Madagascar: Silence of the International Community

12 December 2013

 

Does the UN believe that Mr. Rajoelina appearing at these rallies and running a… a ticket of his supporters is complying with the road map?”  This was a question from journalist Matthew Lee addressed to the spokesperson of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on 2 December 2013 at the UN’s daily press briefing in New York.  Ten days later, still no answer from the UN.

 

This question has to do with Andry Rajoelina’s public support for presidential candidate Hery Rajaonarimampianina as well his support for the whole slate of parliamentary candidates running under the platform name “Miaraka amin’i Prezida Andry Rajoelina” (= “With President Andry Rajoelina”).  Rajoelina has been actively campaigning for Hery Rajaonarimampianina and the legislative candidates bearing Rajoelina’s name, appearing with Mr. Rajaonarimampianina at campaign rallies in Mahajanga and Antsirananana.

 

Article 15 of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Roadmap, which has been incorporated into Malagasy law, requires Andry Rajoelina to be neutral: “The President, the Government, the Heads of institutions and the entire administrative machinery of the Transition shall remain neutral during the transition period, particularly in the electoral process”.

 

Article 45 of the Malagasy Electoral Code also prohibits campaigning by government officials.

Ban Ki-moon’s spokesperson said in a statement on 20 May 2013 that “United Nations assistance to the electoral process is conditional upon strict adherence by all parties to the Road Map as the sole framework for a restoration of the full legitimacy of the Government of Madagascar.”

Rajoelina is using a controversial decree from August 2013 (no. 2013-593) to justify his appearances at rallies and the use of his name and photograph to support candidates.  The decree says he can do just about anything as long as he does not speak publicly.

 

Malagasy lawyer Sahondra Rabenarivo has said that the decree in question violates Malagasy law; legal professor Jean Eric Rakotoarisoa has said, “a decree can not contradict the electoral code.”  The civil society organization KMF/CNOE has sued to have the decree revoked, but apparently to no avail.

 

Electing Rajaonarimampianina is equivalent to electing Andry Rajoelina,” said Rajoelina’s advisor Norbert Ratsirahonana while pointing to Andry Rajoelina in front of a large crowd at a rally for Hery Rajaonarimampianina at Antsiranana on 8 December.  Ironically, it was Rajoelina’s argument that Lalao Ravalomanana was equivalent to her husband Marc that appeared to have been instrumental in motivating the international community’s successful efforts to get her candidacy for president disqualified.  The then-head of the SADC Troika on Politics, Defense and Security, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, even went so far as to say in a speech to fellow SADC leaders that Marc Ravalomanana had violated his pledge to not be a candidate, even though he was never a candidate in the current electoral process.

 

There are a couple of key issues here.  One is the meaning of the word ‘neutral’ in Article 15 of the SADC Roadmap.  In the absence of any explanation from SADC or other members of the international community, Rajoelina is using his own definition:  “According to him [Rajoelina], not using the prerogatives of public power and public property during the electoral period is the neutrality required.”  Instead of clarifying this situation, the head of the 256-member strong SADC election observer mission, Namibian Foreign Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, is keeping up the suspense, saying on 9 December that its mission was to “see if the process conforms with the directional principle of SADC in terms of election matters and also with the Malagasy laws.”  With ongoing silence, the international community’s definition of the word ‘neutral’ is looking more and more likely to be similar to Bill Clinton’s definition of the word ‘is’.

 

A related issue is how low the international community will lower its standards for free and fair elections and give in to Rajoelina in the process.  A precedent has already been set.  Back in November 2010, shortly before the 17 November 2010 constitutional referendum, US State Department official Karl Wycoff came to Antananarivo and in a speech called on the Malagasy people “to undertake a democratic, consensual process to restore constitutional governance, culminating in free, fair, and peaceful elections.”  He also said, “The political structures and processes created by the de-facto government remain insufficiently democratic and consensual.”  The US State Department subsequently described the referendum as “unilateral and internationally unrecognized” and stated that “opposition groups and the international community have rejected the results from the constitutional referendum”.  Nevertheless, after the French Ambassador said that the referendum “is a political reality that the international community must take into consideration”, the 2010 constitution became accepted by the international community as the legal baseline for the current electoral process.

