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Dialogue Now In Madagascar

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The de facto leader of Madagascar has abandoned power sharing talks aimed at restoring constitutional order to the troubled island nation, and is planning legislative elections that could solidify his power. With repeated incidents of intimidation against his political opponents, Andry Rajoelina's unilateral rush to the voting booth is unfair and unacceptable, and he should return to the bargaining table to bring the crisis to a just end.

In what was tantamount to a coup d'etat, Mr. Rajoelina was declared president in March 2009 after President Marc Ravalomanana was forced to turn power over to the military. Now a year after seizing office he wants to hold parliamentary elections in March 2010 to move the country forward, he says. This follows his rejection of a series of internationally brokered agreements to end the crisis with a transition government, and naming a senior military officer as prime minister.

Madagascar's neighbors in the Southern Africa Development Community are protesting the move and called on others in the international community to refuse to recognize such balloting. It seeks to use democratic means to legitimize an illegitimate government.

The United States shares these concerns. It does not recognize Mr. Rajoelina as president and in an environment where the media is harassed, security services infringe human rights and opposition figures are unable to operate freely, it is unlikely that such an election can be free and fair.

Already Madagascar is isolated politically. Its economy has suffered greatly due to the instability. Further isolation through increased economic sanctions and aid cutoffs would only make conditions worse for the Malagasy people. Would Mr. Rajoelina turn his country into the next Zimbabwe just to retain power?

The way out of this box is clear, however. It is through an inclusive process that leads to a consensual, open, fair and transparent election.