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General News of Monday, 6 January 2014

Source: Cameroon Tribune

'The New President Must Be His Own Man'

Dr. Peter Masumbe, Senior Lecturer in Public Policy and International Relations, University of Buea, examines the chances of success of Madagascar's President-elect, Hery Martial Rajaonarimampianina Rakotoarimanana.

What are the major challenges awaiting Madagascar's newly elected President?

The first major challenge facing President-elect Hery Martial Rajaonarimampianina Rakotoarimanana is that the losing candidate, who is supported by the exiled and banned former President, Marc Ravalomanana, might seriously contest the results. This could result in a massive civil disobedience campaign that might be met with harsh military reprisals. The result of such confrontations is anyone's guess, especially as Rajaonarimampianina did not necessarily win because of popularity and genuine acceptance of his manifesto by the people.

Given that Hery Martial Rajaonarimampianina is supported by outgoing President Andry Rajoelina who was also banned from contesting, it might be an uphill task for the opposing camp to quickly accept the outcome of the second round of voting. Because President Rajoelina arbitrarily dissolved eight regional governments and appointed stooges as Governors before the elections, the tendency is to suspect serious foul play in the interface of the competing forces. Most of the votes credited to Hery Martial virtually came from the concerned regions located in the south of the country. This greatly facilitated his garnering of additional votes.

The likelihood is for the opposing camp to refuse recognising the President-elect. It behooves only divine intervention to stop the people from going to the streets, which is common in 'politics of the stomach' as practised in Africa and other developing countries. Secondly, with the majority of people living in misery and abject poverty, the new President will be required to unify the nation by constituting a broad-based government, harness sustainable public institutions and build confidence in his administration.

He also needs to reduce or eliminate corruption, attract foreign investors, boost the private sector, equitably mobilise and allocate resources as well as reconcile 'warring' ethnic groups with highly articulated foreign and public policies.

What else can he do to assuage ill feelings, given the country's history of divisive politics?

Hery Martial Rajaonarimampianina can build trust by ensuring that all social, political and economic segments of the society are taken on board. The centrifugal forces - the competing parties that constitute both the political and non-political classes - must see him as the President of all.

Secondly, he should progressively disengage himself from the caprices of Andry Rajoelina and endeavour to be President on his own merit and personality. Hery Martial should not work for the interests of Rajoelina - no matter how slim - else he will take the country back into the same political traps that produced the very divisive politics promoted by the outgoing Head of State.

Thirdly, he should urgently build strong political mechanisms through a national referendum that will put the military out of politics. The Constitution must contain articles that make it highly treasonable for individuals to seize power by force.

Consensus-building mechanisms should begin with the formation of a broad-based government. The new President should also avoid witch-hunting and settling scores. Measures should be taken measures to forestall the pilfering of State coffers and suspects must be promptly brought to book to serve as deterrence to those who see national patrimony as nobody's business.

What may be the contribution of the international community in restoring normalcy?

To attract the waning confidence of the international community, the new President must show outstanding prudence in the functioning of the three arms of government - the executive, legislature, judiciary and the Fourth Estate of the Realm, the Press. The Presidency must be strengthened with unbiased appointments of men and women capable of living above the petty trappings of office. The presidential outlook must be seen to radiate a profoundly good image of high order in the management of national and internal assignments.

Can the people of Madagascar now look forward to a quick return to normalcy?

There is need to imbibe a strong national political culture. In this direction, the military must be tamed or better still tame itself against the trappings of political power and offices. This starts with the political will of the new leader who should bear in mind that political power is a communal commodity that must not be personified, no matter how sweet it tastes.

He should also note that the same power could be very bitter if taken for personal gains - that is abused. He ought to understand, and vividly too, that power is obtained via the principle of social contract. It is held on behalf of the people on trust and must be relinquished when due. Any success and failure in returning the country to normalcy through a viable democracy will largely depend on the new President's view of the use of political power.

His management of political power must be prudent, equitable and handsomely beneficial to the general public, and respectfully but conveniently linked to the international community. The new President needs to imbibe strong political and economic will capable of permitting him to live above insensitivity to the rightful yearnings of the population. He should detach himself from illegitimate sectional interests, hand-clappers, praise-singers and unending divisive constituencies.

The national economy deserves appropriate attention or prominence for a fast relaunch into growth, first from internally-generated resources. Internal and external debt servicing must be given appropriate attention so that creditors can continue to do business with the State. Civil servants and business persons need to be assured of quick and handsome rewards for sound performance.

Briefly put, the incoming President must ensure the appropriate separation of power in order to attract prima facie acceptance by the international community. Political power intoxicates and when exercised absolutely, it intoxicates absolutely. So President-elect Hery Martial Rajaonarimampianina Rakotoarimanana must take note.