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09ANTANANARIVO804 2009-11-23 14:31:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Antananarivo
Cable title:  

MADAGASCAR: ELECTIONS FEASIBLE IN 2010, PENDING

Tags:   PGOV MA 
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					  UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ANTANANARIVO 000804 

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DOC FOR RTELCHIN
TREAS FOR FBOYE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV MA
SUBJECT: MADAGASCAR: ELECTIONS FEASIBLE IN 2010, PENDING
POLITICAL PROGRESS

REF: A. 09 ANTANANARIVO 791

B. 09 ANTANANARIVO 767



1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Concurrent missions from the UN, the
Francophonie (OIF), and the Indian Ocean Commission (COI)
conducted a brief evaluation from November 16 to 20 of
Madagascar's legal and institutional capacity to hold
elections in 2010. The three organizations shared their
preliminary conclusions with the diplomatic community on
November 20; despite a lengthy list of challenges for the
still-unformed transition government, they were optimistic
that the international community could play a useful role,
and plan to create a joint "coordination cell" within the
UNDP for that purpose. The representatives refrained from
commenting publicly on an election timetable, but noted
privately that the planned referendum on a revised
constitution was unlikely to take place before April 2010,
with presidential and legislative elections to follow several
months later. At present, further action is blocked by the
lack of a transition government, but once Madagascar has
passed that hurdle, several diplomatic missions are prepared
to engage, mostly via the UNDP, with substantial financial
and technical resources. END SUMMARY.

A SHIFTING ELECTION TIMETABLE


--------------------------





2. (SBU) Following recent progress in Addis Ababa (ref B),
some in the embryonic transition government have spent the
last two weeks raising hopes that the transition would
conclude by June 26 - the symbolically important 50th
anniversary of independence from France in 1960. At present,
this looks unlikely; the transition government will be faced
with significant institutional and logistical challenges
(paras 3 to 6), not the least of which is Madagascar's
cyclone season, which extends from January to April.
According to Tadjoudine Ali Diabacte, Deputy Director of the
UN Electoral Assistance Division, the UN will not be in a
position to assist if there's not at least a four-month lead
time to the first event, whether it's a referendum or the
presidential election. Given that several diplomatic
missions, including France, Norway, South Africa, the E.U.,
and the U.S. intend to funnel the bulk of their assistance
through the UNDP coordination cell, this effectively blocks
outside assistance for events prior to March at best.
Although neither Diabacte nor the representatives from the
OIF or the COI would comment specifically on timeframes in
public, Diabacte commented privately to the Ambassador on
November 17 that a more realistic timetable would put the
referendum in May or June, to be followed later by
presidential and legislative elections.

CHALLENGES FOR THE NEW GOVERNMENT


--------------------------





3. (SBU) There are several key steps between the formation of
the transition government and the creation of the National
Independent Electoral Commission (CENI), each of which could
further delay GOM preparations and international assistance.
Once the government is in place, the National Reconciliation
Council (CNR, called for in the August 9 Charter) is charged
with organizing a series of regional and national conferences
to debate changes to the current constitution, which will
form the basis of the planned referendum. These may include
debate on age limits (to allow Rajoelina, currently 5 years
shy of the constitutional minimum of 40, to participate), the
balance of power between the presidency and the prime
minister, the structure and autonomy of Madagascar's
constituent territorial divisions, and the independence of
the judiciary. (Note: CRN President Albert Zafy told Emboffs
privately that the consitutional age limit was unlikely to be
lowered during this process. End note.) At the first such

ANTANANARI 00000804 002 OF 002


national conference, the CNR will design and launch the CENI,
at which point it will take over from the current National
Electoral Council (CNE) within the Ministry of the Interior.



4. (SBU) The Charter leaves most of the details of the CENI
up to the conference. It is unclear whether it will
completely take over the manpower and resources to organize
and conduct elections or be limited to a supervisory capacity
over the pre-existing bureaucracy. Its size, composition,
and budget are still to be determined, including whether the
political movements will be able to control nominations, or
if they'll seek to fill it with "neutral" functionaries. All
parties agree that it must be formed as soon as possible -
but may still have significantly different visions of its
ultimate shape.



5. (SBU) The UN, OIF, and COI missions identified several
challenges that the CENI will face once it's established.
The UNDP has long advocated for a switch to a single ballot,
to replace the current multiple ballot system; while this
switch will require significant voter education and carries
with it no guarantee that it won't be manipulated, it is
generally considered cheaper, easier to administer equitably,
and less prone to vote buying. There is also much work to be
done on the voter registration list, thought to be extremely
inaccurate despite efforts to computerize the system for the
2006 vote. Madagascar has not had a census since the 1990s,
and voter registration efforts in recent years have been
uneven and contentious; the UNDP estimates that there may be
up to three million eligible voters not on the list, although
facts concerning population and age distribution are scarce.



6. (SBU) Finally, there is recognition at all levels that
extensive voter education and media training programs will be
necessary, whether for managing the transition to a single
ballot, ensuring that opposition candidates have access to
the airwaves, or explaining the stakes of the constitutional
referendum. There are numerous civil society organizations
and international organizations that intend to engage in this
aspect of the election process, once the transition
government has formed. These needs are not new; former
president Ravalomanana recognized publicly the need for
reform, but declined to act. The CENI itself is specifically
mandated in the Maputo Charter to ensure that these issues
are addressed, although it is not necessarily required to
finance or conduct them itself.

LINING UP TO HELP - BUT OUR HANDS ARE STILL TIED


--------------------------



--------------------------





7. (SBU) COMMENT: This visit marks an important step forward
in international engagement, but no further progress can be
made until the transition government has been formed.
Diabacte, in his closing remarks on November 20, made clear
that the UN cannot move faster than Madagascar's political
leadership in addressing these needs, but the international
community is doing all it can to be ready once the government
finally takes shape. The final electoral calendar will be a
compromise between the universal desire to hold elections as
soon as possible, and a sober analysis of the system's flaws
which contributed to crises in both 2002 and 2009. Elections
are feasible in 2010, but only if further progress is quickly
made to implement the Maputo Charter. While the US mission
and other partners will continue to push the transition
authorities to move as quickly as possible, and all parties
profess their desire to stay on schedule, the Charter gives
them until November 2010 for the final round of voting. END
COMMENT.
MARQUARDT