ANTANANARIVO (Reuters) – Madagascar President Andry Rajoelina said on Wednesday he will seek re-election in November, speaking in front of thousands of supporters, despite opposition claims that he should be barred from running on constitutional grounds.
Madagascar is hoping for its third peaceful election since the upheaval of 2009, when Rajoelina ousted President Marc Ravalomanana in a coup, prompting an exodus of foreign investors from the Indian Ocean island.
Bending to international diplomatic pressure, Rajoelina gave up power in 2013, but was re-elected to the presidency in 2019 after winning 66% of the vote in a run-off against Ravalomanana.
“This is where we will make history again. Here we will mark a new beginning. We are moving forward and we will not go back,” Rajoelina said in a speech to around 7,000 supporters at the Palace of Culture and Sport in the capital.
“Your president is ready to run and is ready to win,” he said, of his campaign for the Nov. 8 election.
Opposition parties claim Rajoelina should be prevented from running because he has acquired dual French nationality — which they say automatically revokes his Malagasy nationality.
Citing a French government decree signed in 2014 by then-Prime Minister Manuel Valls, Le Monde reported in June that Rajoelina, his wife and their three children had become naturalised French citizens.
Rajoelina says the constitution does not require the head of state to exclusively hold Malagasy nationality, and that any loss of nationality is subject to signed authorization by the government.
Despite reserves of nickel, cobalt, gold, uranium and other minerals, Madagascar is one of the world’s poorest countries and also faces some of the most acute impacts of climate change.
Hery Rajaonarimampianina, who ran the country from 2014 to 2018, and Ravalomanana are among more than 20 candidates to have submitted paperwork to contest the November election.
Madagascar’s presidential mandate is five years, renewable once.
(Reporting by Lova Rabary; Editing by Hereward Holland and Leslie Adler)