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Andry Rajoelina plans political comeback in Madagascar

Eric Topona
August 7, 2018

After taking over power in 2009 following a military coup, Andry Rajoelina was prevented from running for the presidency in 2013. In an exclusive interview with DW, he talks about his candidacy for 2018.

Andry Rajoelina, presidential candidate in Madagascar, sitting at his desk
Image: DW/E.Topona

44-year-old Rajoelina, a former mayor of the capital Antananarivo, took over power in the aftermath of a military revolt that ousted his predecessor Marc Ravalomanana. He held on for five years, although he was supposed to head the state only for a short transition period. Pressure by the international community prevented him from running in the 2013 election, which was won by Hery Rajaonarimampianina. The latter has yet to announce whether he will seek a second mandate.

Andry Rajoelina was the first to register his candidacy for the first round of presidential elections scheduled for November 7. DW talked to him about his motivation and political program.

DW: What are your reasons for running for the presidency of Madagascar?

Andry Rajoelina: Generalized corruption, rampant inflation, not to mention security issues in the whole of Madagascar. In view of all this, it is my duty to contribute to a solution for the country's development.

Are you sorry you did not run for president in 2013?

What matters to me are peace and stability in my country. I didn't want a confrontation in 2013. I gave priority to the nation's higher interests. Just like the people of Madagascar, I had very much hoped that the country would develop, that there would be a war on poverty. But it didn't happen. That is why I answered the pleas of the Madagascan people and have now made my candidacy official.

A man pulls a rikshaw alongside a wall painted with a huge dollar bill
For Madagascans, the economy is one of the main issues in upcoming electionsImage: picture alliance / blickwinkel

What are your chances in November's elections?

As a former elected mayor of the capital, there is one thing that I will never forget: When I ran for that office in 2007 I won 70% of all votes. It was a record in municipal elections in Madagascar. I think I am well prepared for the upcoming elections. My advantage is being young. I know what young Madagascans and the people of this country want. That's why I created the IEM (Initiative for the Emergence of Madagascar), which brings together international and national experts to seek a concrete solution for Madagascar's development. Life taught me a lot and I am now ready to take on this challenge to turn Madagascar into an emerging country, a beacon for development in the Indian Ocean and — why not? —even for Africa.

Recently you have again grown closer to former President Marc Ravalomanana. Do you envision an alliance for these elections?

No, this has nothing at all to do with a political alliance. It is true that our lawmakers grew closer again to unite in the protest against electoral laws proposed by the current government. These laws were aimed at falsifying the will of the people and keeping some candidates from running, including the former president. We want democracy and democratic alternation for Madagascar's development. But there is no political alliance.

Wouldn't an alliance be possible in view of the elections?

Listen, currently everyone is a candidate. The people will decide. I think that there is a good chance that someone may win the presidential election outright in the first round. But if that's not the case, circumstances will tell us what to do.

If the current president announces his candidacy, do you think you could beat him in the first round?

That's for the people to decide. But I am confident. I've campaigned before and I know what my assets are. 

Opposition demonstrators in Antananarivo head towards the police
Opposition protesters clashed with the police in April over controversial electoral lawsImage: Getty Images/AFP/Rijasolo

And what are your assets?

Youth, for one. But I have other beliefs and values. Above all I want to serve the nation. What counts for me is my love for my country. And I think everyone knows who the real patriot is and who can save Madagascar.

While presenting your candidacy you said several times that you have changed. How?

I've changed in the way I do politics and how I see Madagascar's future. Madagascar is the fifth poorest country in the world. That is not admissible. No previous president had a plan to mobilize the people and be a great leader. I am ready. I have surrounded myself with experts and I can now propose concrete solutions to develop Madagascar.

Are you being supported by foreign powers?  

I don't stand alone. For starters, I am being supported by the Madagascan people, because I've reached out to the population. I've heard their cries of desperation and suffering. I saw the poverty in this country. Today I also have friends — experts and politicians — in the whole world, ready to help me elevate Madagascar.

What do you say to those who see you as the candidate of France?

I am not the candidate of any country. I work with everyone, including the big powers. I will receive everyone who has Madagascar's development in mind. No matter from which country, no matter which religion and no matter what their origins are. I will extend a hand to everyone to develop and elevate Madagascar, which is on its knees today.

You've said that one of your main aims was to close down the Senate. Do you still plan to do that?

People living in shacks alongside a railway line in Antananarivo
In spite of economic growth, Madagascar remains one of the world's poorest countries Image: picture-alliance/dpa/ Guichaoua Yann-AGF/Bildagentur-online

That is a suggestion. If we want to develop the country, we must manage its economy and finances. Currently, only ten percent of high schoolers have access to university. The Senate has an annual budget of over six and a half million euros ($7.5 million). You only need 1.5 million euros to build a university. In one year we could build six universities. If I want to increase the number of universities as stated in my program, I must say how I will finance them.

What are your other priorities? 

I have several. For instance: energy and Madagascar's electrification. Currently, only 15 percent of the population have access to electricity. That's after 58 years of independence. There is also agriculture. Our aim is food self-sufficiency. But above all there is security. When I say security, I mean security of people and goods, legal security, investment protection and the population's general security. That is a part of my priorities.

Let me ask you about the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Congolese are set to elect a new president on December 23. We still don't know whether President Kabila will be a candidate. We know that the constitution forbids it. What is your point of view?

The most important thing when you are head of state is to think of coming generations and the population. When people cry out in pain you have to act and listen to them. It is important for every country to have democratic alternation to ensure its development. A statesman thinks of coming generations. A politician thinks of coming elections. That is why I thought about coming generations first, to prepare my comeback.

In other words, Joseph Kabila should respect the constitution?

To respect the constitution is a must. One must also listen to the voice of the people.

Opposition leader Moise Katumbi has been unable to go home to the RDC. Does this situation shock you?

It is above all a form of dictatorship. You cannot keep a citizen from returning to his country.

Investors see huge potential in Madagascar

The interview was conducted by Eric Topona.