Madagascar rivals agree power-sharing deal

Author: By Alain Iloniaina, Reuters

A communique issued after talks in Mozambique’s capital said a national unity
government would be set up and comprise a prime minister, three deputy prime
ministers and 28 ministers.

“They agreed the transition period will not exceed 15 months … and will end
with elections under international supervision that will lead to the
restoration of democratic institutions and stability in Madagascar,” the
statement said.

Former President Marc Ravalomanana, who was toppled in March by his
army-backed rival Andry Rajoelina, said he would return to Madagascar but
not personally take part in the process.

The agreement included cancelling charges of abuse of office that were
levelled against Ravalomanana after his departure and related to the
purchase of a presidential jet.

“I solemnly declare my total availability to help resolve this crisis,” he
said after days of talks mediated by former Mozambican president Joaquim
Chissano. “The Ravalomanana movement will be an integral part of the
transition bodies.”

The deal was struck late on Saturday and the negotiations ended on Sunday with
several details unresolved.

“There has not yet been any discussion about the allocation of seats. We had
to adjourn because the age of some former heads of state did not allow more
meetings,” Rajoelina told reporters.

The talks, which began on Wednesday and also included former presidents Didier
Ratsiraka, 73, and Albert Zafy, 82, were the first time Ravalomanana and
Rajoelina had met face to face since the coup.

The political crisis has alarmed foreign investors, scared away tourists and
cut economic growth. Rajoelina has been shunned by many nations and
Ravalomanana, living in exile in South Africa, had insisted he remained the
legitimate leader.

Lydie Boka, Madagascar expert at the risk consultancy StrategieCo, said the
power-sharing deal looked to be a major breakthrough in restoring ties with
the international community.

“It will allow donors who wish to help Madagascar to safely resume their
assistance without being accused of supporting an illegal government,” she
told Reuters.

“There are several risks, however, in that the new government, which will
attempt to assemble four different ‘sensibilities’, may lead to a paralysis
of the country.”

Ratsiraka and Zafy, the former presidents, are still seen as influential
Malagasy power brokers and analysts say they would need to be part of any
lasting solution.

Before the Maputo talks, Rajoelina had said a presidential election would be
held by the end of 2010, but could take place earlier under the right
conditions. The timing of the poll and who will be able to contest it have
been big sticking points.

Opposition groups had insisted that Rajoelina, who has scrapped the
constitution and set up an interim government, must not be allowed to plan
an election unilaterally.

Rajoelina suspended the island’s parliament in March, a move that opponents
said was unconstitutional. It was not immediately clear how the agreement
would affect this suspension.

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