Madagascar parties seek vote delay

Two former presidents of the troubled African state of Madagascar on Sunday joined calls for a postponement of elections aimed at ending a four-year-old political stalemate.

The parties of Didier Ratsiraka and Albert Zafy are demanding a new transitional authority after election authorities approved the candidacy of strongman Andry Rajoelina, who had earlier vowed not to run.

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, and Madagascar has been in political limbo ever since.

Sunday's demand was in the form of a resolution voted at a national reconciliation conference organised by church leaders that also included figures from civil society and the military.

On Saturday nearly half of the 41 approved candidates in the election scheduled for July 24 questioned the independence of the electoral commission after it approved Rajoelina's candidacy.

They also questioned the candidacies of Ravalomanana's wife Lalao and that of Ratsiraka, because neither has lived in Madagascar for at least the past six months, as the law requires.

Like Rajoelina, Marc Ravalomanana had vowed not to run in the election.

The regional Southern African Development Community, which has mediated in the standoff, opposes a postponement.

Joaquim Chissano, the former Mozambican president who heads the SADC delegation to Madagascar, told a news conference in Antananarivo on Sunday that the regional mediators favoured "going forward".