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Tuesday 21 October  

Madagascar vote must be well prepared: ex-mediator

Published on 24 May 2012 - 8:20pm
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Elections to end a three year political crisis in Madagascar have to be well prepared and credible so that the outcome is internationally accepted, a former mediator said on Thursday.

Speaking on the sidelines of a forum of activists and academics, former president of Mozzambique Joaquim Chissano told AFP the elections have to follow the guidelines of the regional Southern African Development Community (SADC) and other global bodies.

"So it is very essential that elections take place when conditions are good internally but also that the international community is prepared to accept the outcome of such elections," he said.

"Because Madagascar is a member of SADC, so they can't go forward with elections that are not going to be recognised."

Madagascar's electoral commission is expected to announce the polling date on May 28, according to a member of the agency.

Chissano said that elections would bring "a new atmosphere or political climate in Madagascar" and the space to create the conditions for "normal, democratic life".

The vast Indian Ocean island has been mired in crisis since March 2009, when former president Marc Ravalomanana was ousted by the current strongman Andry Rajoelina, with the military's backing.

Madagascar's main political factions signed a "roadmap" in September to install a transitional unity government to guide the nation to new elections.

The long-delayed elections "might also have created some frictions between and among groups, including groups that are close to the government" and this was not helpful in terms of progress to stability, Chissano said.

Chissano was appointed SADC mediator for Madagascar, but in September 2011, a troika of the politics, defence and security organ of the bloc stepped in and has been driving talks.

Chissano has not been involved in negotiations for the past year, although he says he is preparing to engage the leadership of the SADC "to see if it's time for me to come back, or if they are satisfied with what they are doing".

The key obstacle to presidential and parliamentary elections, Chissano says, remains a settlement with Ravalomanana.

The "roadmap" was supposed to provide for the return of exiles, including Ravalomanana, who has been living in South Africa.

But the former president has not been granted amnesty and was slapped with a jail sentence in absentia in 2010 for the deaths of opposition protestors killed by his presidential guard.

Ravalomanana has since tried to return to Madagascar, but in January the army closed the airports and would not allow his plane to land.

Last week, following talks with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, Rajoelina said he hoped elections would take place "as soon as possible" but was vague on Ravalomanana's return, only saying he was ready to make a "political accord."

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