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Tuesday, 12 February, 2002, 12:20 GMT
Call to postpone Madagascar poll
OAU secretary general, Amara Essy
Essy: Time is needed to prepare for a second round
By Alastair Leithead in Antananarivo

The Organisation of African Unity has called for Madagascar's contentious presidential elections to be delayed.

OAU Secretary General Amara Essy, who is visiting the island, has said that time is needed to allow more time to prepare for the second round of the vote.

He is in talks with incumbent president Didier Ratsiraka and challenger Mr Marc Ravalomanana to bring to an end the mass protests and the general strike which is now in its third week.

President Didier Ratsiraka
The president wants the second poll in 10 days time

But the two rivals have still not met to discuss how to break the political deadlock.

A variety of international organisations have come to Madagascar in an attempt to break the impasse but the president says the second round of elections will go ahead in about 10 days time.

No second vote

However, his opponent Mr Ravalomanana says there will be no second vote until the first has been investigated.

Mr Essy, has been speaking to both sides and to the other candidates that took part in the December election.

Marc Ravalomanana (photo courtesy DMD/Midi)
Mr Ravalomanana refuses to run in a second round

He says he is optimistic that he can get the two men to meet and that their views do not differ as widely as people have been making out.

The OAU chief says that a second election was the key to resolving the problem but it would take time.

"If you have to have another election, this election has to be credible," he said.

"So we need to bring many observers here, the OAU, UN and international community - so that says that we need the time to build all these bridges," Mr Essy said.

Air Madagascar's future

A special envoy from the UN secretary general is also due to join the talks in the country on Wednesday.

Opposition protest
The opposition protests have brought the capital to a standstill
Meanwhile, the board of Air Madagascar has been meeting to decide the future of the company.

The national carrier was in severe financial difficulty before the general strike.

Its director-general said it would be forced to close unless the staff returned to work and emergency funding could be provided immediately.

The mass protests are again continuing on the streets of the capital, Antananarivo.

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OAU secretary general, Amara Essy
"We need the time to build all these bridges"
See also:

11 Feb 02 | Africa
OAU chief in Madagascar
09 Feb 02 | Africa
Madagascar vote 'rigged'
05 Feb 02 | Africa
'Ghost day' in Madagascar
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