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France on Monday asked three controversial candidates to withdraw from presidential elections aimed at ending a four-year political deadlock in Madagascar, its former Indian Ocean island colony.
The Madagascar government had to postpone the polls until August 23 because their candidacies -- upheld by the national election commission -- derailed plans to hold the vote in July.
They include the current ruler Andry Rajoelina, who seized power from then-president Marc Ravalomanana in 2009; Ravalomanana's wife Lalao who declared herself a candidate; and veteran leader Didier Ratsiraka, who was toppled by Ravalomanana.
France calls on "Lalao Ravalomanana, Andry Rajoelina and Didier Ratsiraka ... to immediately withdraw their candidacy in the upcoming presidential election," foreign ministry spokesman Philippe Lalliot said.
Lalliot said otherwise France "will not recognise the result of the election," adding that Paris "is disappointed and worried at the way events are unfolding."
Madagascar has been in limbo since current strongman Rajoelina, a former disc jockey and ex-mayor of the capital Antananarivo, wrested power and defied international calls to step down.
Under an internationally brokered roadmap aimed at steering the nation back to constitutional rule, none of the three candidates should run in the new elections.
But when Ravalomanana's businesswoman wife Lalao announced that she would run, Rajoelina declared his candidacy.
Both pose a legal problem, since he applied after the deadline and she had not lived on the island six months prior to the nominations, as the rules require.
Another candidate, former president Ratsiraka, filed his papers two days after he returned from 11 years of exile in France. Rajoelina has since said he would withdraw from the poll if his rivals did so as well.