FACTBOX-Madagascar's new president Rajoelina

Sat Mar 21, 2009 2:54am EDT

March 21 (Reuters) - Andry Rajoelina was being installed as Madagascar's president on Saturday after ousting Marc Ravalomanana this week at the end of a months-long power struggle on the Indian Ocean island.

There has been widespread international censure of his rise as unconstitutional and calls for a quick election.

Here are key facts about him:



* Born on May 30, 1974, Rajoelina is just 34, making him Africa's youngest president and one of the world's youngest presidents. While projecting himself as a youthful reformist, critics say that after strong-arming Ravalomanana out of power, his behaviour resembles one of Africa's old "Big Men".

* A former disc jockey and nicknamed "TGV" after the fast French train for his rapid-fire rhetoric and charismatic personality, Rajoelina had led demonstrations against Ravalomanana since the turn of the year. The protests, triggered by the closure of his Viva TV station at the end of 2008 for airing an interview with former President Didier Ratsiraka, quickly became a mass movement bent on toppling Ravalomanana.

* Viewed as something of a maverick given to sweeping statements and grand claims, Rajoelina won 2007 municipal elections in the capital as an independent, running against Ravalomanana's party. As mayor, he became one of the most ardent critics of the government, labelling it a dictatorship, but was fired on Feb. 3 by Ravalomanana at the height of the protests.

* Army backing was the clinching factor in bringing Rajoelina to power this week. Analysts say, however, that he has close links with the exiled Ratsiraka's camp and may also have enjoyed the tacit support of the French government.

* Rajoelina says his first and biggest challenge is to improve standards of living for the Malagasy, many of whom live on less than $2 a day. On the international stage, he will have to convince doubters of his legitimacy given his rise to power on the back of street protests several years before the next presidential election was due.

* Rajoelina will also have to control some dissent in the military, where diplomats say some officers opposed his rise but were quashed by more powerful voices.

* He is expected to continue his predecessor's free market economic policies, welcoming foreign investors in the mining and oil exploration sectors, while also trying to cut down on waste and put more emphasis on social policies.

* Rajoelina has displayed supreme confidence throughout the months-long crisis, only disappearing into hiding once when Ravalomanana's security forces came to arrest him. At rallies, he exuded certainty that he was on the verge of power. During Tuesday's extraordinary turn of events, he actually walked into Ravalomanana's office and announced his plans as president before the military formally conferred power on him.

* He will need all that confidence now to handle widespread international disapproval of his rise. The African Union has suspended Madagascar, while the United States, European Union and others have denounced his takeover as a coup. (Reporting by Richard Lough in Antananarivo and Chris Barnett of Editorial Reference Unit in London; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne) (For full Reuters Africa coverage and to have your say on the top issues, visit: af.reuters.com/)

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