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World Council of Churches concerned about unrest in the wake of presidential elections in Madagascar

25 January 2002

As demonstrations continue against the preliminary results of the presidential elections in Madagascar, the deputy general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), Georges Lemopoulos, has urged the country's political authorities to ensure that the democratic process is fully respected.

"We ask those responsible for maintaining public order to refrain from using violent methods to contain or prevent expressions of popular feeling," Lemopoulos writes in his open letter of Friday 25 January to the leaders of WCC member churches in Madagascar.

Lemopoulos also expresses appreciation of the role played by the churches which have worked for peaceful and democratic elections: "Few churches in Africa have such a wealth of experience in mediating between the people and the political authorities, or are as well equipped as you to fulfil this role."

Protests broke out in the Madagascan capital of Antananarivo after the preliminary results of the presidential election were issued on 16 December. The demonstrators accuse the government of rigging the results of the poll in favour of the incumbent president, Didier Ratsiraka.

The official results will be published by the country's High Constitutional Court on Monday 28 January.

The full text of the letter follows:

"The World Council of Churches has been following the debate around the presidential election in Madagascar with growing concern, and notes the anger of a large section of the Malagasy people. We know how much effort you, the leaders of our member churches, have put into accompanying the electoral process to ensure that it took place peacefully and that the will of the people as expressed in the polls would be respected. Few churches in Africa have such a wealth of experience in mediating between the people and the political authorities, or are as well equipped as you to fulfil this role.

We understand that the High Constitutional Court has announced that it will publish the official results of the first round of the presidential election on Monday 28 January, that it has refused to take account of information gathered by the National Electoral Commission (NEC), and that the possibility of a decision cancelling a second round of voting is causing mass demonstrations in Antananarivo and the provinces. We realize that this worrying situation could erupt into a major political crisis that would be difficult to control and damaging for the country and its people.

Through this open letter, we urge the political authorities in Madagascar to do all in their power to ensure that the democratic process is fully respected. We ask those responsible for maintaining public order to refrain from using violent methods to contain or prevent expressions of popular feeling. Please be assured of our solidarity and our prayers for you, and for the Malagasy people and their political leaders at this testing time. We are ready to do all we can to help you in your efforts for a future of social and political peace and harmony in your beloved country."