We can predict without hesitation that abstention will be the big winner of the 2023 presidential election in Madagascar. As a reminder, the worst turnout rate in the history of Republican elections in Madagascar was 48% in the second round of 2018. This year, that record will be broken by the combination of three factors.
First, the increasing disclosure of errors by the Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) in voter lists and voter cards reinforces the lack of trust. The CENI had reiterated that a budget of 150 million dollars was necessary. However, according to our calculations, only about a third of this amount was ultimately available. What then has been sacrificed on the altar of austerity? Side question: If a second round is necessary, does the CENI have the resources to organize it? This side question may not be so secondary as it could be motivation to force a first round win.
Then the collective’s slogan of boycotting candidates who did not participate in the election campaign will be widely followed. This is reinforced by the position of the PAN-FFKM platform, which believes that it is first necessary to clean up the electoral system before holding elections. Since yesterday we have observed the spread of messages on social networks about refusing to participate in a biased election so as not to serve as a guarantee. One of the slogans of this movement is: “Madio ny tanako” (my hands are clean).
Finally, the multiplication of gaffes reinforces the growing lack of confidence in the electoral process and creates the impression that the state will stop at nothing to ensure the re-election of its candidate. Under these conditions, abstention will be a means of communicating a protest that cannot be expressed publicly due to repression, or a discouragement in the face of the futility of calls for real democracy and respect for the rule of law.
If abstention is the big winner of the presidential election, the extent of that victory will be the real unknown. Because in the final hours before the vote, many voters still seem to be undecided about how they can least express their opinions.
While Andrimaso FFKM has announced that it will refrain from participating in the election observation, the Safidy Observatory and the KMF-CNOE have confirmed that they will be on site. International observers will also be present. Whatever everyone’s goodwill, we must be clear: it will only be a band-aid on a wooden leg. The available observers will not be able to cover all polling stations, leaving plenty of room for fraud and manipulation, especially in the silence of a strange curfew initiative in the capital.
Will the Catholic Church’s call to preserve the elections spark a rush of voters to the polls? Nothing is less safe. Just like his short-term call for citizens to take part in election observation. Such an activity requires preparation and training, and last-minute improvisations in this choice will only reinforce whatever is a facade.
However, regardless of the legitimacy of the reasons for abstention, the empty chair policy will always be ineffective. Neither the abstention rate nor the rate of blank or invalid votes stands in the way of the validation of the results and the appointment of an elected President. Abstainers will only have the moral comfort and clear conscience of “not having taken part in it.” Supporters of blank voting have the same good conscience, but their votes are treated as invalid votes and have no influence on the number of votes required to win the election in the first round.
So the non-voters will actually help roll out the red carpet for those who called on their supporters to vote. It is undeniable that candidate Rajoelina starts from a strong position due to his status as a state candidate supported by the judiciary, the police and the various cogs of the administration. However, candidate Siteny has a chance to emerge as the only real option for those who want to express their opposition to the Rajoelina regime and put an end to it.
In addition, the electoral law prevented the ten candidates who called for the boycott from withdrawing their candidacy. Their names will therefore be listed on the ballot papers and counted. It cannot be completely ruled out that some of them will receive a non-anecdotal number of votes despite the abstention instructions they have given. From a purely mathematical perspective, these votes, as well as the votes for candidate No. 7 Raderanirina Sendrison, may carry some weight, but the interpretation of their political significance will remain delicate.
But will all of this be enough to detract from the flow of a game where the dice have been loaded at almost every level? There is no doubt that candidate Rajoelina will mathematically win the election, but will he emerge victorious? This exaggerated scenario has shone a harsh light on the lack of trust and fragility of the regime; It will also have divided the country as in the darkest hours of the political crises of 1972, 1991, 2002 or 2009, stifling any substantive debate and risking prolonging its torment in the worst possible ways.
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