afrol News, 28 October - President Marc Ravalomanana seeks the final legitimisation of his regime by arranging anticipated legislative elections in December. The announced attendance of international election observers is to assure that there is no repetition of the disastrous December 2001 presidential poll.
The 160 seats of the Malagasy National Assembly stand for election on 15 December in the first poll where the new order confronts the old order of the politically divided island. Parliament was dissolved on 16 October to prepare for the elections, which ultimately will legitimise the Antananarivo government.
The elections will probably develop into a power struggle between the newly founded party of President Ravalomanana, Tiako i Madagasikara, and AREMA, the traditional ruling party of ex-President Didier Ratsiraka. Although the AREMA party is reconciled with President Ravalomanana after the armed campaigns between the supporters of rivals Ratsiraka and Ravalomanana earlier this year, the upcoming election might turn into a play-off between the two camps.
With ex-President Ratsiraka out of the country, however, both camps seem set to avoid a repetition of the violence following the presidential elections last year.
The European Union (EU) today announced it would send observers to Madagascar for the 15 December legislatives elections. These elections "should constitute a significant stage on the way of the political stabilisation of Madagascar," a statement from the EU reads.
Indeed, the EU has been supportive to the new Malagasy President right from the start. The EU and several EU countries in practical terms recognised Mr Ravalomanana as Malagasy President by dealing with his government while ex-President Ratsiraka still claimed to be the legitimate Head of State. African countries, through the African Union (AU), formally still do not recognise President Ravalomanana.
EU advisers therefore right from the start - when understanding that a re-run of the disputed 16 December presidential elections was out of question - pushed for anticipated legislative elections, "in order to accelerate the political stabilisation and the economic revival of the country."
Since July, the EU has promised to deliver technical support. President Ravalomanana had no objections to this move; the poll and the participation of international observers can only legitimise his government - whether his supporters win or the opposition wins.
Today, the EU announced its approval of the financing (almost euro 1 million) of its election observer mission to Madagascar. The goal of this mission was "to reinforce the transparency and confidence in the electoral process," while hoping it would be able "to contribute to dissipate possible tensions during and after the poll and to prevent possible irregularities and acts of violence related to the electoral process."
The EU's election support comes as an almost natural continuation of its close relationship with the government of President Ravalomanana. Other Western countries - notably the US - also clearly support the factual government. African approval has however been more difficult to obtain.
At the launch of the AU in South Africa in July, African Heads of State upheld a decision not to invite representatives from Madagascar, considering the island to be without a legal government. Only the UN Earth Summit in South Africa in September slightly changed the situation, as President Ravalomanana was - for the first time on African soil- formally representing his country.
In Johannesburg, he had several meetings with African Heads of State, notably with South Africa's Thabo Mbeki and Senegal's Abdoulaye Wade. Senegal remains one of the very few African countries to recognise Ravalomanana's government - following, as in most cases, the French Foreign Office. Others include neighbouring Mauritius and the Comoros.
The legislative elections are however expected to change the AU's stance on Madagascar, which now only seems to be a headache for the Union. Not to lose credibility but still finding a way out of the deadlock, the AU "demands" legislative elections in Madagascar before in formalises its ties with the Antananarivo government.
Sources: Based on EU, Malagasy govt, press reports and afrol archives