Madagascar’s Rajoelina vows 2018 comeback By AFP | Monday, January 21  2013 at  08:47

Andry Rajoelina
Madagascar's President Andry Rajoelina inspecting a guard of honour in Tanzania.  RIVONALA RAZAFISON | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Madagascar’s transitional leader Andry Rajoelina, who has agreed not to run in upcoming polls to end the crisis that followed his 2009 coup, said on Sunday he would stand for president in 2018.

“I’m counting on you to vote for me in 2018, we will be back and stronger than ever,” he said as he inaugurated a hotel in the eastern city of Toamasina.

Rajoelina, a former disc jockey, ousted the Indian Ocean island’s elected president Marc Ravalomanana with the army’s backing in March 2009 at the age of 34.

A deep political crisis ensued as he failed to win broad international recognition and African mediation efforts failed to mend fences between Rajoelina and Ravalomanana, who has lived in exile in southern Africa since the coup.

In 2010, Rajoelina, who was six years too young to run for the highest office when he seized power, pushed a constitutional amendment through to lower the minimum age of presidential candidates to 35.

But under intense international pressure, he announced on January 15 he would not run for the top job in polls scheduled to take place in May.

Critics

Ravalomanana had already heeded calls to pull out of the race last month.

A direct electoral confrontation between the two arch-foes was seen by many observers as a recipe for disaster.

Rajoelina, a successful entrepreneur and fervent Catholic, jumped into the political swamp in 2007 and trounced Ravalomanana’s party in his maiden electoral battle to become mayor of the capital Antananarivo.

Monikered TGV — the French acronym for high-speed train — for his quick-fire personality, he turned the initials into his movement’s name: Tanora Gasy Vonona, or Young Dynamic Malagasy.

He garnered significant popular support in the run-up to his 2009 coup, describing Ravalomanana’s rule as a dictatorship. But critics say his four years as the island’s de facto strongman have betrayed the same autocratic streak.

Madagascar is one of the world’s poorest countries and its economy was further hit when some of its traditional partners froze trade and cooperation in the wake of Rajoelina’s coup.