Madagascar's presidential and legislative elections are scheduled for 2013. These elections could herald a fresh start for Madagascar which had been hindered by the intense rivalry between the country’s two leading political protagonists: Andry Rajoelina, president of the incumbent transitional regime, and Marc Ravalomanana, the ousted head of state. Both men have finally indicated they will not run for office in the 2013 elections: keeping to their word is vital.
Regional and international partners are already coordinating their management of the crisis. They must now step up their efforts to steer Madagascar’s political class and military towards the implementation of a settlement that maintains civil peace and delivers credible elections. Then, with renewed donor support, the country can hope to revive exports, investment and a sustained drive for poverty reduction.
Madagascar may not show levels of violence and traumatic disruption to compare with those in 'hot' crises elsewhere, but it is a slow-burning social and economic disaster. The overthrow of constitutional rule in 2009 provoked cuts to external aid and the exclusion of Malagasy exports from vital access privileges to the important US market.
Despite donor efforts to maintain a drip feed of support for critical services, the UN reports that deprivation has deepened, particularly among children, in a country where incomes were already among Africa’s lowest. The crisis has also hurt a once vigorous manufacturing sector and threatens lasting damage to a natural environment of global importance.
Madagascar’s economic development depends on full access to international aid, investment and confidence. If political manoeuvres or administrative failings undermine the democratic credibility of the elections, the international community and the African Union will need to refresh their strategy. They will need to reconcile the credible defence of democratic principles with reviving the development and growth denied to Madagascar’s people over the past four years of political deadlock.