Madagascar rivals agree power-sharing deal

12.08.2009 - Antananarivo - Radio Netherlands

A communique issued after talks in Mozambique’s capital said a national unity government would be set up comprised of a prime minister, three deputy first ministers and 28 members. “They agreed the transition period will not exceed 15 months … and will end with elections under international supervision that will lead to the restoration of democratic institutions and stability in Madagascar,” the statement said.

**Fragile**

However, analysts said the deal was fragile and the power-brokers would have to put aside their own interests for it to work. “It is possible to imagine a government of national unity, but the idea of individuals who have gone this far saying ‘I renounce what I have gained for country’s best interests’ is perhaps naive,” said Madagascar expert Stephen Ellis, Professor of African Studies at Free University Amsterdam.

Former President Marc Ravalomanana, who was toppled in March by his army-backed rival Andry Rajoelina, said he would return to Madagascar but not personally take part in the process. The agreement also included a section cancelling charges of abuse of office levelled against Mr Ravalomanana after his departure related to the purchase of a presidential jet.
“I solemnly declare my total availability to help resolve this crisis,” the ousted leader told reporters after days of talks in Maputo. “The Ravalomanana movement will be an integral part of the transition bodies.”

The discussions, which began last Wednesday, were the first time he and Rajoelina had met face to face since the coup.

**Investors and tourists scared**

Madagascar’s political crisis alarmed foreign investors, scared away tourists and cut economic growth. Rajoelina has been shunned by many nations and Ravalomanana, living in exile in South Africa, has insisted he is still the legitimate leader.

It remains unclear how the four main political movements will divide power – a possible stumbling block to a smooth transition towards a fresh poll.”The transition period until the elections may prove disappointing as political leaders attempt to block their rivals’ actions and therefore paralyse government action,” said Lydie Boka at the risk consultancy, StrategieCo.

A diplomatic source said Andry Rajoelina was expected to meet his predecessor and former presidents Didier Ratsiraka and Albert Zafy for a second time within two weeks to divide up the posts. Didier Ratsiraka and Albert Zafy, who also attended the talks in Maputo, are still seen as influential power brokers. Analysts say they would need to be part of any lasting solution to the turmoil.

**Questions over election**

Questions also hang over how an eventual election will be organised, how it will be funded and who will be eligible to stand. Before the Maputo talks, Rajoelina had said that a presidential poll would be held by the end of 2010, but could take place earlier under the right conditions.

The timing of elections and who will be able to contest them have been big sticking points. Opposition groups had insisted that Rajoelina, who has scrapped the constitution and set up an interim government, must not be allowed to plan a poll unilaterally. Under the previous constitution Rajoelina was five years too young to be president.

**Unfreezing of aid expected**

Analysts say the agreed blueprint will help diplomatically isolated Madagascar restore ties with donors who had frozen aide and the international community at large. “I believe the international community is ready to step in and help finance elections,” one Western diplomat in Madagascar’s capital Antananarivo told the Reuters news agency.

Questions will also be asked of the military’s stance after it played king-maker in Rajoelina’s ascent to power. “They said they would not recognise any deal in Maputo. They were adamant about Ravalomanana not coming back,” the diplomat said on condition of anonymity.

Categories: Africa, Politics

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