Madagascar leader Andry Rajoelina has ignored a request by Southern Africa's regional bloc SADC not to run in upcoming elections, saying that it is up to the people whether he should stand for president.
"The Malagasy people must be left to decide who they will choose to lead the country. We want an inclusive and non-discriminatory election," Rajoelina told media Monday. It was "not the time" to "create other problems", he said.
On Friday the SADC called on the interim leader to abstain from the July 24 poll meant to end a four-year political impasse, to ensure peace on the Indian Ocean island.
It would also be "unwise" for the wife of Madagascar's ousted leader Marc Ravalomanana to stand, the bloc said.
The two candidacies, plus the third of a former president Didier Ratsiraka, are considered invalid by the SADC, despite being cleared by the country's Special Electoral Court.
The court's decision "could no longer be questioned", said former disc jockey Rajoelina, who reneged on an earlier promise in January not to stand.
"What is important is the victory of the people, not of a candidate. We must unite for the good of Madagascar's people and we are going to succeed."
Madagascar has been in deadlock since Rajoelina came to power in a 2009 coup where he ousted his arch-rival Ravalomanana, who has vowed not to stand in July.
SADC is mediating in the island's crisis and said it would now invite the United Nations to supervise the vote in collaboration with the African Union.