afrol News, 29 April - According to the recount of the December presidential elections by Madagascar's High Constitutional Court (HCC), opposition candidate Marc Ravalomanana won the poll outright by 51.46 percent of the votes, confirming his claim since January. President Didier Ratsiraka however will not accept the recount, saying he doesn't accept the composition of the court. There is fear of increased violence.
As Ravalomanana finally gets proof of the claim he has made for over three months now - sustained by independent election observers - his claim to presidency is further away of being installed peacefully than ever. On 22 February, Ravalomanana proclaimed himself president, following a popular demand in the capital Antananarivo, where he is mayor. Peaceful mass action slowly slipped into violence, killing at least 35 persons before the two "presidents" - Ravalomanana and Ratsiraka - reached an agreement to head for a peaceful solution in Dakar on 18 April.
In the Dakar Agreement, the two rivals agreed to a recount of the votes - as had been decided by the High Constitutional Court (HCC) - and to lift the roadblocks paralysing Antananarivo and areas under the control of Ravalomanana's government. According to the Agreement, Ravalomanana also had to retract his declaration being President, which he has done. The roadblocks are still in place, however, and President Ratsiraka yesterday confirmed his rupture with the Dakar Agreement, saying he would not accept the HCC's recount if Ravalomanana did turn out to have won outright.
Although the ballot presented to the HCC was incomplete - the opposition blames Ratsiraka's government of having destroyed evidence - the HCC's election results greatly differ from the ones published in January. The official January results showed that Ravalomanana had gained 46.6 percent of the votes, while Ratsiraka noted a score of 40.4 percent, implying the need for a second poll round. The new results published by the HCC show that Ravalomanana had won 51.46 percent of the ballots cast, contrasting Ratsiraka's 35.9 percent.
The HCC had gotten a changed composition shortly before the elections, following a presidential decree by Didier Ratsiraka. Two weeks ago (before the Dakar Agreement), the Supreme Court declared that this replacement of nine judges had been illegal and ordered the HCC to return to its original composition. With this restored composition - allegedly pro-Ravalomanana in total - the court decided to nullify the first count and ruled that a recount had to take place. President Ratsiraka rejects the legitimacy of the court on this basis.
While the Dakar Agreement seems to have been buried by Ratsiraka's rejection of the HCC's recount, the Indian Ocean island seems to slip further into a civil war if international action is not resolute. Five of the island's six governors (Antsiranana, Fianarantsoa, Mahajanga, Toliary and Toamasina) state they are heading for autonomy or independence. Only Antananarivo, the only state without coastline, is entirely loyal to the President appointed by the HCC, Marc Ravalomanana.
Senator Annick Daahy, spokesman of the five governors loyal to President Ratsiraka, yesterday said that if Ravalomanana was declared president by the "biased" HCC, the five provinces would be "obliged to head towards independence." Toliara Governor Jean de Dieu Maharante yesterday told the French news agency AFP "the independence of the provinces is a risk" the HCC should consider. The governor of the province Antsiranana directly said he planned to "declare independence" for his province.
The supporters of Ravalomanana meanwhile are having their short celebration of the HCC's declaration of victory, knowing they are back on the road of struggles within short. "This Monday, 29 April, marks a unique date in Malagasy history," Tiako i Madagasikara, the media backing Ravalomanana noted today. "Long live President Marc Ravalomanana, long live Madagascar!"
The Ravalomanana camp certainly has gained an important international victory. Having behaved exactly as the internationally brokered Dakar Agreement obliged him to, and being declared winner of the elections by the court the international community foresaw to rule on the issue, Marc Ravalomanana is not a usurper anymore. Ratsiraka and his camp, on the other hand, are observed as not respecting the Dakar Agreement. International support is bound to shift in favour of Ravalomanana. This however does not decrease the possibility of a civil war - on the contrary - as Ratsiraka's supporters are becoming notably more partisan each day passing.
The group promoting a peaceful solution in Madagascar, headed by the Presidents of Senegal, Benin, Gabon and Mozambique, are however still trying to get their message through. Foreign Ministers of these countries are heading to Madagascar to save the Dakar Agreement. Unfortunately, few observers give them much hope on their mission.