Andry Rajoelina. File photo: AFP

Johannesburg - South Africa welcomed the decision to remove presidential candidates who did not meet electoral criteria in Madagascar, the department of international relations said on Tuesday.

“This decision comes at a crucial moment in Madagascar's history, as the country prepares for the elections that would restore constitutional normalcy,” spokesman Clayson Monyela said in a statement.

Madagascar's special electoral court on Saturday removed the country's incumbent president, the wife of his long-time rival, and a former president from its list of presidential candidates.

The Associated Press reported that the Special Electoral Court (CES) cancelled the candidacy of President Andry Rajoelina and Lalao Ravalomanana, who is the wife of Marc Ravalomanana, the leader Rajoelina overthrew in 2009.

Former president Didier Ratsiraka was also removed from the list.

The court said neither Ravalomanana nor Ratsiraka met the physical residence requirements for candidacy of living in the country for six months. Rajoelina's filing for candidacy also did not occur during the statutory period, AP reported.

“The South African government calls on all stakeholders to respect the decision of the CES and allow for the implementation of the outstanding measures to ensure that favourable and conducive conditions are created for Madagascar to hold successful presidential and legislative elections as soon as possible,” Monyela said.