/ 9 December 2009

Madagascar leader rejects opposition unity govt deal

Madagascar’s president rejected an agreement on Tuesday on the make-up of a unity government that was struck by his rivals in neighbouring Mozambique and said it was tantamount to a coup d’etat.

Andry Rajoelina, who grabbed power himself in a March coup, told Reuters he had told the military about the situation and would take the necessary measures. He did not elaborate.

”The resolution signed by the three former presidents in Maputo is aimed at isolating Rajoelina,” he told Reuters.

”In my mind it amounts to a coup d’etat,” he said.

Former leaders Marc Ravalomanana, Didier Ratsiraka and Albert Zafy shook hands on the division of senior Cabinet posts and a timetable for setting up transitional institutions.

International mediators have brokered several power-sharing agreements with Madagascar’s feuding politicians in recent months but all have come unstuck.

Rajoelina (35) triggered accusations from the opposition and some members of the international community of blocking progress when he boycotted lead negotiator Joaquim Chissano’s invitation.

A one-time disc jockey with barely three years’ political experience, Rajoelina was also incensed by a move to include him in a new presidential council, established last month after an agreement to create two co-presidents.

Increasingly isolated
”In deciding to include President Andry Rajoelina in the presidential council, placing him on a level footing with the two co-presidents, the three movements have expressed their desire to eliminate Andry Rajoelina as head of state,” he said in a separate statement.

Under Tuesday’s deal, the opposition proposed Rajoelina takes the Economy and Industry Ministry and the Armed Forces Ministry. He would also be offered Justice and Communications if he agrees to select from a list of neutral names.

Ravalomanana would take the foreign and agriculture ministries. The exiled multimillionaire has promised to play no direct role in the unity government.

”In light of the drama facing the Malagasy people, the heads of the parties hereby decide to immediately put in place all the institutions of the transitional authority,” the former leaders said in a resolution also signed by Chissano.

Analysts say Rajoelina is looking increasingly isolated as his position becomes harder.

”I think this will just deepen the rift. The opposition is succeeding in presenting Rajoelina as the unreasonable one,” one Western diplomat said.

Political turmoil has rocked Madagascar for close to a year now and African nations and donors say a unity government is imperative for the international community to re-engage with the diplomatically isolated Indian Ocean island. — Reuters