afrol News, 9 November - Madagascar is to elect its President in only three weeks, and so far no foreign election observer mission has decided to monitor the polls and their preparation. Two opposition candidates have called for foreign observer missions, with no response so far. Today, candidate Elia Ravelomanantsoa urged France, the AU and the Francophonie to take action to avoid "a civil war" in Madagascar.
Ms Ravelomanantsoa - the only female candidate to the Malagasy presidency and fairly well positioned among the many challengers to incumbent President Marc Ravalomanana - yesterday wrote a series of letters to French President Jacques Chirac, the current African Union (AU) and Congo Brazzaville President Dénis Sassou-Nguesso and the President of the Francophonie, former Senegalese President Abdou Diouf.
In the letters, Ms Ravelomanantsoa warned about what she alleged were a large number of irregularities in the run-up to the 3 December anticipated elections, manipulation of national media, increased ethnic tensions and signs of yet another civil war following an unfair election. This, according to the candidate, should not be allowed to happen and France, the AU and the Francophonie had sufficient trust in Madagascar to make a difference.
This is not the first presidential candidate to warn the international community on unfairness in the upcoming elections. Pierrot Rajaonarivelo, the exiled leader of Madagascar's former ruling AREMA party that was ousted by Mr Ravalomanana's controversial ascension to power in 2002, has made several efforts to return to Madagascar to register as a candidate, but was denied entry. Last month, Mr Rajaonarivelo took a swipe on the West, blaming them for not speaking against "tyranny and mistreatment" in Madagascar.
Another popular opposition candidate, Antananarivo Mayor Roland Ratsiraka, last month called on the Southern African Development Community (SADC), of which Madagascar now is a member, to please send an election observer mission. On a trip to SADC member Mauritius - which had helped Madagascar obtain membership in the regional grouping - Mr Ratsiraka said the neighbour island had a "moral duty to support this demand of free, fair and transparent elections."
SADC, however, so far has not heralded any decision on whether to send an election observer team to Madagascar, although the regional body usually monitors elections in all member countries. Indeed, as Ms Ravelomanantsoa points out in her letters, observer missions should already have been on Malagasy soil, as the election campaigns officially start tomorrow.
According to Ms Ravelomanantsoa, foreign observers are more necessary than ever, as the outgoing government of President Ravalomanana is taking on "authoritarian" and "repressive" methods. She in particular points to the dramatic rejection of candidate Rajaonarivelo. The President had even "closed the nation's airports to prevent an opposition candidate from returning home, and easily went on to decree the closure of Madagascar's airspace for civil aviation."
The female candidate laments "a large number of irregularities" that she holds will prevent the polls from being free and fair. Even the holding of such anticipated elections was "unconstitutional", she claims, saying this was only allowed if a President had died or resigned. Most importantly, however, national media were not giving access to opposition candidates. Only President Ravalomanana was present in the media.
Ms Ravelomanantsoa warns that tensions are rising in Madagascar, which experienced months of violence after the 2002 elections. "Ethnic tensions between the coastal and plateau population" was stronger than ever, she writes. The candidate says she was only asking for an international intervention "to avoid a major crisis which holds a real risk of a civil war."
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