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Madagascar could hold elections by year’s end

By on July 9, 2009

Madagascar’s foreign minister said on Thursday that the Indian Ocean island’s army-backed government was ready to hold elections before the end of 2009 if the “means” were available.

Madagascar has been rocked by political instability since Andry Rajoelina took power in March from then president Marc Ravalomanana with the help of dissident soldiers — a move that was labelled a coup by many countries and regional blocs.

“The government is ready to hold presidential and legislative elections before the end of the year if there are the means to do so,” Ny Hasina Andriamanjato told SADC-appointed mediator Joaquim Chissano upon his arrival in Antananarivo.

“The (interim government) has disengaged itself from the process of organising elections and asks the international community and civil society to organise the polls,” he added.

Rajoelina has said elections would be held by the end of 2010, but a poll could happen earlier under the right conditions. The timing of elections and who will be able to stand have been sticking points for feuding political parties.

Observers say the foreign minister’s statement may be a sign that Rajoelina’s government wants more cooperation with the international community.

In June, internationally mediated talks between the island’s leaders aimed at creating a consensus government collapsed.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has appointed former Mozambican President Chissano to revive deadlocked negotiations in a political crisis that has alarmed investors, scared away tourists and slowed growth.

The diplomatically isolated Rajoelina said late on Wednesday that the island would turn to new backers if traditional western donors were not ready to cooperate.

The former disc jockey failed on Monday to persuade the European Union to release aid worth more than 600 million euros after it was blocked following his power grab.

Rajoelina — whose island off east Africa is attracting foreign investors eyeing oil, coal, gold, uranium, nickel and cobalt — presented European officials in Brussels with a “road map” towards restoring political stability.

“If certain (groups) don’t want to work with us, it’s not serious. Many others are ready to do so,” he told reporters.

The EU described Rajoelina’s road map proposals as unconstitutional and said they offered no credible prospects for a return to constitutional order in the short run.

Rajoelina has openly courted new investment partners, and Saudi Arabia’s Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, one of the world’s richest people, arrived on Thursday for a five-hour visit.

“On the investment side, we have discussed the tourism industry as well as several other sectors,” Prince Alwaleed told reporters. No firm investment pledges were made.

A Saudi group in May pledged to invest $2 billion in the energy, tourism and telecommunications sectors, a sign that some financiers were not shying away from Rajoelina’s administration.

Analysts question how long the government can survive without donor aid, which makes up 70 percent of the budget.

“The government does not have much time given the significant foreign component of the budget. (However) private investment may also be a valuable alternative through FDI flows, and for an injection of foreign exchange,” said Lydie Boka of the risk-consultancy StrategieCo.

Other important donors to have frozen non-emergency assistance include the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the United States and Norway.


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