April 14, 2010 / 3:05 PM / 9 years ago

Q+A-Will Madagascar's army ultimatum resolve crisis?

ANTANANARIVO, April 14 (Reuters) - Madagascar’s leader has until the end of April to provide the Indian Ocean island’s army with a road map to end more than a year of political turmoil.

Here are some questions and answers on what happens next on an island eyed by investors for its oil and mineral reserves.

WHAT IS THE LATEST?

* The army has given President Andry Rajoelina until the end of April to come up with a way out of the 13-month political crisis acceptable to the opposition and donors. [ID:nLDE63B27D]

* The army did not say what action it would take if Rajoelina failed, but a military takeover cannot be ruled out.

* Rajoelina’s response has been to urge the army to remain unified and not to let itself be politically manipulated. There have been divisions within the army ever since dissident troops backed the former disc jockey’s power-grab last March.

* Rifts within his government are also emerging. Armed Forces Minister General Noel Rakotonandrasana, who led the putsch that helped to oust president Marc Ravalomanana, has refused to quit after being sacked by the prime minister last week.

* Rumours of another coup have swirled around the capital for several weeks.

* Mining firms such as British-based multinational Rio Tinto (RIO.L), Canada’s Sherritt International (S.TO) and South Africa’s Exxaro (EXXJ.J) have projects in Madagascar. [ID:nLV660376]

* The world’s fourth largest island is also estimated to have recoverable oil reserves of 2.5 billion barrels. [ID:nLI308285]

WHY HAS THE ARMY STEPPED IN NOW?

* Analysts say some high-level military officials are frustrated at Rajoelina’s failure to end the crisis and restore constitutional order.

* Many Malagasy felt ashamed and humiliated when the African Union slapped targeted sanctions on Rajoelina and more than 100 of his allies last month. [ID:nLDE62G21P]

* The middle-ranking troops who backed Rajoelina’s takeover were angered by Ravalomanana’s treatment of the armed forces. Critics of the former leader accused him of running the island like a private company. Observers say Ravalomanana thought the army was bloated and needed trimming.

* But the collapse of power-sharing talks, a slowdown in foreign direct investment, a freeze on public spending and a stagnating economy have left many of the troops and civilians who bought into Rajoelina’s promise of better living standards feeling let down.

* The army has demanded that Rajoelina prove he can pay public sector salaries and finance the planned legislative and presidential elections.

WILL MADAGASCAR’S POLITICIANS PLAY BALL?

* The army’s arm-twisting will only succeed if the opposition leaders, including Ravalomanana, who is living in exile in South Africa, play their part.

* Fetison Andrianirina, head of Ravalomanana’s political movement, has expressed doubt that a workable road map can be delivered in three weeks. But he said the army owed it to the population of 20 million to engineer a solution, given that it had supported Rajoelina’s rise to power.

* “The military must ... bring the four movements (headed by Rajoelina and three ex-presidents) back to the negotiating table. If the four parties are in agreement that we come back to the Maputo (power-sharing) accords, then so much the better. If changes need to be made, then we are ready,” Andrianirina told Reuters.

* Some analysts are confident the army’s intervention marks the beginning of the end-game.

* “I believe that under pressure from the army (the political groups) will play the game,” said Madagascar expert Lydie Boka at the political risk consultancy StrategieCo.

HOW MIGHT AU/DONORS REACT TO A MILITARY GOVERNMENT?

* Sources at the African Union headquarters in Ethiopia spoke of a “wait and see” scenario. The AU’s Peace and Security Commission was divided — broadly between Anglophone countries who were in favour and Francophone ones against — over imposing sanctions on Madagascar.

* An AU source said it was most important to restore constitutional order and it was too early to say whether the army’s intervention was a step towards that or not.

* Foreign donor nations have previously cautioned against a military government. But they too have repeatedly urged the holding of free and fair elections, and might acquiesce if a military administration promised elections within a reasonable period. (Additional reporting by Richard Lough in Nairobi and Barry Malone in Addis Ababa; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by David Clarke)

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