February 24, 2010 / 5:44 PM / 9 years ago

Madagascar names new vice PM as sanctions loom

ANTANANARIVO (Reuters) - Madagascar’s embattled leader Andry Rajoelina appointed a new vice prime minister in charge of foreign affairs on Wednesday, in a fresh effort to win some international recognition as sanctions loom.

Madagascar's President Andry Rajoelina smiles at the presidential palace in Antananarivo, March 17, 2009. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Rajoelina gave the job to the same admiral who handed power to him in March, when popular protests and dissident soldiers drove former president Marc Ravalomanana from office.

The leadership change ended months of violent protests that killed 135 people. But international donors soon denounced it as a coup and numerous attempts to get Rajoelina to share executive power since have failed.

“My principal mission is to explain to the international community what really happened in Madagascar,” Admiral Hyppolite Ramaroson told Reuters after his appointment as one of three vice prime ministers. “I will also talk to our ambassadors so they work for the country.”

Last week the African Union said it would slap travel bans on people associated with the “de facto administration” and freeze their assets, unless previous power-sharing agreements were in force by March 16.

Under pressure from Rajoelina and dissident soldiers, Ravalomanana quit last March and asked Ramaroson and the top brass to form a military government. They refused and called on Rajoelina to head a transitional government.

Ramaroson replaces Ny Hasina Andriamanjato, who resigned earlier this month. A source close to Andriamanjato said he was convinced there would be no international recognition for Rajoelina unless he formed a unity government before elections.

Rajoelina promised last week to hold transparent and democratic parliamentary elections in May, with a view to changing the constitution and holding presidential polls.

Rajoelina’s spokeswoman, Annick Rajoana, told Reuters the president would outline his plans on Thursday for ending the political crisis that has crippled the economy.

The charismatic Rajoelina, 35, had called Ravalomanana a dictator running Madagascar like a private firm, tapping into widespread public discontent with high levels of poverty.

Ravalomanana’s supporters had said the opposition leader was a hothead bent on seizing power illegally.

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