Madagascar candidates question electoral panel's independence

Presidential hopefuls in Madagascar on Saturday questioned the independence of the country's electoral commission after it approved the candidacy of transitional leader Andry Rajoelina, who had vowed not to run in the July polls.

Rolland Ratsiraka slammed what he called a "flagrant violation of the law (and) a lack of independence" after the Special Electoral Court (SEC) approved Rajoelina's candidacy.

The interim leader, a 38-year-old former disc jockey, came to power in a 2009 coup in which he ousted his arch-rival Marc Ravalomanana.

Another candidate, current Foreign Minister Pierrot Rajaonarivelo, told AFP: "We wonder if we are really in a state of law or not.... By making a political interpretation (the SEC) has exceeded its mandate."

Ratsiraka and Rajaonarivelo spoke after 25 candidates or their representatives, out of a total 41, met Saturday over Rajoelina's surprise move to register his candidacy despite his pledge to step back from the race to help break Madagascar's crippling political deadlock.

Two other candidacies are being questioned, that of Ravalomanana's wife Lalao and that of Didier Ratsiraka, another former president, because neither has lived in the African island nation for at least the past six months, as the law requires.

Like Rajoelina, Marc Ravalomanana had made a vow not to run in the election expected on July 24.