What Madagascar's failed coup attempt could mean for the fragile country
A coup attempt by rebel officers against a government that itself came to power by military force, leaves Malagasy citizens calling it an example of political theater and all eyes on a constitutional vote.
Until some days ago, when a few dozen military officers announced they were dissolving the government and forming a committee to create another one, Madagascar was just another African country well outside of the media’s glare.Skip to next paragraph
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Now that the coup attempt has been halted and the coup leaders have been arrested without casualties, observers are asking whether any of this belated attention will help lift the country out from almost two years of political and economic crisis.
The attempted coup was launched on the day a referendum was held in Madagascar to approve or reject a newly written constitution, proposed by the country’s self-declared President Andry Rajoelina – who took power himself through a coup d’etat just 18 months ago. Lawyers and opposition party activists worry that Mr. Rajoelina, who initially promised not to run again for president, would use a positive result on the constitutional referendum to legitimize his interim administration and finally garner the international recognition he needs to unfreeze trade and aid benefits on which the country is reliant.
Now regardless of the expected 70 percent win at home, Rajoelina may have lost abroad.
Mediation to Madagascar
Tomaz Salomao, executive secretary of the Southern African Development Community that mediated talks between Rajoelina and the three main
opposition parties in Addis Ababa and Maputo in 2009, said that a delegation would arrive in Madagascar Tuesday.
"The mediator will be there tomorrow to consult with the parties and decide what to do next," Mr. Salomao says. He could not say whether the referendum results pointing in the government's favor would be accepted by the international community, but said the goal of new talks was for Madagsacar "to go back to constitutional order."
Earlier this month senior US diplomat Karl Wycoff announced after meeting Rajoelina and main political groups that there were "a number of significant problems with the current political process" and that SADC talks should be restored. He voiced concerns over the government's steps toward restoring constitutional order, citing "the creation and operation of a variety of transitional bodies, the constitutional referendum now scheduled for Nov. 17, and the proposed electoral calendar."
The government urged people to ignore the country's main opposition parties – three parties formed by the country's three previous presidents – to boycott the referendum. Rajoelina urged voters to vote "yes" on the new constitution as the only way out of the crisis, with countryside rallies packed with pop stars, and presidential promises of subsidized housing, food, jobs, public works, and other populist measures.
Even "no" parties expect the government to win the referendum, albeit with accusations of manipulation and an "undemocratic" awareness campaign about just what is written in the new constitution. With no deadline for the interim administration, no mention of scheduled presidential and legislative election dates next year, and a recent court decision to lower the age of eligibility for presidential candidates from 40 to 35, results from a calm morning of voting on Wednesday indicated that Rajoelina could keep his options open.