Impeached president to step down


PRESIDENT Albert Zafy of Madagascar said yesterday be would step down from the post after the constitutional court confirmed his impeachment and ordered the Prime Minister to take over until an election.

In an address to the nation, Mr Zafy said he would step down on October 10th but he was critical of the head of the national assembly, Mr Richard Andriamanjato, and the 99 deputies who voted for impeachment.

The High Constitutional Court, ruling on the parliamentary vote in July to impeach Mr Zaty, said it "declares the definitive impeachment of the President of the Republic, Albert Zafy".

The court said the order by Mr Andriamanjato for the impeachment of the head of state was regular and admissible on the grounds Mr Zafy had violated the constitution.

The court designated the Prime Minister, Mr Norbert Ratsirahonana, to take over the President's duties until a new head of state was elected.

Mr Zafy accused Mr Andriamanjato of backing a plan to dump toxic waste in Madagascar in return for up to $300 million and for supporting "parallel financing" opposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

He criticised parliamentarians for earning high salaries compared with the general poverty of the Malagasy people.

Mr Zafy had said the constitutional court was not empowered to decide whether to dismiss him and had refused to accept the parliament vote in July by 99-32 in favour of his impeachment.

Parliament invoked what it said were Mr Zafy's repeated violations of the constitution and accused him of acting against the interests of the people.

Mr Zafy would not be barred from the new presidential election.

The crisis was a result of growing opposition to Mr Zafy, who won Madagascar's multi party elections in 1993, defeating the former military ruler, Gen Didier Ratsiraka, after 17 years in power. But democracy brought no improvement in the material lives of the 14 million islanders among the poorest people on Earth.

Mr Zafy (68), a professor of surgery and downbeat man of the people in his trademark straw hat, emerged as the figurehead of opposition to Gen Ratsiraka in strikes and demonstrations in 1991.

Madagascar's army has pledged to uphold the constitution and rule of law during the crisis between parliament and Mr Zafy.

The managing director of the IMF said during a visit earlier this year he was shocked by Madagascars economic decline since his last trip in 1991.

Madagascar last month signed undertakings with the IMF and World Bank on reforms expected to pave the way for a three year Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility and debt rescheduling.