As Madagascar prepares for its upcoming presidential election scheduled for November 16, opposition candidates, Roland Ratsiraka and Hajo Andrianainarivelo, have voiced their reservations about the conditions surrounding the electoral process. Both candidates highlighted their concerns about the lack of transparency and the failure to meet the required standards for a fair and peaceful election.
Roland Ratsiraka, a prominent opposition candidate, emphasized that the necessary conditions for a transparent and widely accepted presidential election have not been met. His brief statement underscores the opposition's skepticism about the integrity of the electoral process.
Hajo Andrianainarivelo, another opposition candidate, clarified that their objection is not a complete boycott of the elections, as they are active participants as candidates. However, he expressed dissatisfaction with the November 16 date, asserting that the election, as currently planned, falls short of meeting the necessary standards.
Ten out of 12 opposition candidates in Madagascar on Tuesday called on voters to shun a presidential election scheduled for Thursday, amid concerns about the vote's regularity.
For weeks, the Indian Ocean island nation has been shaken by a fierce battle between President Andry Rajoelina, who is running for re-election, and most opposition leaders, who have complained about an "institutional coup" to favour of the incumbent.
"We reject Thursday's elections and we call on all Malagasy people to consider that this election does not exist," Hajo Andrianainarivelo, 56, told a press conference in Antananarivo, speaking on behalf of the 10 presidential hopefuls.
The move is likely to worsen political tensions that have been running high in the country for more than a month.
Since early October, the opposition grouping has been leading near daily, unauthorised protest marches in the capital.
The demonstrations that have on average drawn a few hundred supporters have been regularly dispersed by police.
Six presidential candidates had already told AFP on Monday they planned to boycott Thursday's vote.
Now the call on voters to stay away from the polls has been formally endorsed by all 10 members of the group.
Last week, the head of the lower house of parliament, who leads a mediation group to find a way out of the crisis, called for the suspension of the elections saying the situation in the country does not allow for a free and credible vote.
But a spokeswoman for Rajoelina said the request was a "far-fetched idea".
The outgoing president held his last campaign rally in Antananarivo on Sunday in front of a fervent crowd of several thousand people donning t-shirts bearing his image.
"I'm going to win, that's for sure, and in the first round," he told AFP in an interview at the weekend.
His government has repeatedly condemned opposition protests as moved by a "desire to overthrow power" and to "sabotage the electoral process", accusing his challengers of "threatening the stability of the country".
The crisis erupted in September after Rajoelina resigned in line with the constitution in order to run for re-election.
The president of the Senate was supposed to take over but declined for "personal reasons", leaving the task to a "collegial government" headed by the prime minister, an ally of Rajoelina.
The move was accepted by the Constitutional Court, which also dismissed appeals to have Rajoelina's candidacy declared void over his dual French nationality, sparking opposition anger.