Madagascar’s Rajoelina Reverses Decision Not to Run in Vote

Madagascar President Andry Rajoelina registered as a candidate for presidential elections scheduled for July, four months after saying he wouldn’t run as part of an agreement to help restore political stability in the country.

The 38-year-old former nightclub DJ’s name is among a list of 41 people whose candidacy has been approved by the Special Electoral Court, according to a statement published on the High Constitutional Court’s website today. Candidates who hold public office must resign 60 days before the July 24 vote takes place, the court said.

Rajoelina “meets the eligibility requirements of the laws and regulations in order to be a candidate in the presidential election,” it said.

Madagascar, the world’s second-largest producer of vanilla and cloves, has been ruled by Rajoelina since March 2009, when he removed President Marc Ravalomanana from power with the help of the Indian Ocean island nation’s army. Ravalomanana is living in exile because he risks arrest after being sentenced to life in prison for civilian deaths that resulted from protests against his rule.

In a deal brokered by the Southern African Development Community in January, both Rajoelina and Ravalomanana agreed to not compete in this year’s election.

“I will not be a candidate at the elections,” Rajoelina said in a prime-time television address on Jan. 15. “I will sacrifice myself for the sake of the 20 million Malagasy.”

Ex-President’s Wife

Yesterday, Rajoelina appeared on national television and accused Ravalomanana of breaching the January agreement after Lalao Ravalomanana, the ex-president’s wife, declared her candidacy for president. Her name was among the 41 approved by the court today.

Lalao’s candidacy had been in doubt because Madagascar law stipulates that candidates must be residents of the country six months before the election. The court said that both Lalao and Didier Ratsiraka, a 76-year-old former president who ruled Madagascar for almost 30 years and who returned from exile in April, were allowed to run.

Lalao, who has been living with her husband in South Africa, returned to Madagascar in March after being granted permission to care for her sick mother.

“Their absence on the Malagasy territory resulted from facts and circumstances that were independent of their will, while they have expressed clearly their desire to return to Madagascar,” the court said.

Vital Candidacy

Former Prime Minister Camille Vital’s candidacy was also approved, as was that of Edgard Razafindravahy, the mayor of Antananarivo who is also a member of Rajoelina’s party.

Madagascar’s $10 billion economy, which is dependent on agriculture for a third of its output, achieved zero growth in the four years since Rajoelina became president, compared with a 5.7 percent expansion before the coup, according to International Monetary Fund data.

Rio Tinto Plc, based in London, built a $5 billion titanium mine in the country, while Madagascar’s nickel deposits attracted interest from companies including Canada’s Sherritt International Corp. Lemur Resources Ltd., a Perth, Australia-based coal-exploration company, owns 99 percent of the Imaloto thermal-coal project.

The country was suspended from the African Union and the continental body’s security council imposed sanctions on Rajoelina and 108 other government officials after he seized power. The IMF representative left and hasn’t been replaced, the European Union halted a $600 million aid program to the country and the U.S. shelved its preferential trade agreement with Madagascar.