Possible results of referendum in Madagascar don’t sit well

By November 24, 2010

Madagascar (MNN) — A recent coup attempt to overthrow the current president in Madagascar failed earlier this week. The coup broke out on the same day that a nationwide vote was taking place regarding constitutional alterations. The coup failed; the referendum passed.

The coup seems to be a result of mounting frustration in Madagascar since the country's current president, Andry Rajoelina, was installed by a successful coup in early 2009.

Throughout Rajoelina's interim presidency, foreign relations with the West have gotten progressively worse, resulting ultimately in additional poverty for the country.

The U.S., for instance, pulled all but immediate aid out of the country after Rajoelina failed to deliver on his promise to hold democratic elections. The no-tariff agreement the States had with Madagascar for imported factory goods also ended. As a result, 400,000 to 500,000 Malagasy workers lost their jobs practically overnight. Nearly two years have passed, and Rajoelina still has made no movement toward an election.

Dissatisfaction with the new president lies closer to home than foreign relations, however. The colonel who led the recent coup attempt was the same man that helped overthrow the government before Rajoelina. He and others have been upset by the way the president has handled the nation's affairs.

The new referendum will not make the climate much better. Africa Inland Mission missionary to Madagascar, Daniel Zagami, says most people in the country appear discontent with the new constitution.

"The big point that people have been very upset with is that in the referendum, the president wanted to be in power indefinitely until the next election," explains Zagami. "So theoretically, he could be in power for the next 40 years."

Foreign governments do not appear thrilled, either. Zagami confirms that this move is unlikely to encourage U.S. or E.U. relations with Madagascar, and according to Voice of America News, "a bloc of southern African countries does not recognize the referendum as legitimate."

Zagami says the new referendum could also have unintended consequences on the spiritual climate of Madagascar. As the West gets further removed from the country's affairs, the president will undoubtedly continue to look elsewhere for aid. Already, Zagami says, Rajoelina has pursued possible assistance from Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Libya.

"There's a fear that as Muslim countries are giving financial aid to Madagascar, we're going to see an increase in Islam in the country," Zagami explains. This would, of course, directly affect the church.

Zagami hopes that even amid this turmoil, the church will respond. Many people remain unemployed and worry about whether they will even have enough to eat on a daily basis. Pray that the church would respond not with groaning, but by helping the poor, and providing them with the healing power of the Gospel. Pray that no matter what happens in coming months, the church would boldly continue to proclaim the Good News.

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