May 17, 2013 / 11:50 AM / 4 years ago

Madagascar's Rajoelina not eligible to run in election: AU

Madagascar's President Andry Rajoelina looks on before addressing his supporters in the capital Antananarivo, September 2, 2009.Richard Lough

ANTANANARIVO (Reuters) - The African Union (AU) has said it will not recognize Andry Rajoelina as Madagascar's president if he wins July's presidential election, piling more pressure on the incumbent leader not to stand.

Rajoelina plunged the country into a still-unresolved political crisis in 2009 when he seized power with military support in what the AU called a coup. The ensuing turmoil has stunted foreign investment and badly hurt economic growth.

Following the AU's pronouncement, France and the European Union said they were suspending funding of the election, Madagascar's election commission (CENIT) said.

In a statement after a late-night meeting on Thursday, the AU's Peace and Security Council said: "Perpetrators of unconstitutional change of government cannot participate in the elections organized to restore democratic order.

"Council stresses that the AU will not recognize the Malagasy authorities which would be elected in violation of the relevant AU and SADC (Southern African Development Community) decisions," it added.

Rajoelina and Marc Ravalomanana, the man he unseated from power, both bowed to regional pressure in January and pledged not to stand in the election, in a deal brokered by the SADC.

But Rajoelina, 38, said this month that deal was broken when the wife of Ravalomanana, Lalao Ravalomana, said she would run.

The AU called the candidacies of Rajoelina, Lalao Ravalomanana and former president Didier Ratsiraka "illegitimate", indicating the bloc would not recognize any of the trio as a legitimate leader.

Rajoelina's volte-face has raised political and economic uncertainty on the island, a source of oil, gold, chrome, uranium, cobalt, nickel and ilmenite.

Rajoelina, Lalao Ravalomanana and Ratsiraka ignored a request from the SADC last week to withdraw their candidacies.

"The EU and France are suspending their funding contributions," Charly Venty, the chief of staff to the CENIT's president, told Reuters on Friday. "This will of course disrupt preparations."

Writing by Richard Lough; editing by Andrew Roche

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