Madagascar rivals fail to settle power share-out

Crisis talks to end months of political turmoil in Madagascar collapsed on Friday as the parties failed to agree who should hold key posts in a transitional government.

The rivals remained deadlocked over who should occupy the presidency of the world’s fourth largest island which is of increasing interest to foreign investors for its oil, bauxite, nickel, cobalt, gold and uranium.

”The leaders of the four movements failed to reach a consensus for the key posts of the transition,” the talks’ mediators said in a statement.

While failing to settle the power share-out, leaders at the talks in the Mozambique capital Maputo agreed they would pick a president, a vice-president and a prime minister by September 4.

Andry Rajoelina, who toppled former leader Marc Ravalomanana in March after weeks of violent street protests culminated in a coup, demanded the presidency but was vigorously opposed by his predecessor.

”We made it clear that we don’t support the Rajoelina movement heading the transitional government,” Ravalomanana told Reuters after the talks reached their inconclusive end.

”His [Rajoelina’s] nomination would be an insult to democratic principles. I would prefer a neutral authority to him,” he said, adding he would never recognise Rajoelina as head of state.

Only the president of the transition will be able to stand in the next presidential election which must be held within 15 months under the terms of the accord.

The mediators, led by Mozambique’s former president Joaquim Chissano, said that agreement had been reached on who would appoint several of the transitional government’s key posts.

Rajoelina and Ravalomanana will each decide on the leader of one of the houses of Parliament and each will pick a deputy prime minister.

After three days of shuttle diplomacy between four delegations, led by Rajoelina, Ravalomanana and former presidents Didier Ratsiraka and Albert Zafy, the mediators sought to remain brave-faced.

”We cannot say we are disappointed. The mediation team and the movements made great efforts to reach the best possible results,” Chissano told Reuters.

Time is running out for a deal under an August 9 power-sharing agreement which gave Madagascar’s leaders 30 days to build a consensus government.

With less than three years’ political experience, 35-year-old Rajoelina has said only he can lead the transition.

Ravalomanana, who has previously been accused of abusing political office for his own private gains, has promised not play a direct role in the transitional government but has refused to rule out contesting the next presidential poll. — Reuters

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