Madagascar parties propose names for new PM

Madagascar's political parties have given proposed names for the country's next prime minister to strongman Andry Rajoelina under a deal to break a political deadlock, sources said Saturday.

The accord concluded on August 13 calls on its signatories to "work together and pool their efforts in the search for a solution to end the crisis."

The Indian Ocean island has been mired in political crisis since Rajoelina's power grab in May 2009. International efforts to put an end to the turmoil have so far been fruitless and the country's already poor economic situation has worsened with a suspension of foreign aid.

The accord calls for a constitutional referendum to be held on November 17, parliamentary elections in March next year and a first round of presidential polls on May 4, 2011.

Rajoelina is to remain in his post until a new president is elected while a prime minister will be appointed in a manner agreed upon by the signatories of the accord.

Initially 99 parties signed the agreement but the number has now grown to some 160. Among them were representatives of three former presidents, including Marc Ravalomanana, whom Rajoelina ousted with the army's backing.

Six names have been shortlisted, an official of Ravalomanana's TIM party, Ando Parson, told AFP. They had been discussed at length and could change, he said.

Rajoelina has not said when he would make his final pick.

Chief mediator and former Mozambican president Joaquim Chissano has led a series of talks between Rajoelina and his key political rivals and arrived at a power-sharing arrangement last year, but the terms were subsequently spurned by Rajoelina.

The African Union then imposed travel bans and economic sanctions on Rajoelina and 108 of his backers for failing to honour the agreement with his rivals to form a unity government.

The pan-African body and the Southern African Development Community suspended Madagascar until a return of constitutional order.

The European Union in June suspended development aid to Madagascar, citing the coup d'etat government as an impediment.

The 36-year-old Rajoelina, a former disc jockey and mayor of Antananarivo, has repeatedly produced timetables for elections and constitutional referendums, but none has been carried out.

A national conference had been scheduled to begin on August 30 but has not been confirmed.

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