Malagasy Senate re-opened after 29 years

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afrol News, 4 May - The Senate of Madagascar, which was abolished when President Ratsiraka came to power in 1972, finally was re-opened on Tuesday, Malagasy media report. President Didier Ratsiraka himself opened the Senate in its new building in the centre of the capital, Antananarivo. 

Ratsiraka, who first took power in 1972, suspended the house, claiming it was not useful. The new constitution of 1992 however called for its re-instatement under a different administration, something that was not executed until 1 May, when the Senate's new US$ 6 million building could be inaugurated. 

90 senators took their seats for their first extraordinary session and elected Honoré Rakotomanana, a former director of the civil service, as Senate leader by 89 votes against 1 vote. Sixty of the senators had been appointed by regional assemblies, whose members were elected by popular vote, while 30 others were chosen directly by the president. All members are to serve four-year terms. 

As President Ratsiraka inaugurated the Senate he himself had abolished, ironically the opposition now headed the critics against its re-establishment, claiming it would make the political process on Madagascar more "ineffective" and doubting that there was a need for the institution. 

The newly elected senators however did not let this confuse them. In his short inaugural short speech, Senate leader Honoré Rakotomanana explained the benefits of the two-chamber system: destabilisation risk reduction; response to the complex problems of modern and traditional society; guarantor of stability and; a step towards decentralisation. His conclusion was that all in all, the Senate represents an "idea with a future," according to a report by Midi Madagasikara. 

The Senate however on its first session noted that it had a dissident within its rows. Senator Bruno Betiana (Affa-UNDD opposition party), which allegedly was the only one not voting for Mr. Rakotomanana as Senate leader, has not been hiding his opposition to the establishment of a Senate. Betania sees the Senate as an ineffective extra burden to Malagasy governance.

Bruno Betania earlier was the Malagasy Minister of Energy and Mining and there are speculations that he will present himself as the opposition's candidate in the 2002 presidential elections.

The Malagasy press noted the establishment of the Senate with some indifference, rather discussing whether there really was a need for the Second Parliamentary Chamber than hailing its inauguration. However, its establishment was decided by a referendum in 1992, as the Malagasy voted for their new Constitution, which included a bicameral parliamentary republic.

Sources: Midi Madagasikara, IRIN and afrol archives 

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