Madagascar strongman vows not to run for president in May
By Gaelle Borgia, AFPANTANANARIVO, Madagascar -- Madagascar strongman Andry Rajoelina said Tuesday that he will not run in crunch presidential elections in May, a decision that could help end a political crisis that erupted when he seized power in 2009.
January 17, 2013, 11:45 am TWN
“I will not be a candidate at the elections, I will sacrifice myself for the sake of the 20 million Malagasy,” he said in a prime-time television address to the nation.
Rajoelina had been under fierce international pressure not to run in the polls, as a way to end an almost four-year crisis that has led to a range of sanctions that have crippled the economy.
“I will manage the transition until the end and I am ready to make a democratic transition. I wish all the best to whomever will replace me,” he said.
The man Rajoelina ousted in a military-backed coup, former president Marc Ravalomanana, has already heeded calls not to run in the elections.
He remains in exile in South Africa.
The dual announcements mean the first round of elections on May 8 will open a new chapter in Madagascar's coup-prone politics.
Rajoelina and Ravalomanana have dominated the political scene for the last decade, their rivalry defining the island nation's politics.
The Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), a 15-nation regional bloc that has been mediating in the crisis, and the European Union had pressed for just such a “neither, nor” solution as a means of ending the gridlock.
“Anything that promotes and encourages peace and quiet is extremely positive,” EU ambassador to Madagascar Leonidas Tezapsidis told AFP after Rajoelina's speech.
The international community is expected to stump up for a large part of the election's US$71 million price tag.
But it is unlikely to be smooth sailing ahead.
Ravalomanana's camp greeted their rival's announcement coolly.
“Andry Rajoelina has followed SADC's recommendations. It is just one element. There are many other measures that have to take place,” said Ravalomanana ally Mamy Rakotoarivelo.
Ahead of the presidential vote the country will hold legislative elections, providing ample scope for unrest.
The decision to move the legislative vote, also announced on Tuesday, was described as “changing the rules in the middle of the game,” by the Ravalomanana camp.