Press Review 24/2024 Fresh wind?
Press Review 7 June 2024 to 14 June 2024

Parliamentary elections in Madagascar

On Tuesday, Madagascar’s electoral commission (commission électorale nationale indépendante, CENI) published the provisional results of the parliamentary elections on 29 May. According to the results, President Andry Rajoelina’s ruling coalition, Isika rehetra miaraka amin’i Andry Rajoelina (Irmar), won 80 out of 163 seats, narrowly losing its absolute majority in parliament. In the last parliamentary elections in 2019, Rajoelina’s Tanora Malagasy Vonona party secured 84 of 151 seats. As in the previous elections, independent candidates played a decisive role and will occupy 52 seats in parliament in future. To the surprise of many, former parliamentary speaker Christine Razanamahasoa, who also ran as an independent and was dismissed from office in November last year after criticising Rajoelina’s government as increasingly authoritarian, did not succeed in re-entering parliament. The largest opposition alliance Firaisankina, which is led by the former Malagasy presidents Marc Ravalomanana (2002-2009) and Hery Rajaonarimampianina (2014-2018) as well as the ex-Judoka Siteny Randrianasoloniaiko, won 24 seats. With a voter turnout of 48%, which was five percentage points higher than in 2019, the CENI achieved a record turnout.
According to the CENI, this was due to various measures to facilitate the voting process. These include the introduction of plastic polling booths, voting material in Braille and the use of tablets and smartphones to facilitate the rapid transmission of results from polling stations to the electoral authority.

However, the election process and results have been clearly criticised by the opposition and some of the independent candidates, among others. The High Constitutional Court received around 100 applications for the cancellation or partial cancellation of the results. The European Union-funded citizens’ monitoring centre Safidy also submitted four applications to the Constitutional Court calling for the cancellation of the elections in a total of 32 cities. Here, President Andry Rajoelina had held rallies and called on the population to vote for candidates who supported his presidency, which was against the law. In addition, election observers in some of the 120 electoral districts had noted discrepancies between the results of the count and the reported results; in some cases, there had also been physical attacks on election observers. The Constitutional Court now has until 26 June to review all complaints submitted to it.

Further criticism, including from the South African Development Community (SADC) election observation mission, which had sent a 58-strong team to the island state, was levelled at the lack of media freedom and the registration of candidates in the run-up to the election. For example, the Ministry of Communications had already ordered some independent radio stations to switch off before the election. Some candidates who wanted to register for the election were, for example, refused to issue the tax certificates required for registration. The doubling of the registration deposit to 20 million ariary (approx. €4,000) was also heavily criticised. This had led to the disqualification of some candidates who were unable to raise the money in time. According to the secretary general of the socialist party Arema, Annick Ratsiraka, a deposit of this amount, while the minimum wage in the country is just 260,000 ariary (approx. €50), is a clear violation of the constitution, according to which every citizen can stand for election regardless of gender or wealth. The presidential elections in November last year, in which President Andry Rajoelina emerged victorious once again, were also considered controversial. At the time, the opposition had called for a boycott of the elections. Rajoelina, who first came to power in a coup in 2009 and was finally elected president in 2019, was re-elected with 58.96% in the first round of voting, according to official results.


First female prime minister takes office in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Judith Suminwa Tuluka was sworn in as the first female prime minister in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on Wednesday. The new cabinet, which consists of 54 ministers, was also officially confirmed. Around six months after the controversial re-election of President Félix Tshisekedi in December 2023 (Press Review CW 2/2024), the new government can now begin its work. Tuluka, who previously held the post of Minister of Planning and was appointed by Tshisekedi as head of government and successor to Jean-Michel Sama Lukonde at the beginning of April. She now faces the task of implementing Tshisekedi’s declared priorities in the areas of employment, youth, women and national cohesion. To this end, she presented the so-called Programme d’Action Quinquennal last week, a five-year plan with an average annual budget of 18 billion euros based on three priorities. The first is the creation of new jobs, especially for the young population. Between 2024 and 2030, around 1.5 million new jobs are to be created each year. Around 30% of the financial resources of the five-year programme will be spent on this. A further 20% is to be channelled into protecting the national territory and safeguarding people and their property.
In this regard, a recruitment programme for the army is to be continued and additional equipment provided. The third priority concerns the country’s infrastructural development and provides for the expansion of the Banana deep-sea harbour, the expansion of the road network by 3,750 km and 400 additional modular harbours in order to better develop agricultural areas.

However, civil society organisations criticise the new government’s plans as being too ambitious. According to the coordinator of the non-governmental organisation Centre de Recherche en Finances Publiques et Développement Local (CREFDL), the country’s current budget only amounts to around half of the money planned for the implementation of the programme. The minimal downsizing of the cabinet from 57 to 54 members was also surprising given the enormous pressure to reduce costs. However, there were some changes within the cabinet, particularly in the area of security. These took place in response to the failed coup attempt on 29 May by the Congolese-American politician Christian Malanga. In 2017, he founded an alternative government for the DRC, the New Zaire Government, in exile in Belgium and proclaimed himself its president. In addition to him, another 50 people were killed in the coup attempt. Guy Mwadiamvita, who is close to President Tshisekedi and replaces former Vice-President Jean-Pierre Bemba, who previously held the post, becomes new Minister of Defence of the DRC. Peter Kazadi takes over as head of the Ministry of Internal Security. Tshisekedi also dismissed Daniel Lusadisu Kiambi just ten months after his appointment as head of the influential ANR intelligence service. Lusadisu is suspected by the military judiciary of having been a close confidant of Christian Malanga and indirectly involved in the latest coup attempt. However, the filling of posts in the security sector also plays a key role with regard to the situation in the east of the country. Fighting between the Congolese army and the M23 rebels has recently intensified again (Press Review CW 45/2023).


In other news

On Monday, the Senegalese restaurant Dakar NOLA in the US city of New Orleans was awarded the prestigious James Beard Award in the category of best newly opened restaurant in the country. Founded by chef Serigne Mbaye, who was born in Harlem but grew up in Senegal, the restaurant specialises in Senegalese cuisine with Creole influences. The James Beard Awards, also known as the Oscars of cuisine, have been presented annually since 1991 by the James Beard Foundation to influential people with a special commitment to the food industry. The foundation also focuses on promoting young chefs. In addition to Dakar Nola, the East African restaurant Baobab Fare, run by two chefs from Burundi, Hamissi Mamba and Nadia Nijimbere, was also nominated.

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