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09ANTANANARIVO511 2009-07-09 12:29:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Antananarivo
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1. (SBU) SUMMARY: The Malagasy "High Transition Authority" (HAT)
held regional conferences in each of the country's 22 regions from
June 30 to July 3. The agenda focused on changing the constitution;
setting up the fourth republic; reforming political parties,
communication, and electoral laws; and promoting national
reconciliation. Resolutions made during these regional conferences
are to be discussed during the national conference scheduled - at
the moment - to be held by the end of July. The three other
political movements involved in the SADC/AU/UN negotiations -
TIM/Ravalomanana, Zafy, and Ratsiraka - boycotted the not-so-neutral
conferences which they viewed as the illegal transition regime's
latest attempt to further entrench its de facto hold over the
country. END SUMMARY.



2. (SBU) Conference participants discussed several questions related
to constitutional reform during the regional meetings held June 30 -
July 3, including the form of government. Eighteen regions
expressed support for the current system of a unified government,
with the caveat that administrative and financial decentralization
should be fully implemented. Only four regions -- Diana (North),
Atsinanana (East), Analanjirofo (East) and Betsiboka (Center West)
-- opted for a federal state in order to increase their level of
autonomy and "get away from the Merina (highland) stronghold."
Participants in all regions lamented that past regimes had not
promoted equal development for all regions, but had rather
concentrated the benefits in the capital. Either a federal state or
an effective decentralization with administrative and fiscal
autonomy were presented as ways in which to avoid uneven

3. (SBU) Participants also considered the question of the age limit
and restrictions for presidential candidates that should be included
in the constitution. Most regions recommended that lower and upper
age limits be set between 30 and 60 or between 35 and 65 - clearly
indicating the pro-Rajoelina slant of the conferences. The change
of the current minimum age from 40 to 35 would enable Rajoelina to
run for president, while the upper limit would prevent all former
presidents - as well as former VPM Pierrot Rajaonarivelo -- from
running. Two regions recommended setting no age limit at all, which
would allow anyone over 18 to run.

4. (SBU) Three regions - Diana (North coast), Atsinanana (East
coast), and Betsiboka (Center West) - agreed that the minimum age
should remain at 40, surprising observers of this pro-HAT event.
[NOTE: Diana is influenced by former President Zafy Albert, while
the Atsinanana region is the cradle of the Ratsiraka clan and of
AREMA politician Pierrot Rajaonarivelo. END NOTE.]



5. (SBU) The issue of an amnesty, which blocked the most recent
AU/UN/SADC attempts at mediation, was widely discussed during the
conferences. Most regions expressed support for a "general" amnesty
that would cover all acts perpetrated between January 2002 and
December 2008. This is seen as an attempt to exclude the
Ravalomanana administration from benefiting from an amnesty related
to the February 7 shootings. In a few regions, participants called
for an amnesty covering the period back to 1991. This would absolve
officials from the Ratsiraka administration, who may have been
involved in the August 10, 1991 "slaughter." Only the Analamanga
region (where the capital is located) chose a "selective" amnesty
that would openly not apply to Ravalomanana, with the support of 72%
of participants.



6. (SBU) Participants from the Southeastern region of Vatovavy
Fitovinany proposed that their region be divided into two different
ones, based on a natural division. The four districts requesting
the change argue that the current regional capital fails to serve
the population due to distance and infrastructure issues. Another
similar request came from four districts in the South. If those two
requests are approved during the national conference, that would
bring the total number of regions to 24.



7. (SBU) Across the board, the organizers were overwhelmed by
organizational and logistical problems, with participants more
numerous than expected - even double for some regions following an
instruction by the HAT of not excluding anyone who may want to
participate. Complaints about allowances and catering led to the
suspension of the conferences in some regions for hours. Rajoelina
himself "confessed" that the HAT had learned some lessons from the
disorganization, but rapidly shifted the blame on to the organizing

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committee, composed of civil society members.



8. (SBU) Many observers noted that the conferences were manipulated
by the HAT, as the discussions during the meetings seemed
pre-determined, and many participants were given forms containing
specific talking points. On the other hand, HAT supporters
denounced alleged manipulation by the Zafy, Ratsiraka and
Ravalomanana movements, which publicly announced a boycott of the
conferences, but reportedly sent partisans to influence the
discussions and push their agendas on federalism and a general
amnesty. The conferences - touted by the HAT as giving a voice to
"the people" -- are one more example of the HAT's efforts to
consolidate its de facto power and more deeply entrench itself in
its present position. The national conference, if held this month,
is likely to go further down a unilateral road that increases the
divide between Rajoelina and the current opposition. So far, the
requirement for "consensus" has given blocking power to those who
don't want any agreement at all -- and therefore is tending now to
be dismissed by the HAT as an unreasonable or impossible goal.
However, to find a tenable solution to the ongoing crisis, there
remains the need for a minimum level of inclusion and consensus -
lest the chosen way forward not solve anything at all. So far, the
HAT remains far from finding that level. END COMMENT.