afrol News, 19 February - Incumbent president Didier Ratsiraka and opposition candidate Marc Ravalomanana today announced the talks mediated by the OAU had failed to produce a settlement of the political deadlock over Madagascar's December presidential elections. The second round of elections, scheduled for this Sunday, has been postponed.
The Assistant Secretary General of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), Said Djinnit, had mediated between the two presidential candidates and announced the talks had failed to reach an agreement in Antananarivo today. Djinnit however also announced Ratsiraka and Ravalomanana agreed to the second round being postponed and that talks between the two parties would resume within few days.
Marc Ravalomanana still claims he won the 18 December elections outright and is backed by independent election observers. While Ratsiraka and the Constitutional High Court demanded a second election round had to be executed next Sunday, Ravalomanana at first demanded the first round ballots to be recounted. During the OAU led negotiations, he demanded to be able to pick the prime minister of a transitional government, which was to run the country ahead of the second round.
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.
International pressure against Ravalomanana's campaign has mounted lately, as the estimated damages on the Malagasy economy have been spread by the government. According to the IMF, this was costing Madagascar between US$ 8-14 million a day. Several UN agencies have pressured for a second poll round, promising they and other donor would "provide logistical support and international observers."
Today, the International Francophonie Organisation (OIF) expressed willingness to send observers to monitor the second round of the Malagasy presidential election. Also OAU mediator Djinnit today urged the striking civil servants to return to work.
Marc Ravalomanana, organising the strike, however told today's protesters in Antananarivo they should keep on striking and protesting. "Civil servant, I greet your solidarity, Ravalomanana said, but he hoped that "your productivity will be multiplied by 10 or 100 when you return to work again under the new conditions."
The opposition candidate also commented the blockade of the transport routes into Antananarivo, paralysing the entrance of much-needed supplies and the economic life of the capital. Ravalomanana said he had ordered town council to find a solution to the blockade, "even if this is not our project but that of the authorities," he confirmed earlier speculations. UN media earlier had blamed Ravalomanana and his supporters for the blockade.
Ravalomanana, also mayor of Antananarivo, today further denied the claims his support was only concentrated in the national capital. "Critics say that I am racist, that I hate the Betsileo [Malagasy minority people]. It is not true," he said, claiming he had been welcomed all over the island.
Holding his speech before the results of the OAU led negotiations were finished later on, Ravalomanana told the crowd "goodbye - see you tomorrow" when leaving. He has earlier promised to continue until his demands are met.
The candidate and his followers however are hailing the efforts of the OAU to resolve the island's political deadlock. Ravalomanana promised to "listen to these consultations" and for the first time entered into direct talks with President Ratsiraka. He agreed to a second round if he could appoint a new government to oversee it, but this was not acceptable to President Ratsiraka.