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Published: Saturday February 22, 2014 MYT 3:47:08 AM
Updated: Saturday February 22, 2014 MYT 3:48:08 AM

Former Madagascar president rules himself out of PM job

Madagascar's outgoing president Andry Rajoelina addresses guests during the handover ceremony at Iavoloha Presidential Palace in the capital Antananarivo, January 24, 2014. REUTERS/John Friedrich

Madagascar's outgoing president Andry Rajoelina addresses guests during the handover ceremony at Iavoloha Presidential Palace in the capital Antananarivo, January 24, 2014. REUTERS/John Friedrich

ANTANANARIVO (Reuters) - Madagascar's former president and coup leader Andry Rajoelina said on Friday he would not seek to be prime minister, a decision that could ease political rifts that have driven away investors and hurt the economy.

Rajoelina has been at the heart of a power struggle that has stoked five years of turmoil in the nickel-producing Indian Ocean island.

In January, his ally President Hery Rajaonarimampianina took office pledging to woo investors after winning an election the month before, the first such poll since a coup in 2009.

Rajoelina had said he might seek to lead the new government, a position backed by his political coalition MAPAR, which holds a majority in parliament and whose full name translates as "Together With Andry Rajoelina".

But he has now ruled himself out. "After analysis, I decided not to hold the position of Prime Minister... this is the wisest decision," the former president told a news conference.

His withdrawal could help turn a page in Madagascar's relations with donors and end a political crisis that has sharply slowed economic growth and deepened poverty.

The World Bank has said the next step of forming a government is crucial and that resumption of normal lending hinges on the appointment of a new prime minister.

Rajoelina, and the man he ousted in the coup, Marc Ravalomanana, were barred from standing in the presidential elections under the terms of a deal brokered by regional African states meant to end the political turmoil.

The World Bank expects Madagascar's economy to grow by 3.7 percent this year, accelerating to 4 percent in 2015.

(Writing by James Macharia; Editing by Alistair Lyon)

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