Page last updated at 09:50 GMT, Wednesday, 18 March 2009

'Change needed' in Madagascar

Andry Rajoelina (centre) arrives at a rally in Antananarivo, Madagascar, 17 March 2009
Mr Rajoelina, centre, said history must not be allowed to repeat itself

Andry Rajoelina, the former disc jockey who has taken power in Madagascar, says there must be changes to the constitution so elections can be held.

Military leaders conferred full powers on the 34-year-old after President Marc Ravalomanana resigned, refusing his request to form a military directorate.

But under the current constitution, the opposition leader is six years too young to be elected president.

He told the BBC free and fair elections would be held within two years.

On Tuesday he installed himself in the president's offices, which were seized a day earlier by pro-opposition troops.

'No power vacuum'

The political turmoil on the Indian Ocean island has left more than 100 people dead since January.


"There must not be a power vacuum," Mr Rajoelina told the BBC's World Today programme.

"The life of the country cannot wait, so for this reason the people, the very life force of Madagascar, have named me as president of the republic to govern the transition in order to prepare for elections that will be held within the next 18 to 24 months."

Asked why earlier elections would not be held, Mr Rajoelina said he did not want "history to repeat itself".

"We'll have to change the constitution," he told the BBC. "We'll have to analyse the law on political parties, the electoral code; we need time to do all this."

Asked about the future of Mr Ravalomanana, who resigned on Tuesday, Mr Rajoelina said that was up to the judiciary.

The African Union had urged the army not to hand power to Mr Rajoelina, saying this would amount to a coup.

The Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) condemned in advance any direct seizure of power by Mr Rajoelina.

File photo of lemurs in Madagascar
World's fourth largest island
Biodiversity hotspot
Exposed to tropical cyclones
Population 20 million
70% live on less than $1 a day
French colony until 1960
World's No 1 vanilla producer

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed grave concern at the unrest, appealing to all parties to ensure a "smooth transition".

The opposition leader has already appointed a prime minister and is expected to fill the rest of the country's ministries in the coming days.

The BBC's Christina Corbett in the capital says the whereabouts of Mr Ravalomanana, who was holed up at his Iavoloha palace on the outskirts of the capital, are currently unknown.

Mr Ravalomanana's decision to cede power marked a dramatic victory for Mr Rajoelina, who was sacked as mayor of the capital in February.

On Monday, Mr Rajoelina rejected Mr Ravalomanana's offer of a referendum to solve the crisis and called for his arrest.

Later that day, troops stormed the presidential residence in the centre of the capital and seized the central bank.

Our correspondent says foreign investors have been scared away and the social and economic consequences are likely to be acute and long lasting.

Mr Ravalomanana was re-elected for a second term in office in 2006 and under him, Madagascar's economy has opened up to foreign investment, particularly in mining.

But 70% of the 20 million population still lives on less than $1 (0.7) a day and correspondents say the opposition has tapped into popular frustration at the failure of this new wealth to trickle down.

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