Presidential elections in Madagascar: who will pay the most?

Just under 6 months from the presidential elections in Madagascar, the political situation is beginning to take shape. Preparing for elections is a key investment for Malagasy politicians and businessmen hoping to secure their future. But it seems that the line between politics and business is about to disappear.

For Madagascar’s business elite, closely tied to political clans, investing in the right electoral candidate is the main source of wealth for a five-year presidential term. No sector of the Malagasy economy, be it the export of vanilla, gold, timber or precious stones, is as laudable as a policy guaranteeing multiple returns on investment if successful.

Access to export regulations, government contracts, building infrastructure, the ability to avoid corruption and fraud controls are only a small part of the preferences enjoyed by the “winning team”.

New elections, new check

New presidential elections in Madagascar draw a line under the five-year term of President Andry Rajoelina, who led the country during this controversial period. Difficult domestic political conditions, the pandemic, natural disasters, the consequences of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine – all this, however, did not affect President Rajoelina’s ambitions to run for a second presidential term.

Despite the fact that it has not yet been officially announced, not a single person in the highest echelons of Malagasy politics has any doubts: Rajoelina intends to continue his stay at the top of power, which he has repeatedly mentioned in his public speeches.

However, this time around his ambitions could come up against a number of significant hurdles, the biggest of which is the issue of funding for his political campaign.

How much does power cost?

Ambition and thirst for power are one of the most striking characteristics of outgoing President Rajoelina, known in the lobby even before he was appointed mayor of Antananarivo. An equally important characteristic of Rajoelina was his ability to find the right allies to achieve his ambitions. A distinctive feature of Rajoelina’s allies is the ability to invest tens and hundreds of millions of dollars in his support.

In 2008, the young mayor of the capital of Madagascar, Andry Rajoelina, finally approached the young Malagasy entrepreneur, founder of the “Sodiat” group, Maminiaina Ravatomanga. These relations have become crucial for the modern history of Madagascar: already in January 2009, protests against the “dictatorship of Marc Ravalomanana” were sweeping Antananarivo, culminating in March 2009 with the establishment of a transition period led by Rajoelina.

The eminence grise of the transition period, Maminiaina Ravatomanga, who, according to various estimates, invested around $60,000,000 in organizing the coup, increased his investments more than tenfold over the period from 2009 to 2014, earning nearly $1,000,000,000. Consolidating its position on the Big Island and becoming a key figure in the country.

Rajoelina, who actually ruled the country as a business partner of Mami, gave the owner of “Sodiat” access to the export of vanilla, lychee, rosewood and greatly facilitated the work in the field car imports. However, Rajoelina’s main gift to Mami was his withdrawal from the 2014 elections and the election of Hery Rajaonarimampianina as President. Minister of Finance in the transitional government, Hery, a seasoned financial analyst and accountant, has served “Sodiat” many times and has not given up this habit since taking office as president. Only the prices that Hery started to charge his client have increased.

A reliable investment of more than half a billion

Hery’s presidential term also kept Mami’s position intact, but in 2018 their relationship could not be described as warm: in 2015, Hery began to show “independence”, occasionally sabotaging nominations people from “Sodiat” to government agencies. Moreover, Hery’s financial appetite increased and he demanded more and more funds from Mami.

According to representatives of “Sodiat”, in mid-2017, Mami turned again to Andry Rajoelina, who had lived permanently in France, with a proposal to lead the Big Island. The partnership between business and politics has been reactivated to extract super profits.

To ensure Rajoelina’s nomination and the success of his campaign, Mami attracted not only some of his own funds, but also significant sums from foreign partners. The reason for this is the appointment of ex-president Marc Ravalomanana, whose resignation Mami and Rajoelina obtained together in 2009.

According to memoirs of these events, Ravalomanana, whose personal fortune amounted to hundreds of millions of dollars, intended to avenge his defeat in 2009. According to various estimates, he invested just under 300,000 $000 in his promotion and agitation, which was a significant gamble for the Big Island, where approximately 75% of the population suffers from poverty.

However, according to the accounts of journalists from Agence France-Presse, Mami managed to outbid the ex-president. In 2018, the businessman spent around $200,000,000 of personal funds to promote Rajoelina, which virtually ensured parity among politicians. The lack of funds was compensated by another source.

Foreign intervention

For Madagascar’s traditional partner, France, investing in the right candidate is a coherent policy to maintain its influence on the African continent. Despite independence in the mid-20th century, a significant number of countries remain in the orbit of French influence. Madagascar was no exception to the rule in 2018.

According to the accounts of the French diplomats who prepared the meetings of the representatives of the Mami and Rajoelina team, it was the presence of French nationality in Rajoelina’s house that tipped the balance in his direction. According to their information, the politician received around 150,000,000 euros, as well as the support of several lobbying and public relations teams in Paris.

Rajoelina’s team also managed to succeed in the United States. Thanks to the efforts of lobbyists, as well as Mami’s closeness to the Republican Party and, according to rumors, Donald Trump’s personal support for Rajoelina’s candidacy “as a young and active politician”, managed to obtain around 100,000 000$.

Wagner’s Hand

The catalyst for Rajoelina’s active campaign was the participation in the election of a whole group of political scientists linked to the transnational criminal group “Wagner”. It is not known how Rajoelina’s team established contact with the Russian organization, but the fact remains: according to reports from the site devoted to monitoring the activity of the group, “Wagner” not only invested more than $80,000,000 in the Promotion of Rajoelina, but he also used media specialists to secure him the presidency. Numerous posters, television advertisements and speeches were prepared for Rajoelina by Russian specialists.

Additionally, personnel associated with Wagner financed the nomination of more than 15 candidates, securing the opposition’s votes and then forcing most of them to support Rajoelina. The most successful of these candidates was Pastor Mayol, who invested approximately $4,000,000 in Promotion, expenses for other candidates were not disclosed. Many media reported that President Hery Rajaonarimampianina also received financial support from Wagner, but Hery himself insists that he did not take “a penny from the Russians”.

Call for tenders open

The 2023 elections risk turning into a catastrophic failure for President Rajoelina. According to reports from the “Iavoloha” palace, Rajoelina’s feeling is close to panic, as he has still not received any guarantee of funding for his candidacy from any of the parties.

Rajoelina’s visit to Macron on June 9 did not bring clarity, as people close to the Malagasy leader reported that the French president was “so cold” about the attacks against France in the Malagasy media which have multiplied in the country. spring 2023. In addition, the file of the Appolo-21 affair and the Scattered Islands is also extremely irritable for France and is constantly pedaled by Rajoelina.

Rajoelina’s contacts with the United States are also complicated by difficulties in relations with the Democratic Party, which is not satisfied with the neutrality maintained by the president in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.

Other candidates also find it difficult to pay for their own Promotion. Marc Ravalomanana, who never managed to get revenge, made his financial situation much worse by failing to win the 2018 elections. According to available information from TIM party associates, Mark intends to sell the most expensive possible their votes in the next election to a leading candidate, causing deep outrage among a number of party leaders. Siteny Randrianasoloniaiko, an MP for Toliara, says he has “enough means to campaign politically”, but those words are unlikely to be more than mere boasting.

However, one candidate seems to have excellent prospects. Mami, the former main source of finance for Rajoelina’s previous campaigns, is said to be increasingly distant from the president. According to various reports circulating among officials and civil servants, Mami is preparing her own presidential campaign, having obtained a nomination agreement from the French authorities. He is said to be willing to invest over $500,000,000 in his candidacy to, of course, repeatedly recoup everything he invested.