December 18, 2009 / 6:23 PM / 9 years ago

UPDATE 1-Madagascar's leader fires consensus prime minister

* Move likely to anger international mediators

* Opposition to set up unity govt, wants neutral military

(Recasts with sacking of PM, adds analyst)

By Richard Lough

ANTANANARIVO, Dec 18 (Reuters) - Madagascar’s leader on Friday fired the prime minister he named in October, in a move likely to anger international mediators and further jeopardise hopes for a consensus solution to the island’s political crisis.

“The measures in the decree dated October 10 ... relating to the nomination of the leader of the government of national union are hereby annulled,” Haja Resampa, Secretary General of the presidency, told reporters.

Andry Rajoelina, who spearheaded a coup earlier this year, had appointed Eugene Mangalaza under heavy international pressure as part of a power-sharing deal signed with his political rivals.

But that deal and a succession of others have fallen through as Rajoelina and three former presidents bicker over the division of key jobs in a consensus government.

Vice Prime Minister Cecile Manorohanta, a close ally of Rajoelina, will take over the premiership indefinitely.

Analysts said Rajoelina’s move would dent hopes for the unblocking of aid worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Hours earlier, members of Madagascar’s opposition said they would form a unity government within days and called on the military to stay in their barracks.

“We are going to put in place our ministers and we ask the armed forces to remain neutral and stay in their barracks,” former vice-president Albert Zafy told reporters.

Rajoelina this week called elections and said power-sharing talks were dead.

Zafy was among opposition leaders who returned to the island after Rajoelina’s administration lifted a ban on their re-entry following talks in Mozambique.


“Rajoelina has reneged on his signature. We can no longer trust him to run the country,” Zafy said.

Rajoelina, who toppled former leader Marc Ravalomanana with military support in March, on Thursday said it would be impossible to share power with political enemies. He said the international community no longer needed to involve itself in Madagascar’s affairs.

In a statement seen by Reuters on Friday, France said speedily-held elections would bring about a long-lasting solution only if transparent and monitored by an independent electoral commission and foreign observers.

While France, Madagascar’s former colonial power, did not condemn Rajoelina outright, it urged all parties to resume dialogue in search of a consensus solution.

Foreign countries have said they will re-engage with Madagascar only after a consensus government is established and a road map to free and credible elections is in place.

The breakdown in cross-party talks will do little to allay the concerns of major foreign companies, such as mining giant Rio Tinto (RIO.AX) (RIO.L) and oil firm Exxon Mobil (XOM.N). Exploration activities have slowed heavily this year.

Rajoelina has not set a timetable for a presidential election which, under the terms of the original power-sharing deal, must be held by late 2010. (Additional reporting by Alain Iloniaina; editing by Andrew Roche)

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