January 27, 2010 / 6:05 AM / 9 years ago

Rajoelina open to Madagascar poll date discussion

ANTANANARIVO (Reuters) - Madagascar’s embattled leader opened the door on Tuesday to the possibility of pushing back the date of widely criticised elections scheduled for March on the Indian Ocean island.

Madagascar's President Andry Rajoelina flashes a two finger salute, his party symbol, before addressing supporters in Madagascar's capital Antananarivo, September 2, 2009. REUTERS/Richard Lough

The move is unlikely to appease African nations and foreign donors who have urged Andry Rajoelina to share power with his political rivals.

Parliamentary elections are slated for March 20 but opposition leaders and foreign diplomats are concerned a unilaterally organised poll will lack credibility and transparency.

“The government is ready to meet with all stakeholders and political parties to discuss the elections. If it is March 21, 22 or 23, or even earlier, it’s not a problem” Rajoelina told reporters.

“No political party or movement will now be able to criticise us that the date of elections is our decision alone,” he added.

Rajoelina, 35, last weekend snubbed the African Union’s top diplomat, Jean Ping, once again rejecting calls for a consensus government to be formed without delay.

Ping left the leaders of the world’s fourth largest island with two weeks to respond to a compromise solution that stressed a consensual outcome.

January 27 marks a full year since street protests against former President Marc Ravalomanana’s leadership on the mineral-producing island turned violent.

More than 100 people died in street battles with the security forces before former disc jockey Rajoelina toppled Ravalomanana in March, with the help of dissident troops.

Leadership squabbles have blighted the political scene ever since, stunting economic growth and scaring off foreign investors.

Donors who stress that frozen aid worth hundreds of millions of dollars will only be released once there is a roadmap towards restoring constitutional order that is backed by all sides.

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