Madagascar strongman renages on vow not to run for election

President Andry Rajoelina shocked Madagascar by registering as a candidate for upcoming elections, documents revealed, despite an earlier vow to step aside in a bid to end the island's political crisis.

A list of presidential candidates published by the Special Electorial Court showed the interim leader, who came to power in a 2009 coup, among the 41 approved candidates for the July 24 vote.

In January the 38-year-old former disc jockey said he would step back from the race, as a way of breaking Madagascar's crippling political deadlock.

He said on Friday that his decision was prompted by rivals throwing their hat into the ring.

"To my great surprise I saw the former president (Marc Ravalomanana) was running for the presidential elections through his spouse," he told Radio France Internationale.

"Former president Didier Ratsiraka is also running, so I said to myself, 'its a free elections and should be transparent, why would I not run?'"

Rajoelina deposed his arch-rival and predecessor Ravalomanana in a military-backed coup. That resulted in international isolation and tense power politics.

Ravalomanana had made a similar vow not to run, although his wife Lalao was listed among the 41 approved candidates.

Also on the list was recently returned former president Ratsiraka, who like Lalao Ravalomanana recently came back from exile.

Nicknamed "Deba", the Malagasy word for "boss" or "bad guy", Ratsiraka was in power from 1975 to 1993 and again from 1997 to 2002.

He fled to France following a post-election dispute which sparked violence and chaos when he refused to concede defeat to Marc Ravalomanana.

In 2003, Ratsiraka was sentenced in absentia to hard labour, five years in jail for threatening state security and 10 years for embezzling public funds.

The latest impasse split the vast island nation in two -- with two capitals, two governments, and a divided army -- until Ravalomanana was officially proclaimed president in May 2002.

The elections are supposed to draw a line under the island's current political difficulties.

In January the United States cautiously welcomed Rajoelina's decision no to run as a "significant development" that created a "clear pathway leading to the restoration of democratic rule" and to normalisation of relations.