Madagascar political rivals reach government deal

AP News
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Posted: Nov 07, 2009 11:08 AM

Madagascar's political rivals have agreed on posts within a transitional government that will hold power until next year's elections following a power struggle that brought months of volatility to the country, an African Union statement said.

The deal announced late Friday allows Andry Rajoelina to remain head of state. However, he now will be joined by two co-presidents representing other political factions on the Indian Ocean island off the southeast coast of Africa.

Rajoelina, a 35-year-old former DJ, was mayor of Madagascar's capital of Antananarivo when he overthrew democratically elected President Marc Ravalomanana in March after winning support from the military. The widely denounced takeover followed weeks of protests that claimed dozens of lives.

Mediators helped forge a power-sharing agreement in August but Rajoelina drew criticism for unilaterally forming a new government in September, violating an accord that demands that all parties agree on appointments.

His actions sparked demonstrations by supporters of the deposed former president demanding his return.

According to the AU statement released after several days of mediated talks in Ethiopia, Rajoelina now will be joined in the transitional government by a co-president who is allied to Ravalomanana and one affiliated with former President Albert Zafy.

Former colonial power France congratulated Madagascar's leaders for reaching the agreement and called upon them Saturday to show "the same sense of national interest" during the transitional period.

"It's now about putting in place the new institutions of the transition and quickly organizing the elections that will cement the new institutional framework of Malagasy democracy and designate its leaders," the French Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Mediators have said that elections must take place by November 2010.

Infighting has been a hallmark of politics in Madagascar, famous for its rare wildlife and ecotourism, and the inspiration for two animated films of the same name.

Rajoelina accused Ravalomanana, a wealthy businessman, of misuse of office and being blind to the poverty of his people. Ravalomanana says his rival is a populist and rabble-rouser with little genuine interest in democracy.

African and Western nations called Rajoelina's takeover a coup, and the African Union and the Southern African Development Community suspended Madagascar's membership.