The incumbent president of Madagascar is planning to compete for re-election on Thursday, despite weeks of demonstrations by opposition organizations that argue that he is not entitled to run for office and that the poll should be postponed.
Andry Rajoelina, an entrepreneur and former DJ who is now 49 years old, ascended to power in a 2009 coup that scared away investors in the island nation in the Indian Ocean. After serving as the head of a transitional authority for nearly five years, he stood down from that role in 2018 and successfully campaigned for the presidency the following year.
Just a few days after the leader of the lower house of parliament, a member of the president’s party, called for the vote to be stopped because the conditions were not proper, officials indicated they were forging forward with plans for Thursday’s first-round voting. This comes after the leader of the lower house of parliament called for the vote to be suspended.
Regular rallies by supporters of Rajoelina’s political opponents, who believe he should be disqualified since he gained French nationality in 2014, have been met with tear gas by the police throughout the previous six weeks. The police have deployed tear gas to break up these protests.
Long-simmering animosities have been reignited due to the competition among three of the wealthiest men on the island: Rajoelina, Marc Ravalomanana, and Hery Rajaonarimampianina. Rajoelina was a former president himself. There are ten other contenders in this race.
Ten of the twelve competing candidates, including Ravalomanana and Rajaonarimampianina, have expressed their desire to delay and postpone the election. Candidates competing against one another have called for new persons to be put in control of the election commission and have urged establishing a special court to resolve issues about votes.
According to Rajoelina, the constitution does not mandate that the head of state be a Malagasy native exclusively to hold that position.
During a campaign event on Sunday in the capital city of Antananarivo, he urged his supporters to cast their ballots. He rejected the requests for postponement by the opposition as a political ploy.
He told hundreds of followers wearing the orange colors of his political party, Young Malagasy People Ready, “The Malagasy people do not want any more destabilization… We really don’t want another crisis.” His political party is called Young Malagasy People Ready.
On Monday, the Chief Justice of the Constitutional Court issued a call for calm and asked people to settle their disputes through the democratic voting process.
According to the head of the court, Florent Rakotoarisoa, who spoke at a press conference, the court had not received any message from the leader of the national parliament requesting for the presidential vote to be postponed, and the first round of voting was set to take place on Thursday.
Last month, the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a statement condemning the use of “unnecessary and disproportionate force” by Malagasy security personnel against peaceful protestors. It demanded respect for freedom of expression and assembly.
In response, the government stated its responsibility was to keep the peace.
On the island that boasts deposits of nickel, cobalt, and gold, a little over 11 million individuals out of a total population of over 30 million are registered to vote in the election.