African Union says Madagascar polls hang in balance over Rajoelina

ADDIS ABABA Fri Jul 19, 2013 11:56am EDT

Madagascar's President Andry Rajoelina (L) sits next to his wife Mialy during the ANC's centenary celebration in Bloemfontein January 8, 2012. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Madagascar's President Andry Rajoelina (L) sits next to his wife Mialy during the ANC's centenary celebration in Bloemfontein January 8, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko

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ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Madagascar's President Andry Rajoelina has failed to heed calls from the African Union (AU) to withdraw from upcoming elections, casting doubt on the polls, the pan-African body said on Friday.

The former French colony has been in crisis since 2009 when Rajoelina seized power with military support, ousting former president Marc Ravalomanana and triggering turmoil that scared off investors and tourists.

"We were given to understand that the president of the transition, Mr. Andry Rajoelina, is not willing to take the steps that are required on his part so that we could unlock the electoral process," Ramtane Lamamra, the AU's Commissioner for Peace and Security, said.

Rajoelina and Ravalomanana had reached a deal with regional states not to run in this year's poll. But when Ravalomanana's wife, Lalao Ravalomanana, chose to run, Rajoelina said the pact had broken down and put his name forward.

Foreign donors then suspended election financing and the government had to postpone the vote by a month, to August 23.

The AU and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have demanded that Rajoelina, Lalao Ravalomanana and ex-president, Didier Ratsiraka announce their withdrawal from the polls by the end of July, or face sanctions such as travel bans.

"We have up to the end of this month to find out...whether there is a prospect for the election to take place with the withdrawal of the three candidates or whether that will not be possible," Lamamra said during a news conference at the AU's headquarters in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

Without international financing, Mozambique would not be able to go ahead with the vote.

A delegation led by SADC mediator Joaquim Chissano, a former Mozambique president, travelled to the island state from July 9 to July 13 and asked the feuding candidates to withdraw their bids and try to resolve the issue, the AU said.

Madagascar's economy shrank 4.6 percent in 2009, the year of the coup, after growing at 7.1 percent the year before, and is forecast to expand by just 2.6 percent this year, according to the World Bank.

(Reporting by Aaron Maasho; Editing by Duncan Miriri and Michael Roddy)

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