August 15, 2009 / 11:41 AM / 8 years ago

Madagascar's Rajoelina says only he can lead transition

<p>Ousted Madagascar leader Marc Ravalomanana speaks to journalists at a news conference in Johannesburg, April 20, 2009. REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly</p>

ANTANANARIVO (Reuters) - Madagascar’s Andry Rajoelina, who came to power in a coup, has said he is the only one who can provide leadership for the crisis-wracked island as the country’s main political movements prepared to divide up political posts.

Last weekend the Indian Ocean island’s bitter rivals struck a deal in Mozambique to establish a consensus government ahead of elections late next year and canceled charges of abuse of office leveled against toppled president Marc Ravalomanana.

“It is unimaginable that anyone else should lead the transition. Even if others have tried all they can to see that I don’t lead the process,” Rajoelina said in an interview on television late on Friday.

Rajoelina’s military-backed power-grab in March unnerved foreign investors and tourists and cut economic growth. The international community widely condemned the coup, froze aid and called for an inclusive roadmap to fresh elections.

Analysts describe the Maputo agreement -- signed by Rajoelina, Ravalomanana and former presidents Didier Ratsiraka and Albert Zafy -- as fragile and question whether the four power-brokers can work together.

“The position of vice-president, prime-minister and ministers should all be consensually chosen. But nothing in the charter says the president must be appointed by common accord,” Rajoelina said.

Ravalomanana, previously accused of abusing political office to further his private interests, has said he will not play a direct role in the transitional government but has refused to rule out standing in a future presidential poll.

Madagascar’s army, which is seen by observers as a key player in the agreement’s success, has said it is broadly satisfied with the deal but rejected out of hand one article paving the way for a multi-party committee on defense and national security.

“The armed forces are one and indivisible. All we wish is the development of the country,” Rajoelina said.

Rajoelina also said he had released a number of Ravalomanana’s allies whose seizures had been dubbed political arrests by the opposition and diplomatic sources.

But he added those arrested in connection with a recent spate of failed bomb attacks, which his government linked to Ravalomanana’s administration, would not be liberated.

“In conforming to the demand made in Maputo, the political allies of the former president have been freed.”

“But those who have killed or tried to kill the Malagasy people should be condemned to death,” he said.

Additional reporting by Lovasoa Rakotondravony; editing by Wangui Kanina and Richard Williams

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