Money shouts in Madagascar elections

Money shouts in Madagascar elections

Marc Ravalomanana (left) Hery Rajaonarimampianina (centre) and Andry Rajoelina are the three front-runners

In November 2023, Madagascar will go to the polls to elect their president in what promises to be a contest of “money bags” between the incumbent Andry Rajoelina and some of the country’s former presidents.

In 2018 , President Andry Rajoelina, a former president himself that came through a coup in 2009  had to tussle it out with  35 contestants including the  incumbent at the time, President Rajaonarimampianina who was  seeking re-election, and  two former presidents namely: Didier Ratsiraka;  and Marc Ravolamanana .Other contestants included three former prime ministers − Jean Ravelonarivo (2015-16), Jean Omer Beriziky (2011-14) and Olivier Mahafaly (2016-18) among others with only five women in the race.

The 2018 elections in Madagascar were considered to be one of the most expensive in the world as former presidents out muscled each other financially for the top most position in the land. Money ruled the electoral campaign landscape in a nation riddled with corruption and extreme poverty at 75%.

Come 2023, political analysts have speculated the spending war will even be more insane having observed trends in 2013 and 2018, amidst weak campaign finance regulations and institutions to reign in on the situation.

To date, there are no campaign spending limits in the electoral laws of Madagascar. The laws have a few obligations to disclose source of funding which are often abused.

Private firms and business conglomerates have been cited already in the forthcoming elections like it was the case in 2018 where Andry Rajoelina was bankrolled by Russian oligarchs to win the elections in exchange for a chromium operation deal in which the Russians control 70% of the stakes.

In 2013, President Rajaonarimampianina’s campaign cost $43 million, the equivalent of $21.50 per voter surpassing Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential bids making it the most expensive campaign recorded by far. Participation of some of the country’s former presidents in the elections as candidates has raised the stakes leading to record high spending in a nation as poor as this.

Already, the lines have been drawn between incumbent Rajoelina and his competitors Ravalomanana and Hery Rajaonarimampianina , the former President from 2014 to 2018,both considered to be money bags . As expected, opposition political parties go into the elections at a disadvantage of requiring more than enough war chest to challenge the incumbent, and also navigate the legal restrictions of acquiring a permit from the same government they are contesting against to canvass for votes. The extent to which the opposition can mount a coordinated and well-resourced campaign will determine how seriously they can challenge the incumbent.