Ousted leader takes tough line in Madagascan talks

Madagascar’s ousted leader Marc Ravalomanana said on Monday there would be no power-sharing deal on the Indian Ocean island if the man who toppled him in a coup, Andry Rajoelina, continued to demand the presidency.

Crisis talks in Mozambique to end months of political turmoil on the oil and mineral-producing island collapsed on Friday after Ravalomanana and Rajoelina failed to agree on who should steer the country towards fresh elections.

“I would like to draw attention to the fact that it will be impossible to reach a consensus as long as the position of president of the transition is given to the Rajoelina Movement,” Ravalomanana said in a statement.

Mediators say they expect emailed statements from the rival parties on who should occupy top posts by September 4, in time to be presented to a Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit that begins on Wednesday.

Rajoelina, a former DJ with limited political experience, spearheaded weeks of street protests at the beginning of 2009 and galvanised popular resentment towards Ravalomanana before grabbing power in a March coup and assuming the presidency.

Earlier this month Madagascar’s power-brokers agreed to form a national unity government to restore constitutional order and hold presidential elections within 15 months.

But since the August 9 deal Rajoelina and his predecessor have adopted increasingly hardline stances, refusing to cede ground.

In the runup to last week’s second round of negotiations in Maputo, Rajoelina said only he could lead the transition. He also demanded the prime minister’s office.

Ravalomanana rejected outright the 35 year old’s nomination and said such a move would legitimise coups and send out the message that “in Madagascar, one can take power by force in the street and then acquire legitimacy as the final outcome of a truncated negotiation process”.

The self-made millionaire, now in exile in South Africa, continues to insist he is the legitimate head of state, signing statements as HE President Marc Ravalomanana.

The international community, he said, would betray its democratic principles and ideals if it condoned Rajoelina’s nomination.

Under the terms of the initial power-sharing deal, Rajoelina, Ravalomanana and former presidents Didier Ratsiraka and Albert Zafy have until September 8 to reach an accord.

Rajoelina has asked for more time to consult his allies, including the military.—Reuters

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