March 18, 2009 / 10:24 AM / 10 years ago

Exiled Madagascar politician urges new elections

PARIS (Reuters) - Madagascar’s new leader Andry Rajoelina must move more quickly to hold elections and restore legitimate government in the huge Indian Ocean island, a senior exiled opposition politician said.

Pierrot Rajaonarivelo, a former deputy prime minister and head of one of Madagascar’s main opposition parties, said he had supported Rajoelina and welcomed the removal of President Marc Ravalomanana.

But he criticised as a coup the way in which the former mayor of the capital Antananarivo took power with the army’s backing on Tuesday.

“In my opinion, what has happened has not always respected the legality of things, so what we have today is an insurrectional government, a coup d’etat,” he told Reuters late on Tuesday.

Rajaonarivelo is an ally of former president Didier Ratsiraka, and both have lived in exile in Paris since a 2002 crisis that brought Ravalomanana to power. Rajaonarivelo was prevented from running in the 2006 election after his return to Madagascar was blocked by the former government.

He said he had been in contact with Rajoelina during the months-long stand-off that led to the ousting of the president.

“I’m with Rajoelina, we’ve met,” he said. “We have a sort of deal and I’m among the people behind him but I think as far as his approach is concerned, there’s a bit of amateurism there.”

Rajaonarivelo said that any solution would have to include opposition politicians exiled after 2002.

Rajoelina, 34, has promised to hold elections within two years but Rajaonarivelo said he should move much more quickly.

“That’s too long! Why and for what reason is he taking 24 months as his starting point?” he said, adding that the constitutional court should have been involved by declaring the presidency vacant and regulating a handover of power.

Under the constitution, the head of the upper house of parliament should have taken over and held elections within two months and Rajaonarivelo said that by flouting the law, Rajoelina risked creating further turmoil.

“If we do this kind of thing every time the government is removed, that country will never have any stability,” he said.

The African Union has already called for the constitution to be respected and there has been criticism from both the European Union and the United States over Ravalomanana’s ouster.

“The international community has to intervene to ensure legitimacy in the transfer of power,” Rajaonarivelo said.

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