The wife of Madagascar’s former leader, Marc Ravalomanana, will run for president in elections scheduled for July 24, his party announced.
Laola Ravalomanana’s candidacy was decided on after a meeting of the Tiako I Madagasikara party in South Africa, where Marc Ravalomanana lives in exile, according to a statement published on the party’s website today. Ravalomanana’s candidacy must be approved by the country’s Special Electoral Court.
“Marc Ravalomanana has decided to stay in South Africa until after the elections,” it said. “The Malagasy people are called to unite behind Lalao and vote for her.”
Madagascar, the world’s second-largest producer of vanilla and cloves, has been ruled by President Andry Rajoelina since March 2009, when he removed Ravalomanana from power with the help of the Indian Ocean island nation’s army. Ravalomanana is living in exile because he risks arrest after being sentenced to life in prison for civilian deaths during protests in Madagascar.
Under Ravalomanana, who declared English as one of the country’s official languages, the country was opened up to foreign investors. Rio Tinto Plc (RIO), based in London, built a $5 billion titanium mine in the country, while Madagascar’s nickel deposits attracted interest from companies including Canada’s Sherritt International Corp. (S) Lemur Resources Ltd. (LMR), a Perth, Australia-based coal-exploration company, owns 99 percent of the Imaloto thermal-coal project.
Since coming to power, Rajoelina changed the country’s official language back to French and Malagasy. France, Madagascar’s former colonial ruler, is among countries that didn’t impose sanctions after he seized power.
The South African Development Community, a 15-nation regional organization, has tried to mediate an end to the political and economic crisis that ensued since 2009. Last year, it brokered a deal under which the two leaders agreed to grant amnesty to all political prisoners, including Ravalomanana. The two men have also agreed not to run in this year’s election, allowing for a neutral president to return the country to constitutional order.
Ravalomanana and Rajoelina have stated they plan to run in 2018.
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