Madagascar says consensus government not viable

A consensus government will be hard to establish in Madagascar, the Indian Ocean Island’s prime minister said ahead of a meeting this week to revive power-sharing talks between the county’s bitter rivals.
Monja Roindefo, seen as a hardliner, told Reuters mediators should settle for a broad-based government including opposition members, rather than expecting the country’s feuding political power-brokers to reach a consensus on key posts.
“We need to put in place a Maputo that is viable. We should change ‘consensus’ for ‘coalition’,” he said in a telephone interview last week, referring to the power-sharing deal struck in Mozambique’s capital in August.
Political instability has convulsed the world’s fourth largest island, increasingly eyed by foreign investors for its oil and minerals, since early 2009 when opposition leader Andry Rajoelina, 35, toppled President Marc Ravalomanana with the help of a dissident faction of the military.
In the August deal brokered by African nations and the United Nations, Rajoelina, Ravalomanana and two former presidents Didier Ratsiraka and Albert Zafy agreed to form a unity government tasked with holding elections by late 2010.
But they failed to agree on who should hold key posts and Rajoelina and Roindefo unilaterally formed a government that included some former allies of Ravalomanana and Ratsiraka.
Regional blocs and foreign powers rejected the administration on the grounds it flouted the Maputo deal.
“The international community has created this situation that others are looking to manipulate to regain political influence,” Roindefo said.
Growing rift?
Tomorrow, the International Contact Group (ICG) will meet in Madagascar’s capital Antananarivo to try to breathe new life into the reconciliation process.
Some diplomatic sources and analysts say Rajoelina’s negotiating hand was forced by powerful individuals at home who backed his power-grab and convinced him not to cede ground.
But speculation is rife about a widening rift between Rajoelina and his prime minister over how much ground to give.
Roindefo threatened to deny visas to some officials from southern African countries after some African nations barred Rajoelina from addressing the UN General Assembly.
He has also said the government might boycott the talks, although last week he said: “That depends on the AU (African Union) and how it wants to proceed. In any case, there’s not yet been a formal invitation.”
Lead mediator from the Southern African Development Community, Joaquim Chissano, met Rajoelina in Paris last week and said they agreed to meet on the occasion of the ICG meeting.
France-based risk consultant Lydie Boka said the UN debacle had further damaged Madagascar’s reputation abroad and had a sobering affect on key protagonists.
“Rajoelina is still in charge and wants negotiations and early elections, and although Roindefo will not give up easily, Rajoelina is set to win,” she said.
One diplomatic source said Rajoelina recognised the need to win the backing of donors who have suspended emergency aid worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Rajoelina made a televised address to the nation later yesterday.

Pic: Madagascar ousted President Marc Ravolamanana