his agenda known as the Initiative for the Emergence of Madagascar (IEM/Initiative pour Émergence de Madagascar). However, should MAPAR fail to gain a two-thirds majority in the NA, TIM could be in a position to inhibit its ability to make decisions or implement new policies. The resultant paralysis could be a severe blow for Rajoelina, political stability, and potential development in the country, with many international stakeholders hoping that Rajoelina will indeed get the win he needs to demonstrate the bona fides of his commitment to reform and development.