The opposition has denounced the head of state’s betrayal and is considering a procedure to demand his impeachment four months before the presidential election.
Can Andry Rajoelina still be considered the Malagasy Head of State under the law? Can he be the “French President of the Republic of Madagascar”, as La Tribune de Madagascar wondered in its Saturday June 17 edition? The question has been raised since the disclosure, on June 15, of his French naturalization by a decree signed by Prime Minister Manuel Valls and Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve on November 19, 2014. According to several accounts, this nationality had been granted in exchange for his withdrawal – which was only temporary – from the political scene a year earlier, in 2013. Four years after the coup d’état that brought him to the helm of Madagascar, this was intended to enable the country to turn the page on the transitional regime.
Therefore, Andry Rajoelina should not have been allowed to run in the 2018 presidential election, since any candidate must prove Malagasy nationality, as required by article 46 of the Constitution. The problem here is not that the President may hold dual nationality – which is the case for thousands of Malagasy given the shared past between the two countries – but that he is no longer Malagasy. The Nationality Code is clear on this point: “Malagasy nationals of full age who voluntarily acquire a foreign nationality lose their Malagasy nationality”, according to article 42. The President, who was 40 at the time of his naturalization, falls into this category.
After a moment’s stupefaction at the possible scope of the information, those close to the President have stepped up their counter-fire in recent days to defuse the bombshell dropped by anonymous sources to several newspapers, including Le Monde, a few months ahead of the next presidential election, scheduled for November.
After an initial reaction from Andry Rajoelina’s chief of staff in Le Monde, claiming that French nationality had been granted to him by descent, government spokeswoman and Minister of Communication Lalatiana Rakotondrazafy declared on national television that the head of state “has not yet lost his Malagasy nationality”, as he had not requested authorization from the government as provided for in the nationality code, subject to certain conditions. On Sunday evening, Andry Rajoelina, for his part, took advantage of the reopening to the public of the Rova, the collection of royal residences that dominates Antananarivo, to try and play down the situation: “Nobody can erase the fact that we are Malagasy, and nobody can change the Malagasy blood that runs in our veins.
Justifications deemed neither convincing nor sufficient. The opposition party MMM (Malagasy Miara-Miainga), whose president, Hajo Andrianainarivelo, left the government at the beginning of 2022 to denounce the impasse into which he believes the country is sinking, demanded explanations on “this subject which offends the sovereignty of the Malagasy people who have been betrayed”.
Rivo Rakotovao, head of the HVM party, also denounced a “betrayal” and a “moral fault”. “There is a glaring legal problem, but what bothers me most is that he lied. He has become French and, in so doing, he has pledged his allegiance to another country. What credibility does he have to defend Madagascar?” condemns the former president of the French Senate, referring in particular to one of the points of disagreement between Paris and Antananarivo, the demand for the return of the Eparses islands.
This string of lands in the Mozambique Channel was taken by France from its former colony at the time of independence in 1960. Andry Rajoelina had promised to resolve this territorial dispute, but negotiations have stalled. In recent days, Malagasy cartoonists have been quick to explain this by caricaturing the president embarrassed by two flags: that of the Big Island brandished high and that of France behind his back.
While discussions continue within the opposition’s political headquarters, the HVM is talking about appointing a parliamentary commission of inquiry that could lead to impeachment proceedings. In France, exiled opponent Fanirisoa Ernaivo announced on Monday June 19 that a complaint would be lodged with the Antananarivo Court of First Instance to rule on the unprecedented case of the Head of State’s foreignness. The former head of Madagascar’s Syndicat de la Magistrature, now head of the Association pour le Développement et la Démocratie à Madagascar, is calling on foreign governments and international financial institutions to suspend “all new commitments until Mr. Rajoelina’s status has been decided”. A letter has been sent to French parliamentarians to alert them.
Unfinished revision of the electoral roll
Diplomatic representations have so far remained silent, but a new meeting was scheduled on Monday between several of them. “For the time being, we’re just observing, but it’s clear that, if the law were to be applied, it would be up to the High Constitutional Court to declare that Mr. Rajoelina is no longer a Malagasy and to depose him,” says one.