Rival factions reach tentative transition deal

Rival factions in Madagascar, at odds over split loyalties between interim president Andry Rajoelina and ousted president Marc Ravalomanana, have reached a tentative transition deal that could lead to a new election.


AFP - Rival factions in Madagascar have reached a tentative transition deal that could see interim leader Andry Rajoelina and the man he ousted, Marc Ravalomanana, face off in a new presidential election, mediators said Saturday.

The parties agreed late Friday on the "principles" for "establishing a neutral, peaceful and consensual transition" until new elections can be held, a statement from the international mediators said.

The proposed accord, which the parties have not yet signed off on, calls for "the participation of the former headers of state and the head of the transition in the next presidential election," the statement said, without indicating an election date.

That would mark a turnaround for Rajoelina who last week declared he would not run for president as long as the other ex-heads of state bowed out of the poll he had vowed to hold by the end of 2010.

Rajoelina, the 34-year-old ex-mayor of Antananarivo, forced Ravalomanana -- the Indian Ocean island's elected president -- out of office in March after spearheading opposition protests for weeks and securing the army's support.

Ravalomanana, now in exile in South Africa, says he handed over power on March 17 to an army-backed council headed by Rajoelina to "avert a bloodbath" but maintains he is still the country's legitimate leader.

The international mediators have called on the rival parties "to make concessions in order to reach agreement on questions still under discussion and bring the negotiations to a conclusion that achieves a planned transition," their statement said.

Negotiations on a deal would continue -- no date was given for the next round of talks -- to work out a transition that would then lead to "free, just, equal and transparent elections in the shortest time possible."

The international team consisting of representatives from the United Nations, the International Francophone Organisation (OIF) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), has been mediating discussions between rival parties in Antananarivo since Wednesday.

The mediators said a major sticking point is deciding how the factions would share the posts of a transitional government, which is currently controlled by Rajoelina's supporters.

"The composition and the dividing up of the transitional government's executive and legislature is currently being discussed," they said, adding there is also no consensus on the question of amnesty.

Some 100 Madagascans were killed during three months of clashes between Rajoelina's and Ravalomana's supporters before the change of power in March.

The proposed transition charter would have to be ratified by the country's four main political movements, which also include former heads of state Didier Ratsiraka and Albert Zafy.

The accord would look to guarantee the security of former heads of state and install them on some kind of new council of elders.

Ravalomanana's supporters are still holding almost daily protests in the capital, clamouring for his return.

He swept into power in 2002 on a wave of public support and backing from influential churches and won presidential elections in 2006.

But his economic programme proved disastrous, sparking a two-thirds currency devaluation in 2004, while critics accused him of failing to keep promises of electoral reforms.

Rajoelina's takeover was described as coup by neighbouring nations and the international community, which has so far refused to recognise the transitional administration and called for the return of constitutional order.

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