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Isle of strife

As political turmoil envelops Madagascar Alia Allana brings you the background

March 18, 2009 12:50:34 am

What are the origins of the political crisis in Madagascar?

The crisis stems from the ongoing power struggle between Marc Ravalomanana and Andry Rajoelina, mayor of the capital Antananarivo. Anti-government protestors have stormed the Presidential Palace in Madagascar,but President Marc Ravalomanana had so far refused to hand over power and leave the country: rumours are now circulating that he may step down. It has spanned two months now,starting with the closing of Rajoelina’s news station and removal from the post of mayor. Rajoelina called the government undemocratic and accused Ravalomanana of being a “despot.” The crisis reached a boiling point when Rajoelina’s supporters were fired upon,on orders from the government; this has caused differences in the factions of the army.  

How has Rajoelina achieved such prominence?

A major impetus behind Rajoelina’s rise are Ravalomanana’s economic policies. Ravalomanana had abandoned the long-standing socialist stance of the country and opened it to foreign trade and investment; this can be seen through the arrival of companies such as Exxon Mobil. These changes however benefit a very small proportion of the island: 70 per cent of the people live of less than 2 dollars a day. Rajoelina has tapped into this base.

The army has traditionally stayed out of conflicts,why is this one different?

The army has,over the past two months,asked the rivals to sort out their differences. Ravalomanana has offered to hold a referendum,but the opposition has rejected this,thereby leading to political stalemate. The mutinous faction led by Colonel Noel Rakotonandrasana sided with Rajoelina claiming that they are not in the business of killing their own people. Around 100 people have lost their lives. However,it still remains unclear whether the entire army is behind the opposition; it is rumoured that the presidential guard is still loyal to Ravalomanana.


Is the island nation a stranger to political turmoil?

No. Madagascar has flirted with military rule since independence from France in 1960. Democratic rule came under the leadership of Admiral Didier Ratsiraka,who went into exile after losing power to Ravalomanana in a bitter political battle. The new crisis is markedly different because of one simple reason; the attempts at removing Ravalomanana are unconstitutional,as a majority has elected him. Further,the constitution mandates that the president be no younger than 40: Rajoelina is 34.

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