afrol News, 13 February - Although international mediators have arrived and the two presidential candidates have started negotiating, the Malagasy capital, Antananarivo, remains paralysed. The general strike continues and major transport route into Antananarivo are cut off.
Amara Essy, Secretary General of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), presently is in Madagascar to negotiate a settlement between incumbent President Didier Ratsiraka and Marc Ravalomanana, presidential candidate claiming he won the 18 December elections outright.
While Ratsiraka and the Constitutional High Court maintain a second election round has to be executed within 10 days, Ravalomanana demands the recognition of himself as Malagasy president. Up to 500,000 demonstrators have backed Ravalomanana's claims in daily manifestations in Antananarivo since early January. A general strike called by Ravalomanana paralyses the Malagasy economy and a blockade on major transport routes - believed to be organised by Ratsiraka's supporters - endangers food supply to Antananarivo.
OAU's Amara Essy has been opting for a compromise to end the island's political deadlock. After meeting with Ratsiraka and Ravalomanana, Essy said that time was needed to allow more time to prepare for the poll second. "If you have to have another election, this election has to be credible," he however said.
- So we need to bring many observers here, the OAU, UN and international community, so that says that we need the time to build all these bridges, Essy pleaded.
Ravalomanana was moved by the international pressure to hold talks with President Ratsiraka. Speaking after an initial meeting with the president, Ravalomanana told the BBC that the two men had agreed on teams to help with the negotiations. He said he was prepared to discuss a compromise but demonstrations were to go on until it was established who had won December's elections.
While independent observers of the December election confirm Ravalomanana's version, he had obtained over 50 percent of the votes, the international community is getting impatient with the opposition candidate. In a report biased against Ravalomanana, calling him "a leading businessman," the UN media IRIN presented a run-off of the two candidates as the only possibility.
While it is widely thought the blockade of the transport route into Antananarivo has been put in place by supporters of the incumbent president as a reaction to the mass protests in the capital, the UN media claimed "the general strike in support of Ravalomanana continues to block the entrance of much-needed supplies to the capital." According to the IMF, this was costing Madagascar between US$ 8-14 million a day.
Due to the UN pressure, several institutions and agencies are going for a second poll round in Madagascar as soon as possible. According to IRIN, "The UN, European Union and OAU are expected to provide logistical support and international observers for Madagascar's postponed run-off presidential election." President Ratsiraka was to request assistance from these institutions.
While the UN claims there are ongoing negotiations about the date for a run-off, Marc Ravalomanana has assured his followers on the streets of Antananarivo he will stand by his demands. "We are ready to work with important foreign institutions," he confirmed in a speech to the protesting crowds yesterday.
Ravalomanana invited the OAU, the UN and other to "say what they think" and to help counselling. "We will listen to these consultations but is up to us, the Malagasies, to decide on what we will do. We have our national sovereignty." The protests and the strike are to go on.