Madagascar’s president Andry Rajoelina on Tuesday pledged not to run in the presidential election scheduled for May, raising hopes democracy will return to the island nation, which has suffered from stagnation and political turmoil since he took after a 2009 coup.
“I will not stand in the presidential elections. I prefer to sacrifice myself rather than sacrifice 22 million Malagasy people. We want peace,” Rajoelina said in a speech.
Rajoelina has been under international pressure not to stand in the election. Marc Ravalomanana, the democratically elected leader ousted in the coup, has also committed not to run in the May election. Ravalomanana has been living in exile in South Africa.
The pledges potentially put Madagascar on a path toward a “fresh start” after four years of crisis, during which foreign investment dried up, tourism plunged, and international relations soured. The crisis ushered in an era of increased crime, including rising violence in the south and illegal logging of valuable rainforest timber from national parks in the northeast.
Madagascar is renowned for its cultural and biological diversity, which are major attractions for tourists. The country is also home to rich mineral deposits as well as crude oil reserves.