/ 5 October 2009

Madagascar leader will pick new PM if aid unblocked

Madagascar’s internationally shunned president said he would adhere to the terms of a power-sharing deal struck in August if donors released frozen aid worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Andry Rajoelina (35), who seized power in a March coup, also said he was prepared to choose a new prime minister.

”If the international community can promise it will help us and that it will remove all the sanctions it wants to impose on Madagascar, then it will be possible to put in place the transitional charter,” he said in a statement late on Sunday.

Political turmoil has convulsed the world’s fourth-largest island — eyed by foreign investors for its oil, nickel, cobalt, gold, uranium coal and ilmenite — since early 2009 when the former DJ toppled president Marc Ravalomanana with the aid of a dissident faction of the armed forces.

International powers have called the power-grab unconstitutional.

Under the terms of the so-called Maputo accord, the signatories — Rajoelina, Ravalomanana and former presidents Didier Ratsiraka and Albert Zafy — would pick a president, prime minister and three vice-prime ministers.

Analysts say political ambition and personal interests prevented the rivals from agreeing on how to divide the posts. They say the political crisis has sent economic growth spiralling towards contraction while forex reserves have dwindled. The local unit has depreciated and food prices have shot up.

Rajoelina demanded in writing ”that there will be funds made available to carry out elections and the return of aid, such as the EU aid worth €300-million and the World Bank’s contribution worth as much as €180-million”.

Madagascar’s opposition movements accused him of buying time ahead of an International Contact Group meeting on Tuesday in Antananarivo, aimed at reviving the power-share accord.

”This is a delaying tactic. Why not simply return to the negotiating table,” Fetison Andrianirina, a close ally of Ravalomanana, told Reuters. — Reuters