SADC lauds 'bold' steps to bar Madagascar leader from vote

Southern African leaders on Sunday hailed a "bold" decision by Madagascar's new electoral authorities in barring strongman Andry Rajoelina and other disputed contenders from running for president.

Madagascar has been mired in political limbo since Rajoelina, a former disc jockey and ex-mayor of the capital Antananarivo, ousted Marc Ravalomanana in a 2009 coup.

The controversial candidacies of Rajoelina, the former first lady and an ex-leader, had stalled polls originally planned for July which were aimed at ending the four-year crisis.

A new electoral court was set up on Monday and by Saturday it had reviewed the list of 41 candidates approved by its predecessor in May.

Nine hopefuls were dropped including Rajoelina, Ravalomanana's wife Lalao, and former president Didier Ratsiraka.

The Southern African Development Community which brokered a peace deal in Madagascar after the 2009 coup, said it was satisfied with the breakthrough.

While congratulating the special electoral court for its "bold decision," the SADC urged the court to speed up the process of holding elections in the country.

"Long and painful efforts are paying dividends," Malawi leader and SADC chairwoman Joyce Banda said after a two day meeting in Lilongwe.

Rajoelina had vowed not to run for president, but threw his hat into the ring when the wife of his exiled rival Ravalomanana declared she would be a candidate.

Despite international condemnation, all three candidates refused to step aside.

All the disputed candidacies posed legal issues.

Rajoelina submitted his candidacy after the deadline and Lalao Ravalomanana had not lived in Madagascar six months prior to nominations, as the election rules require.

Ratsiraka filed his candidacy papers two days after he returned from 11 years of exile in France.