Madagascar's president names consensus cabinet, promises fair election

ANTANANARIVO (Reuters) - Madagascar’s president named a new cabinet and promised free elections late on Monday, after a court ordered him to form a consensus government in an effort to end a political crisis.

FILE PHOTO: Madagascar President Martial Rajaonarimampianina Rakotoarimanana addresses the 72nd United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S., September 20, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo/File Photo

The cabinet includes allies to the three most powerful politicians on the Indian Ocean island: President Hery Rajaonarimampianina and two of his predecessors: Andry Rajoelina, who seized power in a coup in 2009, and the man he ousted, Marc Ravalomanana.

The three men - popularly known by locals as the accountant, the DJ and the milkman in reference to their respective previous jobs - control three separate and often deeply divided political factions.

“The intent of this government is to organize an inclusive presidential election whose results have to be accepted by all,” Rajaonarimampianina said in a televised speech.

Rajaonarimampianina did not say when the election, scheduled for this year, would take place.

He appointed Christian Ntsay, local representative for the International Labour Organisation, as prime minister last week.

The 2009 coup prompted an exodus of foreign investors from Madagascar, which remains one of the world’s poorest countries despite reserves of nickel, cobalt, gold, uranium and other minerals.

The island’s latest political crisis was triggered in April by a legal amendment that would have prevented Ravalomanana from standing for office.

In May, Rajaonarimampianina approved a new law removing that provision, and the Constitutional Court ordered him to dissolve his government and appoint a new prime minister with the support of all parties.

The new cabinet marked “a victory for the country, for democracy because it proves that when the best interest of the Nation requires it, pride and partisan claims must be set aside,” Rajaonarimampianina said in Monday’s speech.

Madagascar is the world’s biggest producer of vanilla and prices reached highs of $600 per kilogram for the first time last year. They are still around that level due to uncertainties over crop levels.

But the crop is vulnerable to damage from the cyclones that frequently beset the island.

Writing by Maggie Fick; Editing by Aaron Maasho and John Stonestreet