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Government sacks anti-president mayor

Video by Jonathan WALSH , Gulliver CRAGG

Latest update : 2009-02-04

Madagascar's government fired Andry Rajoelina, the mayor of Antananarivo, after he led demonstrations demanding that President Marc Ravalomanana step down from office and threatened to set up a parallel interim government.

REUTERS - Madagascar fired the capital's mayor on Tuesday after Andry Rajoelina said he would establish an interim government this weekend if the Indian Ocean island's president refused to step down.


For two weeks Rajoelina, 34, has been leading thousands of people in demonstrations against President Marc Ravalomanana, whom he calls a dictator.


Scores have died in the unrest, the U.S. envoy putting the death toll at more than 100, while police said 76 had died during street fights, fires and looting.


The fresh political instability on traditionally volatile Madagascar -- the world's fourth largest and one of its most biodiverse islands -- threatens to deter tourists and harm its reputation as a secure destination for foreign investment.


Rajoelina's replacement as mayor was named as Guy Rivo Randrianarisoa by Edmond Rakotomvato, a local city official.


Rajoelina was elected by popular vote but his sacking is legal, one expert said.


"The government's move is legal if it feels the mayor is not fulfilling his mandate," said constitutional law expert Jean-Eric Rakotoarisoa.

"However putting the move in place will be more difficult because it will be contested by the people of Antananarivo who are behind the mayor."


Rajoelina on Tuesday addressed a 2,000-strong crowd clad in orange when he issued a weekend deadline for his demands.


"We will wait until Saturday. If there is no reply or peaceful solution from the president, then we will put in place a transitional government," he said.


Ravalomanana, 59, a self-made millionaire, has insisted he is still at the helm and called for calm.
The African Union has condemned any moves to overthrow him.


Rajoelina, nicknamed TGV after the French express train, has delivered letters to the High Constitutional Court and parliament demanding Ravalomanana be removed from power.


Police have detained six leaders behind the anti-government movement, picking them up as they prepared for a rally on Monday in the northeastern port city of Toamasina.


"They are accused of holding a public meeting without permission," said regional police head Pascal Andriambahoaka.


Analysts say Rajoelina has successfully tapped into widespread frustration with the government, but may have over-played his hand in trying to overthrow the president.


Big investors in Madagascar include Rio Tinto and Sherritt International, who plan to extract nickel, bauxite, cobalt and Ilmenite.

Date created : 2009-02-03