On September 12th, the National Electoral Commission (Céni) received a joint letter from ten out of the thirteen presidential candidates in Madagascar. In the letter, the candidates accused the High Constitutional Court of committing an “institutional coup” by violating the constitution. They claimed that the court wrongly entrusted the interim period to the Prime Minister and his government after the resignation of the outgoing president. The dissenting candidates stated that the court misinterpreted legal provisions and suspected it of being influenced by the current regime.
The sequence of events began on Saturday evening when, by the constitution, President Andry Rajoelina tendered his resignation to enable him to run for re-election. On the same evening, the High Constitutional Court designated a collegial government to assume presidential responsibilities until the next head of state is elected, as the President of the Senate had declined to take the reins, contrary to what the constitution stipulates.
However, on Tuesday, just 72 hours after this decision, the ten signatory candidates raised objections, alleging a misinterpretation of the law and accusing the President of manipulating the institutions to favor his re-election. Eléonore Johasy, representing candidate Auguste Paraina, stated, “The objective of this letter is to denounce the body responsible for announcing the election results.”
“The erosion of trust is evident, and all the machinations and maneuvers that have occurred up to this point do not instill confidence in entrusting various institutions,” commented candidate Jean-Brunelle Razafintsiandraofa.
In response to these claims, Florent Rakotoarisoa, President of the High Constitutional Court, countered, “Their problem is Andry Rajoelina’s candidacy, that’s it! So all these requests for invalidating his candidacy and requests for opinions are aimed at one goal: eliminating his candidacy. Here, at the High Constitutional Court, we see no constitutional or legal grounds to accept their request for invalidation.” He emphasized that all decisions had been duly motivated.
“They claim that ‘resignation’ is not a term provided for in the constitution. But what should the High Constitutional Court do? The High Constitutional Court has a solution stipulated in the constitution: a collegial government! We have merely applied the fallback solution provided for in the constitution. We ensured the continuity of the state. The High Constitutional Court cannot take the responsibility of creating a legal vacuum while pondering who should replace the President of the Senate. It would be a catastrophe if something happened during the period of presidential vacancy!” Rakotoarisoa emphasized.
“In diplomatic circles, everyone is closely watching what is happening. However, you will find just as many legal experts criticizing this decision of a collegial government as those defending it,” revealed a member of the diplomatic corps.
The candidates are awaiting a response from the National Electoral Commission. However, for now, none of them has indicated plans to boycott the election.