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Antananarivo - Madagascar strongman Andry Rajoelina said Tuesday that he will not run in crunch presidential elections in May, a decision that could help end a political crisis that erupted when he seized power in 2009.
“I will not be a candidate at the elections, I will sacrifice myself for the sake of the 20 million Malagasy,” he said in a prime-time television address to the nation.
Rajoelina had been under fierce international pressure not to run in the polls, as a way to end an almost four-year crisis that has led to a range of sanctions that have crippled the economy.
“I will manage the transition until the end and I am ready to make a democratic transition. I wish all the best to whomever will replace me,” he said.
The man Rajoelina ousted in a military-backed coup in 2009, former president Marc Ravalomanana, has already heeded calls not to run in the elections.
He remains in exile in South Africa.
The dual announcements mean the first round of elections on May 8 will open a new chapter in Madagascar's coup-prone politics.
Rajoelina and Ravalomanana have dominated the political scene for the last decade, their rivalry defining the island nation's tumultuous politics.
The Southern Africa Development Community, a 15-nation regional bloc that has been mediating in the crisis, had pressed for just such a “neither, nor” solution as a means of ending the gridlock. - Sapa-AFP