Harare — Six well-known contenders for president of Madagascar said that they want to abstain from this week’s elections, exacerbating the nation’s already dire political situation, eNCA reports.
The six opposition candidates, who have been part of a bigger group that has been organising protests nearly every day for weeks, are also urging their supporters not to participate in the polls on Thursday, November 16, 2023.
A pitched struggle between President Andry Rajoelina, who is seeking re-election, and the majority of the opposition leaders rocked the island country in the Indian Ocean. For over a month, nearly every one of the 12 opposition contenders participated in almost daily unofficial marches through Antananarivo to express their opposition to what they refer to as a “institutional coup” that benefits the incumbent.
Police are displacing demonstrators on a daily basis; at a recent gathering, they used teargas and arrested eleven demonstrators. The leader of the lower house of parliament, who is in charge of a crisis-resolution mediation committee, demanded this week that the presidential elections be postponed in order to maintain “peace” and “harmony”. Christine Razanamahasoa said that a free and credible vote was not possible due to the state of affairs in Madagascar. However, a Rajoelina representative referred to the proposal as a “far-fetched idea”.
Rajoelina held his last campaign in Antananarivo on Sunday November 12, 2023 attended by thousands of supporters. The 49-year-old Rajoelina came into power in 2009, following a coup, making him the youngest African head of state at the time.
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He was elected back into power in 2018 after withdrawing from the 2013 election in response to international pressure. Since then, he has maintained control over a nation that, while having abundant natural resources, is nevertheless among the poorest in the world. In response to the political tensions, the European Union, the United States, and other international community members have voiced “deep concern” and decried the disproportionate use of force against the opposition.
The crisis broke out in September following Rajoelina’s constitutionally required resignation to pursue reelection. The Senate president was intended to assume leadership, but he turned down the position for “personal reasons.” As a result, the prime minister Christian Ntsay , who is an ally of Rajoelina, led a “collegial government” to handle the situation. The Constitutional Court approved the action and denied pleas from the opposition to deem Rajoelina’s candidacy invalid, due to his dual French citizenship.
The highest court of Madagascar issued an order in October 2023 to postpone the elections after one of the presidential candidates was hurt during a rally. Originally, voters were scheduled to cast their ballots on November 9, 2023.