Madagascar President files court petition over political crisis

Hery Rajaonarimampianina
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Madagascar‘s President on Wednesday filed a petition to the country’s paramount court over its bid to defuse a mounting political crisis.

President Hery Rajaonarimampianina faces a looming deadline set by the High Constitutional Court to name a “consensus prime minister” to head a government of national unity.

The Indian Ocean island nation is in the grip of weeks-long protests over new electoral legislation that the opposition says is loaded in the president’s favour.

Rajaonarimampianina, in his petition to the Constitutional Court, asked the panel to clarify its instructions for carrying out the order issued last Friday.

“There are too many interpretations in the decision of the High Constitutional Court, which may fuel another crisis, and this is why there is a request for clarification,” a legal counsel for the presidency, Tantely Rakotonirina, told the press.

Separately, the President’s office said it had asked the court to explain its thinking on “the powers of the president of the republic and on the timescale for carrying out its decision.”

The court last Friday ordered the president to dissolve the government “and proceed to the nomination of a consensus prime minister within seven days.” It said the new premier should lead a unity government whose composition should proportionately reflect the outcome of the last legislative elections in 2013.

However, this question has triggered fierce debate between the government and opposition. Both sides say they hold the majority in parliament, where many legislators have changed allegiance since 2013. The court also set a 10-day deadline for the two opposing camps to reach an amicable agreement for exiting the crisis.

And it tasked the incoming government with organising “early elections during the 2018 dry season,” a period that typically runs from May to September. The two-round elections had previously been scheduled for November-December.

Since April 21, hundreds of opposition supporters have occupied a key square in the heart of the capital Antananarivo, demanding Rajaonarimampianina resign. They also accuse the government of trying to sideline opposition candidates out of this year’s general elections.

Madagascar has seen a series of popular protest movements since the island nation gained independence from France in 1960, often resulting in bloodshed.