Madagascar's leader snubs calls for power-sharing

Madagascar’s leader Andry Rajoelina has snubbed the African Union’s top diplomat, again rejecting calls for a consensus government to be formed without delay to resolve a political crisis on the Indian Ocean island.

The AU’s Jean Ping opened talks with Madagascar’s power brokers on Thursday, urging power-sharing deals agreed last year to be respected to end the year-long turmoil that has crippled economic growth and unnerved investors.

“All cohabitation [power-sharing] has become impossible because it is already the source of a new crisis and the origin of serious troubles in our country in recent times,” Rajoelina said in a statement late on Thursday.

Rajoelina’s hardline stance will do little to appease donors who stress that frozen aid worth hundreds of millions of dollars will only be released once there is a roadmap towards restoring constitutional order that is backed by all sides.

Africa’s youngest leader, who insists elections are the best way out of the crisis, added that last year’s failed attempts to set up a unity government were proof a multiparty, inclusive administration was the wrong answer.

“The transitional regime repeats its commitment to organising consensual elections, free and inclusive in their preparation and organisation,” said Rajoelina, who has scheduled elections for March 20.

But there are concerns among opposition leaders and international mediators that a hastily organised ballot will lack credibility and transparency.

Increased investor interest in Madagascar’s oil and mineral reserves by major foreign companies including Rio Tinto and Exxon Mobil has been undermined by months of political turmoil.

Ping resumed talks on Friday by meeting military leaders ahead of a second meeting with Rajoelina’s camp.

Some analysts argue that after toppling former President Marc Ravalomanana, the armed forces have shown impressive restraint by not grabbing power during the months of squabbles.

Other observers suggest that the military, now led by those who backed Rajoelina’s coup last March, are more content to keep in place a leader who owes them his loyalty. - Reuters