Madagascar strongman won’t run in vote if rivals withdraw

2013-05-25 11:40

Antananarivo – Madagascar leader Andry Rajoelina has vowed to withdraw his controversial candidacy for upcoming presidential polls if his rivals do the same, as mediators scramble to save a deal aimed at ending a four-year political deadlock.

“I am prepared to withdraw my candidacy if all the candidates who should withdraw theirs do so as well,” Rajoelina said last night on national radio and television.

Madagascar has been in political limbo since Rajoelina, a baby-faced former disc jockey and mayor of the capital, Antananarivo, seized power from former president Marc Ravalomanana in 2009.

After nearly four years of regionally brokered talks aimed at steering the country back to constitutional rule, 38-year-old Rajoelina and Ravalomanana (63) both agreed not to run in the election, scheduled for July 24.

But Rajoelina reneged on his promise earlier this month after Ravalomanana’s wife, Lalao, registered as a candidate.

His announcement, which came after the official registration deadline, drew international condemnation.

The African Union, which is expected to discuss Madagascar at a two-day summit starting tomorrow, said it would not recognise a Rajoelina victory if he wins.

And United Nations leader Ban Ki-moon called on both Rajoelina and Lalao Ravalomanana to withdraw from the race, as well as former president Didier Ratsiraka.

Neither Lalao Ravalomanana nor Ratsiraka had lived on the Indian Ocean island for the required six months before the vote.

The Ravalomananas have been living in exile in South Africa since he was overthrown with military backing amid violent street protests against his rule, and Ratsiraka has lived in France since losing power to Ravalomanana in 2002.

A special elections court allowed all three candidates to run in a bid to appease the rivals.

But the candidacies have threatened to derail the polls, with some observers increasingly doubtful the country will be ready.

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