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 bizarre repeat of history, opposition protesters in Madagascar have since April 21, 2018 been demanding the resignation of President Hery Rajaonarimampianina after Parliament voted three controversial electoral laws earlier in the month.
Though the Higher Constitutional Court on May 4, 2018 scrapped portions of the three laws, opposition demonstrators 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.
Rather, the court on May 25, 2018 ordered the government and opposition to reach agreement within 10 years. Failing which President Hery Rajaonarimampianina has seven days as from June 4, 2018 to to dissolve the cabinet and appoint a consensus Prime Minister.
After this period, stakeholders will have seven other days to form a consensus government according to scores in the last elections. The new government will be tasked with organising elections between May and September 2018 – much earlier than December the polls were initially scheduled.
However, it remains to be seen how the court ruling will end a crisis that has so far defied the mediation efforts of the United Nations, the African Union and the Southern African Development Community. 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.