Madagascar leader calls parliamentary elections, rejects international mediation

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Madagascar's leader Andry Rajoelina has called for parliamentary elections after rejecting negotiations aimed at ending the crisis caused by his military-backed take-over of the country earlier this year.

The head of Madagascar's transitional authority, Andry Rajoelina, announced on national television that elections would be held on March 20 for a new parliament which would choose the next prime minister and draft a new constitution.

Rajoelina said he was asking the international community to no longer involve itself in Madagascar's problems because a solution would only come from the elections.

The 35-year-old former mayor of Antananarivo did not mention presidential elections. Madagascar's current constitution requires a president to be at least 40 years old.

Rajoelina took power last March after former President Marc Ravalomanana left the country. The military-backed hand over followed months of sometimes violent confrontations between supporters of the two politicians.

The African Union and Southern African Development Community refuse to recognize the Rajoelina government saying it is the result of a coup d'etat. They have suspended Madagascar from their organizations.

International mediators have since brokered several power sharing arrangements between the two rivals and two other former presidents, Didier Ratsiraka and Albert Zafy.

An accord reached several months ago called for three co-presidents and the distribution of Cabinet ministries among the four groups.

The three former presidents met in Maputo ten days ago and divided up the posts, leaving some vacant for Rajeolina's group.

But Rajoelina rejected the meeting as an attempted coup and has blocked the leaders from returning home.

Mr. Ravalomanana told reporters in Pretoria, where the groups are staying, that Rajoelina's actions were unacceptable.

He says you cannot prevent Malagasy citizens from entering or leaving their country. He says the situation is due to the illegal regime and will have long-term consequences.

The confrontation between the two leaders began one year ago. It has disrupted the economy, slowed foreign investment and caused a suspension of most non-humanitarian aid.