Time Running Out in Madagascar’s Constitutional Crisis

Time Running Out in Madagascar’s Constitutional Crisis

Characterized by false dawns, blind alleys and abrupt turnarounds, the tortuous mediation of Madagascar’s constitutional crisis has once more stalled. The Special Electoral Court’s ruling to allow the current unelected transition president, Andry Rajoelina, to stand in the presidential election, along with Lalao Ravalomanana—the wife of ousted President Marc Ravalomanana—and another former president, Didier Ratsiraka, remains a sticking point for most of the international community, which currently refuses to recognize a presidential poll should any of these three win. Logistically, the election cannot now take place on Aug. 23 as planned, and only the most optimistic stakeholders envision completing two rounds of voting before the end of the year.

The de facto coup that forced businessman-turned-politician Ravalomanana from office and into exile in South Africa in January 2009, replacing him with a transitional government under youthful former DJ Rajoelina, led to a constitutional crisis that remains unresolved 4 1/2 years later. The intervening period has seen deterioration in the rule of law, declining standards of governance, abuse of human rights and deeper poverty for most Malagasy. But however egregious, Madagascar’s repression, suffering and deprivation have proved inadequate to trigger decisive intervention by the international community, which instead has relied on dogged diplomacy.

Although Madagascar’s economy has not yet collapsed as many predicted, growth has slowed significantly, and the years since the coup have been a lost opportunity for development. Major donors, including the U.S., European Union and World Bank, initially withdrew nonhumanitarian financial support, which had previously amounted to 75 percent of government spending. Madagascar has maintained fragile stability through prudent monetary policy and austerity measures, as well as an incremental resumption (.pdf) of donor support, including $167 million in emergency lending from the World Bank. Austerity has, however, resulted in dilapidated infrastructure, weakened state regulation and a stimulated illicit export sector, notably in rosewood and rare animal species, that has already increased pressure on a brittle environment.

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