The latest unrest in Madagascar was sparked off by the vote of new laws that reportedly barred two ex-leaders from standing in this year’s presidential vote.
In a rather bizarre repeat of history, protesters in Madagascar have for two weeks now been insisting on the resignation of President Hery Rajaonarimampianina after three controversial electoral laws were passed by Parliament last month.
Though the Higher Constitutional Court on May 4, 2018, scrapped portions of the three laws, opposition demonstrators have continued to insist that Rajaonarimampianina must step down.
Several articles - including the revision of electoral rolls, the length of election campaigns and requirements to stand for President - were ruled by the court to be "against the constitution.
" Since April 21, 2018, hundreds of opposition supporters have been occupying May 13 Square in the capital Antananarivo. They initially called for the withdrawal of the amendments, before insisting on the resignation of the President ahead of general elections in seven months. The opposition alleged that the new laws will prevent two former presidents - Marc Ravalomanana and Andry Rajoelina - from running in the presidential vote scheduled for the end of 2018.
The opposition also challenged provisions in the new laws on campaign financing and access to media. There were strident calls for the resignation of all state officials, including the Prime Minister and the Speakers of the two Houses of Parliament. Parliamentarians opposed to the modifications also filed a petition with the Higher Constitutional Court, seeking the impeachment of the President. The court later threw out the request.
Two protesters were shot dead and 16 others wounded on April 21, 2018 in Antananarivo by security forces.
The President was accused of responsibility for the deaths. Though government apologised for the unfortunate incident, the opposition was determined to continue protesting. After first describing the protests as “a coup d’état,” President Rajaonarimampianina toned down, appealing for negotiations. On his part, Defence Minister Gen. Béni Xavier Rasolofonirina, called on politicians to “find a solution leading to the holding of elections according to schedule.”
Hery Rajaonarimampianina took office in January 2014. In May 2015, Parliament voted to impeach him for “violating the constitution and general misrule.” Parliamentarians also refused to accept a Constitutional Court ruling that the vote was invalid. The Constitutional Court in June 2015 threw out Parliament's impeachment of Rajaonarimampianina.
Now, two former political rivals - Marc Ravalomanana, President from 2002 to 2009, and Andry Rajoelina, who led the country in transitional capacity from 2009 to 2014 after a military coup – have joined forces to fight Rajaonarimampianina.
While the President has not yet indicated his intention to run for the forthcoming polls, Marc Ravalomanana and Andry Rajoelina, who were prevented from standing in 2013 by a peace deal, say they will take part in the vote scheduled for the end of this year.
Meanwhile, talks between the government and the opposition mediated at various times by United Nations, African Union and Southern African Development Community envoys are yet to yield any concrete results. In the meantime, stakeholders are considering the formation of a national union government.