Shock addition to Madagascar candidate list

ANTANANARIVO - Madagascar's president Andry Rajoelina will run in July's election, an official list of presidential candidates showed on Friday, reneging on an agreement he would not do so.

Rajoelina, who seized power in a coup in 2009, had said in January he would not put his name forward, bowing to pressure from regional powers to stand aside to prevent unrest in this year's vote on the Indian Ocean island.

The man he ousted, Marc Ravalomanana, now in self-imposed exile in South Africa, had made the same pledge. But an aide to Rajoelina said the deal was broken when Ravalomanana's wife said she would run.

"Now the competition is open to everyone," said Augustin Andriamananoro, a special adviser to Rajoelina.

Rajoelina's volte-face risks raising tension on the island mined for its deposits of cobalt, nickel and ilmenite and whose economy was hit by the coup and has still not fully recovered.

Foreign companies also targeting its oil, gold, chrome and uranium deposits have been wary of committing to investment in Madagascar since the revolt.

A spokesman for Ravalomanana's political movement said it would seek Ravalomanana's return and nomination for the vote.

As president, Ravalomanana opened the doors to foreign investors but was accused by Rajoelina, then mayor of the capital, Antananarivo, of misusing public funds.

Andriamananoro said Rajoelina was flying to Tanzania to explain his decision to Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete who leads the regional Southern African Development Community (SADC) bloc's defence and security cooperation group.

SADC brokered a deal in September 2011 that confirmed Rajoelina as president and allowed for the unconditional return of Ravalomanana from exile in South Africa.

Ravalomanana was sentenced in absentia to life in prison after he was accused of ordering elite troops to kill Rajoelina's supporters during street protests in the run-up to his overthrow.

- Reuters

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