Madagascar court orders one-week postponement of presidential election

ANTANANARIVO (Reuters) – A court in Madagascar on Thursday ordered a one-week postponement of the island’s November election, a move that incumbent president Andry Rajoelina has opposed.

The High Constitutional Court said in a statement on its website that it had ordered the first round of the election be moved to Nov. 16 from Nov. 9, and maintained the second round election on Dec. 20.

The court gave no reason for the change.

Soava Andriamarotafika, spokesperson for the Independent National Electoral Commission, said the postponement gave them more time to prepare for the vote.

“This one-week postponement lightens our workload and the pace a little for the first round. We should be able to breathe a little. But it is true that for the second round, we have to pick up the pace a little,” he said.

The Indian Ocean island is aiming for its third peaceful election since the upheaval of 2009 when Rajoelina ousted then president Marc Ravalomanana in a coup.

Rajoelina resigned in early September after being confirmed as a candidate in the forthcoming poll, in line with Madagascar’s constitution that requires a sitting head of state who wants to contest a presidential election to first step down.

The court ruling is not linked to a request by another presidential candidate, Andry Raobelina, who wanted the vote postponed due to what he said was “force majeure” after being injured during a protest last week, forcing him to seek medical attention in Mauritius.

Rajoelina said the change suited neither him nor his party.

“It is too bad for those who are not ready, but we must move forward,” he said during a campaign rally in Ambanja, in the north of Madagascar. 

The 11 candidates running against Rajoelina have been holding daily marches in the capital, which police have routinely dispersed using teargas.

Marchers have been demanding changes to the officials running the election commission and for the formation of a special court to hear election disputes.

They also want Rajoelina to be disqualified from running on the grounds that he is not a Madagascan citizen, an accusation he has in the past dismissed.

(Reporting by Lovasoa Rabary; writing by George Obulutsa; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)