Madagascar coup leader calls for elections

AP News
Posted: Dec 16, 2009 5:04 PM

The man who took power in Madagascar by force defied efforts to negotiate a solution to the island nation's political crisis by appearing on national TV Wednesday to issue a unilateral call for elections.

Andry Rajoelina said the prime minister would be chosen by the party that wins legislative elections he is proposing be held March 20. That would presumably leave him president.

Rajoelina, supported by his Indian Ocean island nation's military, overthrew democratically elected President Marc Ravalomanana in early 2009 after weeks of protests left dozens of people dead. Other African countries denounced Rajoelina's takeover as a coup, suspended the country's membership in the African Union and the Southern African Development Community and urged a unity government be formed to oversee new elections by November 2010.

On Wednesday, Rajoelina proposed that an independent commission oversee elections.

Rajoelina has repeatedly taken steps seen as undermining attempts to form a coalition. Wednesday's announcement is likely to anger African leaders who have been pushing for a mediated solution, further isolating him.

Ravalomanana and his two predecessors, Albert Zafy and Didier Ratsiraka, met in Mozambique earlier this month for talks mediated by African leaders and named ministers for a unity government. Rajoelina boycotted the negotiations, calling the outcome a coup. He is accused of barring some of his rivals from returning to Madagascar since the Mozambique meeting.

Infighting has been a hallmark of politics on this impoverished island.

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