By Richard Lough
ANTANANARIVO, Oct 7 (Reuters) - Does a new deal struck by Madagascar’s political parties to fill key posts in a power-sharing govenment herald the beginning of the end of a nine-month political crisis? [ID:nL6010118]
Here are some questions and answers:
WHAT IS THE LATEST?
* President Andry Rajoelina and the main opposition leaders have agreed in principle on three people to head a consensus government on the Indian Ocean island, breaking the political gridlock that has plagued Madagascar this year.
* A power-sharing deal struck by the leaders in Maputo in August floundered due to political ambition, private interests and debts of loyalty. Rajoelina unilaterally formed a government last month, deepening his diplomatic isolation. [ID: nL8454656]
* Under the new deal, Rajoelina, a 35-year-old former DJ with limited political experience, remains president. Emmanuel Rakotovahiny, head of former President Albert Zafy’s movement, will be vice-president. Eugene Mangalaza, a relative unknown, will occupy the hotly-contested prime minister’s office.
* Mangalaza, put forward by exiled former President Didier Ratsiraka, is considered politically neutral. Backers of the social anthropology and philosophy professor say that suits Madagascar’s needs. Critics say he will be easily manipulated.
IS IT A DONE DEAL?
* Not yet. The mediators have an agreement in principle. Rajoelina, Marc Ravalomanana — the man he ousted in March — Ratsiraka and Zafy must now reconvene and sign on the dotted line under the terms of the August Maputo accords.
* Stumbling blocks remain. Ravalomanana only accepted the deal on the condition his successor not be allowed to stand in the next election. Rajoelina has yet to respond but the African Union (AU) said the proviso did not conform to the Maputo deal.
* Also unknown is the response of Rajoelina’s hitherto prime minister. Monja Roindefo was a crucial backer of the March power-grab and was determined not to let Rajoelina compromise with the opposition, local commentators say.
* Analysts describe Roindefo as a fierce nationalist who felt Madagascar could sort out its problems without outside interference or donor aid. Several nations froze aid after Rajoelina’s March power-grab.
* The African Union’s special envoy, Ablasse Ouedraogo, made it clear a lot of hard work lies ahead. Madagascar’s leaders must now prove that working together comes before jockeying for positions ahead of the next presidential election.
WILL AID MONEY NOW FLOW?
* No. The AU’s top diplomat, Jean Ping, said the political crisis was not yet over, a transitional body was still to be formed and constitutional order restored. Only then would donors release hundreds of millions of dollars in frozen aid.
* Ping reassured the country’s 20 million people, however, that the international community had a responsibility to help organise free and fair elections — and urged donors to continue providing emergency aid.
* Madagascar remains suspended from the AU and Southern African Development Community (SADC). Ping said threats of sanctions could remain in place if there was no demonstrable willingness to end the crisis.
* One diplomatic source described Rajoelina as "divorced from reality" after he offered to choose a new prime minister if the international community unblocked funds. The diplomat said Rajoelina must realise he has no automatic right to this money and that there are rules attached. [ID:nL5003613]
WILL DEAL BOOST THE ECONOMY?
* Madagascar’s economy is suffering. Analysts say it is likely to shrink this year, reserves are falling away, the local currency is depreciating and food prices have shot up.
* The crisis has unsettled foreign investors eyeing up Madagascar’s oil, nickel, cobalt, uranium, gold and coal. A third government within seven months is unlikely to offer immediate reassurance to companies who say continuity is key.
* Questions will be asked of Rajoelina’s plans to revise contracts with major foreign companies such as mining giants Rio Tinto (RIO.L) (RIO.AX), Sherritt International (S.TO) and oil firms Total (TOTF.PA) and Exxon Mobil (XOM.N). [ID: nLI223485]
* Tourists too might require some convincing before flocking back to Madagascar’s palm-fringed beaches and rainforest. The crisis has devastated the $390 million-a-year sector this year. However, the tourism ministry expects 150,000 visitors between October and December, half last year’s numbers. [ID:nL1636381]
* It is also uncertain whether this latest deal comes in time for Madagascar’s $600 million-a-year textile sector. It depends heavily on America’s AGOA trade pact which carries governance conditions. [ID:nLH725702] (Editing by David Clarke and Ralph Boulton)