Friday, March 20, 2009

Madagascar mob coup confirmed by supreme court, condemned by southern Africa

The long power struggle in Madagascar between the elected president Marc Ravolomanana and the opposition leader Andry Rajoelina appears to have come to an end, with Ravolomanana resigning and Rajoelina being installed by the military. The seizure of power was confirmed on who knows what grounds by the country's supreme court. In addition to the illegal means by which Rajoelina confiscated power, he is also too young to be president according to the national constitution.

The BBC has a good Q & A on the power struggle. By all accounts, the dispute appears to be virtually free of ideology and was between two groups that wanted to gain/hold on to power for its own sake and by any means.

Ravolomanana and Rajoelina have more in common than they might admit. Both became very rich and well-known public figures. Both were elected mayor of the capital Antananarivo. Both used that power base to lead mobs to chase out the sitting president.

The main difference is that Ravolomanana used the mobs to chase out the former leader Didier Ratsiraka because the old admiral refused to recognize Ravolomanana's election victory. By contrast, Rajoelina has never stood in a national election. And in fact, the coup leader explicitly rejected an earlier call by Ravolomanana for a referendum on the then-legal president's rule.

The first act of 'President' Rajoelina was to dissolve the country's parliament.

The coup was denounced by the regional Southern African Development Organization and it is widely expected that the African Union will do the same.

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