The tense political situation in this African island nation has greatly exposed the hollowness of the "international community's" so-called concern for democracy and human rights in Africa.
Madagascar went to the polls on 16 December 2001 to elect a new president (see NA, Feb & March). The opposition leader, Marc Ravalomanana, a millionaire businessman and former mayor of the capital, Antananarivo, is widely believed to have won. But the incumbent, President Didier Ratsiraka, in power since 1975, has refused to accept the results. He did not even allow in European Union election observers.
And what did the "democracy-loving international community" do? It took it two-and-a-half months to notice what was happening in Madagascar, which is, incidentally, not very far geographically from Zimbabwe.
On 22 February, Ravalomanana and his supporters felt they could not wait any longer. His supporters took to the streets of the capital as he set up a parallel government and swore himself in as president. It was then that the "international community" took any real notice. Even then, it merely expressed "concern" that the worsening political crisis threatened to split the island nation, and urged a "negotiated solution".
The OAU, America, UN, EU and France (the former colonial power) all said that they rejected any attempts [by Ravalomanana] to take power outside the democratic and constitutional procedures", and backed Ratsiraka's proposal for a rerun on 24 March.
Ravalomanana's supporters say they observed the count and have a record of the results, which gave their candidate outright victory with 50% of the vote. But when the High Constitutional Court finally announced the formal results, it gave Ravalomanana only 46.2% and Ratsiraka's 40.8%.
Ravalomanana and his supporters have rejected a re-run, saying it is unnecessary. They have, instead, demanded a public scrutiny of the original voting records, but the government has refused.
And the people are not very amused. They have stood solidly behind Ravalomanana. As the stalemate continues, Ratsiraka's government has declared martial law which has since been widely defied in the capital. But five provincial governors have said they recognised Tamatave -- the coastal hometown of President Ratsiraka where the country's oil refineries are concentrated -- as "an alternative capital" to the...