Southern Africa's regional bloc SADC on Friday urged Madagascar leader Andry Rajoelina not to run in upcoming elections to ensure peace and stability on the troubled island.
The presidents of South Africa and Tanzania, Jacob Zuma and Jakaya Kikwete, also called on the wife of Madagascar's ousted leader and an ex-president to pull out of July polls meant to end a four-year political stalemate.
After a meeting of the SADC's committee on politics, defence and security, the group issued a statement calling on Rajoelina, former president Didier Ratsiraka and Lalao Ravalomanana to "consider withdrawing" their candidacy.
The group also expressed "displeasure" over Rajoelina's decision "to renege on his earlier undertaking not to stand in the forthcoming presidential election."
The decision to put forward the wife of Madagascar's ousted leader Marc Ravalomanana was "unwise", added the statement.
The SADC statement came after the three candidates were cleared by the country's Special Electoral Court to throw their hats into the ring.
The bloc expressed "grave concern" over the decision to endorse what it called their "illegitimate" bids for power.
Nirhy Lanto Andriamahazo, a close aide to Rajoelina, told AFP that "according to the laws in place, the three candidates cannot withdraw."
He said the fact they were all running was more likely to safeguard stability as they represented a broad sweep of the country's political spectrum.
In January, the 38-year-old former disc jockey Rajoelina said he would withdraw from the race, in a bid to break Madagascar's crippling political deadlock.
But the interim leader, who came to power in a 2009 coup, eventually decided to run in the July 24 vote.
Ravalomanana 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 returned from exile.
Namibian Foreign Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah also attended the meeting on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Cape Town.
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.
Amid calls for the vote to be postponed, SADC urged the election timetable to be respected.