Madagascar to hold presidential vote in November

Madagascar will hold a presidential election on November 7, the prime minister said Friday, after street protests and a political crisis that forced the appointment of a caretaker government.

If no candidate wins an outright majority, a second round of voting will be held on December 19, added Prime Minister Christian Ntsay.

The Indian Ocean island nation has been in the grip of a growing stand-off over proposed electoral reforms that triggered mass protests and led the Constitutional Court to order a caretaker government to organise the ballot.

Demonstrators took to the capital Antananarivo's central square over President Hery Rajaonarimampianina's efforts to change electoral laws that opponents said were intended to favour his party.

The proposals were overturned by the courts.

But the protests morphed into a a full-blown movement to oust Rajaonarimampianina. Clashes between activists and the security forces claimed two lives and left more than a dozen injured.

"There was a cabinet meeting today and the government took the decision that the first round of the presidential election would be on November 7, and the second round on December 19," Ntsay told journalists following Friday's meeting.

"I hope that the announcement of these dates will help strengthen the political compromise and deliver legitimate elections that will resolve Madagascar's problems."

President Rajaonarimampianina has yet to say whether he will seek re-election in the polls.

Two of his predecessors and arch-rivals, Marc Ravalomanana and Andry Rajoelina, have indicated they will run.

Rajoelina removed Ravalomanana from power in a coup in 2009.

- 'Consensus' solution? -

On June 11 Rajaonarimampianina appointed a caretaker government following the court ruling which called for a "consensus" administration to calm political tensions.

The ruling required the ministries to be allocated to the country's parties to reflect the composition of parliament after polls in 2013.

The government and the opposition both claim to hold the majority in parliament, where many legislators have switched allegiances since 2013.

Several key ministries including defence and finance remain remained in the hands of the president's HVM party, although others like fishing and tourism went to opposition figures under the deal.

Many opposition supporters dismissed the new cabinet as stuffed with old faces tainted by corruption.

On June 4 the president appointed 51-year-old Ntsay, a non-partisan technocrat, as prime minister as part of an agreement with part of the opposition to obey the court ruling.

The island, a former French colony with a population of 25 million, has been beset by decades of political instability and grinding poverty. -  Digital Journal