Hundreds of opposition supporters have been occupying a main square in the capital, Antananarivo, since April 21.
The protesters are demanding the resignation of the current president, Héry Rajaonarimampianina.
The protests began after new electoral laws were passed in late April. They included a clause requiring candidates to provide a detailed criminal record, which would disqualify some opposition candidates, including Marc Ravalomanana, who served as president from 2002 until he was toppled in a 2009 coup.
The opposition accused the government of using these laws to force them out of the race. In a strange tale of political marriages, Ravalomanana has teamed up with the man who succeeded him, Andy Rajoelina, in opposition of these laws.
Last week, the country's top court tossed out parts of this legislation. And, in an attempt to end the crisis, the electoral commission offered to move up the date of the elections, which were supposed to be held at the end of the year.
However, François Roubaud, a senior research fellow at the French Research Institute for Development, or IRD, doesn’t think that moving the elections will help anything.
“The true problem is the fight between the politicians of the three main opponents, the president and the two former presidents. They want the power for themselves,” he said.
“Moving up the elections might lower the level of the crisis, but it won’t give any structural solutions to Madagascar.”
Roubaud, along with fellow researchers Jean-Michel Washberger and Mireille Razafindrakoto, has recently published a book on the structural issues that keep Madagascar regressing in economic terms ( In French, “L’Enigme et le Paradoxe, Economie politique de Madagascar”).
“Madagascar is a very fragmented society,” said co-author Razafindrakoto, also a senior research fellow at IRD. “There is a huge gap between the elite and the population in general.”
She says any real solution would need to involve other stakeholders in the political process.
“The main problem in Madagascar is that there is this concentration of power in the hands of the few elites and they just do what they want,” Razafindrakoto said.
The protests in the capital have been ongoing.
However, on April 27, the government announced a ban on protests anywhere else in the country.
“This really infringes on Malagasy people’s rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, which is guaranteed by Madagascar’s own constitution,” said Tamara Léger, the Madagascar advisor with Amnesty International.
She said that Amnesty International had also received worrying reports of children and teachers being forced out of school to join the protests against their will.
“We are really calling on all parties to respect fundamental human rights, including the right to protest, as well as the choice to not protest and be free from intimidation and harassment,” Léger said.