By Chris Zumani Zimba
On 7th this month, Madagascar conducted a presidential election with a health number of candidates reaching upto 36. After almost two weeks of waiting the results, the Madagascar’s Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) finally announced the outcome on 17th November, 2018. While 33 candidates all lost terribly with less than 1% for each apart from 6, 3 presidential candidates were the main contenders and stood significant. Two former presidents topped the list with Andry Rajoelina obtaining 3919%, Marc Ravalomanana getting 35% while the outgoing President, Hery Rajaonarimampianina came third with 8.8%.
Given this outcome, Madagascar is supposed to go for a presidential rerun on 19th December where the top two contenders i.e. the named formed presidents who are also deemed among the wealthiest citizens will face each other on the ballot one on one for the first time in history. However, this may be doomed and unlikely to happen if the constitutional high court nullifies the final results as all the top three winners and losers have challenged and petitioned the November Presidential Vote to be fraud.
Former president Marc Ravalomanana, who came out second with 35.29% of the vote, first filed 208 objections to the Constitutional High Court about the outcome, but on Wednesday withdrew. He supporters justified his withdraw as “He wants to bring peace,” …“and does not want to be complicit in the possible cancellation of the elections”. However, the fact remains that he completely rejects and vigorously objects the CENI results which gave him 35%.
Although Rajoelina led the first round of Madagascar’s 7 November presidential elections with 39.19% of the vote, his representatives withdrew from CENI a week before the results were announced citing lack of transparency by the electoral body. His team accused CENI of not allowing him representation during all steps of the electoral process, as is their right. However, Rajoelina welcomed the results, but this didn’t stop his team from lodging an application with the Constitutional High Court complaining about alleged fraud in the vote counting. He said some of the votes considered spoilt were meant to be tallied with his votes, meaning he should have got over 40%. He also said the votes recorded on the results sheets did not add up to the number of votes cast.
In like manner, Madagascar’s most recent president, Hery Rajaonarimampianina, who was running for a second term, was third with 8.84% of the vote. Rajaonarimampianina has also alleged electoral irregularities, claiming that the voter’s register used was invalid, and that there were delays in the opening of polls in some places, intimidation, and ballot-stuffing. He has equally petitioned the results to the same court.
But many analysts and observers have concluded that both Ravalomanana and Rajoelina could be using the petitions as a ‘threat strategy’ to iron out problems ahead of the second and final round next month; ‘a sure way of firing legal warning shots to each other in order to let each side know that election corruption and malpractices would be picked up and reported, and that there could be consequences’.
However, the EU observer chief Cristian Preda said soon after voting was closed that there were not enough irregularities to affect the outcome of the election or to call it into question. “The disputes are part of the democratic game,” he said, “it’s normal, it’s human”. The same sentiments where shared by AU and SADC NGOs. The court is set to announce the final results of the petitions next week although it seems unlikely that one of the candidates will emerge with more than 50% of the vote, which means the top two will be in the run-off on December 19.
In other words, Ravalomanana and the former president who toppled him, Rajoelina, initially by unconstitutional means in 2009, will be squaring off in the second round of the presidential elections next month. The December vote between the two main political rivals is likely to be highly contentious and if not well managed violent as it will be the real test for Madagascar’s democracy especially the weeks running up to the voting day.
Chris Zumani Zimba is a prolific Political Scientist, Analyst, Author, Blogger, PhD Scholar, Researcher and Consultant. Besides being the CEO and Managing Consultant at Chrizzima Democracy University (CDU) in Zambia, he analyses African politics weekly on Voice of the Cape Town, South Africa every Wednesday at 16:45hours CAT. So far, he has authored more than 10 political and academic books as well as published over 100 well researched articles.