 

Already “the A[frican] U[nion] [has] ignored the [AU’s own] ban on coup legitimization in the interests of peace and stability.”  After the 25 October first round election, SADC termed the election “fair” and the US Chargé d’Affaires Eric Wong was quoted as saying that there was consensus among the international community that the first round election was “acceptable”.  The UN Secretary General called “for all to accept the results”.    If the international community does similarly after the second round, there will likely be a large outcry against it for siding with Rajoelina on the campaign neutrality issue.

 

The international community has a track record of siding with Rajoelina, as when diplomats agreed for Rajoelina to be head of the High Transitional Authority (HAT) before Marc Ravalomanana was ousted from power.  Or when France provided diplomatic protection for Rajoelina while his coup d’etat was in progress.  Or when Andry Rajoelina called for Lalao Ravalomanana’s candidacy to be disqualified and the international community supported that call, termed her candidacy “illegal” and basically told the Special Electoral Court what verdict to render  — the result being that the court disqualified her candidacy saying that she was not in the country for the required period even though the court acknowledged that if she was not present it was only because Rajoelina’s security forces forcefully expelled her manu militari from her country on 27 July 2012.  Or when the international community lifted sanctions against Andry Rajoelina and Hery Rajaonarimampianina but supported continued prevention of Marc Ravalomanana’s return to his country in violation of the SADC Roadmap.  Andry Rajoelina’s freedom to travel to and from South Africa (both with and without AU travel sanctions against him in place) stands in stark contrast to the international community’s participation in the violation of Marc Ravalomanana’s right to return to his homeland.  Now the international community is tacitly supporting Rajoelina’s campaigning for Hery Rajaonarimampianina through its silence.

 

If the international community continues to maintain its silence in the face of Rajoelina’s campaigning for Rajaonarimampianina and the “With President Andry Rajoelina” slate of legislative candidates, Rajoelina will feel encouraged to continue campaigning in violation of the Roadmap and Electoral Law all the way up to the election on 20 December.  Complaints about Rajoelina’s violations of the electoral code and the SADC Roadmap will undoubtedly be made to the Special Electoral Court.  The current court was put in place specifically to disqualify the candidacies of Lalao Ravalomanana, Andry Rajoelina, and Didier Ratsiraka in line with the international community’s proclamation that their candidacies were “illegal.”  The court could either rule that the election results should stand or else it could throw out certain candidates or the results in certain voting districts.  In this electoral process, the Special Electoral Court has already demonstrated that it is under the influence of both Andry Rajoelina and the international community.

 

The international community may be silent, but the press is not.  La Nation newspaper titled an article on 9 December “Campaign Abuse: Everybody is Blind”.  The photograph illustrating the article was of the head UN representative in Madagascar.  Philippe Divay asked the international community, “is your silence on purpose?”  A Midi-Madagasikara article is titled “Absence of Neutrality” and points out that “none of the institutions of the electoral process has stood up to call to account the president of the transition”.

 

Current events in Madagascar bring to mind the situation at the start of Rajoelina’s coup d’état.  After he declared himself in charge of the country on 31 January 2009, the New York Times wrote, “Mayor Declares a Coup”.  But the international community refrained from calling what Rajoelina was doing an attempted coup d’état even after he fulfilled their own criteria by calling on his supporters to take over ministry buildings and they did just that.  Now, like then, the press is calling foul and the international community is keeping silent.

 

Matthew Lee’s question at the UN still needs an answer.

 

 

Publié le 13 décembre 2013, dans AFRIQUE, Françafrique, Madagasikara - Crise, et tagué , , , , , , , . Bookmarquez ce permalien. Poster un commentaire.

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