The Grudge Match
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A Madagascan court recently postponed the first round of the country’s presidential election by a week to Nov. 16, after security forces injured opposition candidates at unauthorized political demonstrations.
Police dispersing the demonstrations fired a tear gas canister that struck and injured opposition candidate and former President Marc Ravalomanana’s leg, wrote the Associated Press. Another opposition candidate, Andry Raobelina, sustained an eye injury after a tear gas canister hit him at a different protest.
Tensions are simmering in the Indian Ocean island nation because incumbent Andry Rajoelina, who was president until he resigned in September to run for reelection per the country’s laws, served as interim president for the government that followed Ravalomanana’s removal in a coup in 2009.
Ravalomanana, Raobelina, Hery Rajaonarimampianina – another former president – and other opposition figures in the so-called Collective of Eleven have organized unauthorized protest marches against what they describe as Rajoelina’s repressive regime, wrote the Institute for Security Studies, a think tank. They say that election officials and the security forces have rigged the election in Rajoelina’s favor, reported Africa News. American and European officials have lent credence to those suspicions by publicly saying they would watch the ballot closely.
Still, tear gas, rubber bullets, beatings and arbitrary arrests have marred demonstrations in the island country off the east coast of Africa, prompting the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to appeal to Madagascan security forces to uphold citizens’ freedom to assemble and “refrain from using disproportionate force – to create an environment conducive to free, fair, and transparent elections.”
Rajoelina’s critics also charge that he is not a Madagascan citizen but is in fact French, added Reuters. He has denied the accusation, saying that, while he is a French citizen, he was born and raised in Madagascar.
Rajoelina said he applied for French citizenship because he qualified and he wanted his children to continue studying in France. But he might have become French as part of a Paris-brokered diplomatic deal where he bowed out of politics temporarily in 2013 to defuse a political crisis that was threatening to pull the country into chaos.
Madagascar is a former French colony that experienced brutal oppression under their imperial masters, a London School of Economics publication wrote.
In an interview with Radio France Internationale, Rajoelina said he didn’t agree with the court’s decision to postpone the election. He also rejected claims that a double standard exists in the country because security forces allowed him to hold political rallies but always dispersed those of the opposition.
He was right in asserting that he was not muzzling anyone, or muzzling them effectively, at least.