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Madagascar Bans Public Protests Ahead Of Elections
Madagascar’s government has banned protests among the general public ahead of its upcoming November elections.
Madagascar’s government has banned public protests as tensions grow in the months leading to the presidential election in November, Radio France International (RFI) reported from a correspondent in Antananarivo today. The announcement came on Friday, March 31 with a statement from Cécile Manorohanta, Madagascar's minister of interior.
Manorohanta stated that protests would be prohibited in public spaces, but citizens could still hold them in enclosed areas.
“This measure applies to all political parties and to all parliamentarians, except for members of the executive, who need to meet and listen to the population,” Manorohanta said.
The current president, Andry Rajoelina, is expected to seek re-election in November. He has been president since his inauguration in 2019, after winning the 2018 election with 55% of the vote. Rajoelina's political party, Tanora malaGasy Vonona (Young Malagasies Determined), currently holds a majority in the Madagascar National Assembly.
The ban on public organizing stirred strong reactions in Malagasy people, who saw the move as an infringement on their rights.
Hajo Andrianainarivelo, a leader of the opposition Malagasy Miara-Miainga party and a former minister, stated that the ban indicates Madagascar is sliding in a dangerous direction.
"It is a denial of democracy. We strongly condemn this statement and this decision, especially on the eve of a crucial election. The Constitution is no longer respected,” Andrianainarivelo said in the RFI report. “How do you want to have confidence in future deadlines if the government is doing everything now to prevent the voice of political parties and civil society from being heard? What interests this regime is to stay in place. Nothing stops them. And today we are moving towards dictatorship. It is extremely serious.”
In the past, critics of the Malagasy government have accused the administration of taking measures to silence public dissent. The Reporters Without Borders press freedom index ranked Madagascar 98 out of 180 in 2022, a significant decline from 58 out of 180 in the previous year. Reporters Without Borders wrote of Madagascar in the 2022 index:
“Madagascar is characterized by a very rich media landscape that is highly polarized and lacking in independence. Attacks and arrests targeting journalists are quite rare.”
In recent months, Madagascar has also faced enormous cyclones that tore through the island of 29 million people, which has added extra strain on its economy and political system.
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