Outgoing Madagascar president and ex-coup leader may seek PM job

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 22, 2014 10:45 AM

ANTANANARIVO (Reuters) - Outgoing president and former coup leader Andry Rajoelina said on Wednesday his coalition won Madagascar's parliamentary election and he raised the possibility of becoming prime minister, which could fan tensions anew with his arch-rival.

Rajoelina was barred from running in the 2013 presidential election under a deal brokered by regional African states meant to end Madagascar's political turmoil after his 2009 coup. But that only fuelled speculation he would seek to retain power as prime minister of the large, nickel-producing island state.

An electoral court last week declared former finance minister Hery Rajaonarimampianina, who was backed by Rajoelina, the country's president-elect after a vote that his run-off rival challenged, saying it was rigged.

That ruling raised the specter of a prolonged dispute over the result of the December 20 election, the first since the coup, which would prolong a crisis that has hobbled economic growth and deepened poverty.

The parliamentary vote was held at the same time as the second-round presidential election, pitting an ally of Rajoelina against a loyalist of the man Rajoelina ousted in 2009, Marc Ravalomanana.

Making Rajoelina prime minister could draw protest from Ravalomanana's camp, who have said the presidential vote was marred by irregularities, keeping political tensions simmering.

"If the president needs Andry Rajoelina (as prime minister), I will come. If he doesn't need Andry Rajoelina, Andry Rajoelina has other options," Rajoelina told reporters at the opening of a new hospital in the capital Antananarivo.

Rajoelina said his MAPAR coalition, whose full name translates as "Together With Andry Rajoelina" had won about 50 of the assembly's 151 seats. If confirmed, that would give it the biggest bloc and allow MAPAR to nominate the premier.

Rajoelina said a further 30 lawmakers had swung behind his political movement, which would leave his loyalists with an absolute majority in parliament.

The party behind Ravalomanana, who Rajoelina toppled five years ago with the help of the military, has won approximately 20 seats, provisional electoral commission data showed.

Rajoelina is due to hand over the presidency to Rajaonarimampianina on Friday.

The regional Southern African Development Community bloc suspended Madagascar after the coup. The SADC has congratulated Rajaonarimampianina, suggesting his defeated rival Jean Louis Robinson will struggle to rally support if he presents his fraud allegations to the body, as he has said he plans to do.

(Reporting by Alain Iloniaina; Editing by Richard Lough and Mark Heinrich)