Supporters of barred Madagascar candidate threaten protests

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 19, 2013 3:20 PM
Supporters of barred Madagascar candidate threaten protests

By Alain Iloniaina

ANTANANARIVO (Reuters) - Supporters of the wife of Madagascar's deposed leader said they would take to the streets to protest against an "illegal" court ruling barring her from running in elections, threatening to bring more turmoil to the island nation.

The electoral court on Saturday also banned incumbent President Andry Rajoelina from standing in the August poll - a ruling widely welcomed by Western and regional powers who say the country needs a fresh start with new candidates.

The former French colony has been in chaos since Rajoelina seized power with military support in 2009, ousting former President Marc Ravalomanana and scaring off investors and tourists.

Rajoelina and Ravalomanana had reached a deal with regional states to restore order, based on the condition neither of them would stand in future presidential elections.

But when Ravalomanana's wife, Lalao Ravalomanana, and then Rajoelina, put their names forward, donors suspended financing and the African Union threatened sanctions.

Analysts say there are now doubts whether the election will happen at all.

Madagascar's Special Electoral Court (CES) cited "an anomaly in the application of the law" in its ruling on Saturday but gave no further reasons for its decision.

"Confronted with the decision of the CES, which we consider illegal ... the Ravalomanana movement strongly express its objection," said Mamy Rakotoarivelo, the president of the National Assembly.

"We have decided to organize a protest from tomorrow (Tuesday)."

Tsiebo Mahaleo, president of the Mouvement Patriotique, a grouping of pro-Rajoelina lawmakers, also condemned the exclusion of the candidates.

"The decision is illegal and unjust ... The international community's position is not based on rights and the law but on the desire to exclude certain candidates. The country is in danger," Mahaleo said.

The African Union, which has said it would not recognize the result of an election won by any of the barred candidates, urged them to accept the court's decision.

France's foreign ministry called the court ruling "a notable step forward in the process of getting out of the crisis in Madagascar".

The court also struck former president Didier Ratsiraka from the list of candidates.

(Additional reporting by Natalie Huet in Paris; Writing by James Macharia; Editing by Andrew Heavens)