(FILES) In this file photo taken on June 06, 2018 Newly nominated Malagasy Prime Minister Christian Ntsay (R) delivers a speech during his swearing in ceremony in Antananarivo. Madagascar’s Prime Minister Christian Ntsay said on June 29, 2018 that the first round of much-anticipated presidential elections that follow a political crisis sparked by electoral reforms will be held on November 7. / AFP PHOTO / MAMYRAEL
Madagascar will hold a presidential election on November 7, the prime minister said Friday, after street protests and a political crisis that forced the appointment of a caretaker government.
If no candidate wins an outright majority, a second round of voting will be held on December 19, added Prime Minister Christian Ntsay.
The Indian Ocean island nation has been in the grip of a growing stand-off over proposed electoral reforms that triggered mass protests and led the Constitutional Court to order a caretaker government to organise the ballot.
Demonstrators took to the capital Antananarivo’s central square in April over President Hery Rajaonarimampianina’s efforts to change electoral laws that opponents said were intended to favour his party.
The proposals were overturned by the courts.
But the protests morphed into a full-blown movement to oust Rajaonarimampianina. Clashes between activists and the security forces claimed two lives and left more than a dozen injured.
“There was a cabinet meeting today and the government took the decision that the first round of the presidential election would be on November 7, and the second round on December 19,” Ntsay told journalists following Friday’s meeting.
“I hope that the announcement of these dates will help strengthen the political compromise and deliver legitimate elections that will resolve Madagascar’s problems.”
The Constitutional Court had ordered the polls to be staged in the dry season, between now and October, but Ntsay said the government has considered all sides in choosing the date.
“These dates are anchored in the law and we respect everything that is legal,” said ruling HVM party chief Rivo Rakotovao, despite the court’s order.
President Rajaonarimampianina has yet to say whether he will seek re-election in the polls.
Two of his predecessors and arch-rivals, Marc Ravalomanana and Andry Rajoelina, have indicated they will run.
Rajoelina removed Ravalomanana from power in a coup in 2009.
Search for ‘consensus’
Ravalomanana’s TIM party accused Rajoelina’s Mapar party, which joined the “consensus” government, of betraying the opposition protest movement.
“These dates don’t suit us at all because they should firstly change the members of the electoral commission,” said TIM party lawmaker Felix Marie Louis Randriamandimbisoa.
“These elections will not bring peace to the country.”
On June 11 Rajaonarimampianina appointed a caretaker government following the court ruling to calm political tensions.
The ruling required the ministries to be allocated among political parties to reflect the composition of parliament after the 2013 polls.
The government and the opposition both claim to hold the majority in parliament, where many legislators have switched allegiances since 2013.
Several key ministries including defence and finance remain in the hands of the president’s HVM party.
Many opposition supporters have dismissed the new cabinet as stuffed with old faces tainted by corruption.
On June 4 the president appointed 51-year-old Ntsay, a non-partisan technocrat, as prime minister as part of the court ruling.
The island, a former French colony with a population of 25 million, has been beset for decades by political instability and grinding poverty.