Madagascar leader calls for elections


President Andry Rajoelina said Madagascar would hold parliamentary elections on March 20 and told other countries to stop interfering after a succession of internationally brokered deals with the opposition collapsed.

Madagascar has been rocked by political instability since Rajoelina overthrew the democratically elected former president, Marc Ravalomanana, in a coup in March.
“We ask (the international community) to no longer involve yourselves in our problem. The solution to the crisis will only come from the people through this election,” Rajoelina said in an interview on state television late on Wednesday.

He said the majority party would choose a new prime minister, the incoming parliament would draw up a new constitution for the Indian Ocean island and a new electoral commission would oversee the elections.

The refusal of Rajoelina, a former disc jockey, to accept more negotiations is likely to exasperate the African Union (AU), which suspended Madagascar in the aftermath of the coup.

African nations and foreign leaders have said a consensus government and a road map to credible elections are essential for the release of frozen aid worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Rajoelina’s announcement was unlikely to allay the concerns of foreign companies like mining giant Rio Tinto and oil juggernaut Exxon Mobil. Exploration activities have slowed markedly this year.
“The international community’s way out of the crisis was enforced cohabitation. But we have all seen that this won’t work,” said Rajoelina.

The 35-year-old did not set a timetable for presidential elections. Nor did he say whether Prime Minister Eugene Mangalaza, who he appointed under heavy international pressure, would remain in office.

Under the terms of the old constitution, Rajoelina is five years too young to stand for president.

Rajoelina said hopes of a negotiated settlement ended after his rivals struck a deal in Mozambique, in his absence, on the make-up of a unity government.

Senior opposition members are stranded in South Africa because Rajoelina’s government barred their return after the talks in Mozambique.
“If they think the conditions are right, they can even return this evening, if they guarantee not to cause any trouble,” said Rajoelina.