/ 8 October 2009

Ravalomanana threatens Madagascar power-share deal

A deal on who should hold the top posts in Madagascar’s power-sharing government faced collapse on Thursday after ousted leader Marc Ravalomanana refused to endorse his rival as president.

Ravalomanana had agreed in principle to an agreement struck on Tuesday by the Indian Ocean island’s feuding political parties, which saw Andry Rajoelina (35) retain the presidency on the condition he does not contest the next presidential ballot.

The agreement has yet to be formally signed.

”As Rajoelina has not accepted [this proviso], Ravalomanana no longer accepts Rajoelina as president of the transition,” Fetison Andrianirina, head of Ravalomanana’s delegation, told Reuters.

The African Union’s special envoy to Madagascar, Ablasse Ouedraogo, said the president’s office had not made any formal response to the proviso.

Ravalomanana, who is exiled in South Africa, told his supporters by telephone on Wednesday that he would never sign his name to Tuesday’s agreement if the former DJ refused to accept his terms.

Rajoelina, Africa’s youngest leader, unseated Ravalomanana in a coup in March after weeks of violent street protests, plunging the oil and mineral-rich country into months of turmoil.

The country’s leaders struck a deal in Mozambique to form a unity government but found themselves deadlocked on who should hold the key posts, in particular the presidency and office of prime minister.

In the latest push to restore constitutional order on the politically volatile island, the international mediation group said it would note the former leader’s objection but stressed it did not conform to the Maputo accords.

”The international community asked us to make a concession and we did,” Andrianirina said.

He said Rajoelina’s candidacy in the next presidential election, to be held by late 2010 under the terms of Maputo, would legitimise the seizure of power by a coup d’etat.

Mediators remained optimistic Ravalomanana would not derail the process.

”It was the question of who should be prime minister that blocked negotiations in Mozambique’s capital. That has been sorted out,” said Ouedraogo. ”The International Contact Group’s focus is now to implement the Maputo accords.”

The United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday urged Madagascar’s leaders to build on this week’s momentum and conclude talks quickly.

Eugene Mangalaza, the man picked as prime minister on Tuesday, is close to former president Didier Ratsiraka but is considered politically neutral. He is a professor of social anthropology. — Reuters