The High Constitutional Court of Madagascar ordered a one-week postponement of the presidential elections on Thursday, in light of protests that led to the injury of two presidential candidates. Security forces fired tear gas grenades during these protests. The first round of elections had been scheduled for November 9, but will now take place on November 16; the second round of elections is scheduled for December 20.The request was filed on October 6 by Andry Rajoelina, one of the presidential candidates who suffered an eye injury when security forces fired tear gas grenades. He sought medical treatment in nearby Mauritius. Rajoelina’s oppossing candidate, former President Marc Ravalomanana, also suffered a leg injury in the previous week due to a tear gas attack by police meant to disperse a gathering of his supporters. The High Constitutional Court noted that the use of tear gas and other projectiles constituted a disproportionate use of force in the face of a peaceful march.Under Article 47 of the Constitution of Madagascar, the death of a candidate or a case of force majeure compels the High Constitutional Court to issue a new date for elections. Force majeure is defined using the criteria of exteriority, unpredictability, and irresistibility. The court ruled that Rajoelina’s physical incapacity was a special case of force majeure, preventing him for performing electoral activities. The court also invoked Article 1 of the Constitution, which lays down that democracy and the principle of rule of law form the basis of the Republic, along with Article 5, whereby sovereignty rests with the people and is exercised through universal suffrage.Rajoelina had stepped down as president last month in order to file his candidacy for re-election, in accordance with the constitutional mandate. Eleven of the thirteen opposition candidates have collectively called for demonstrations against Rajoelina’s candidature, which they call an attempt to keep Rajoelina in power. Rajoelina’s first bid for power in 2009 culminated in a coup ousting then President Ravalomanana.The UN Human Rights Office spokesperson expressed concern earlier this week over the “deteriorating human rights situation in Madagascar” before the presidential elections, following the use of “unnecessary and disproportionate use of force by security forces” to disperse peaceful protests.

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