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Opposition leader issues president ultimatum to quit

Video by Cyril VANIER

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2009-03-15

In his first public appearance since he went into hiding, Madagascar's opposition leader Andry Rajoelina called on President Marc Ravalomanana to resign within four hours. FRANCE 24’s Cyril Vanier reports from Antananarivo.

In his first public appearance since he went into hiding earlier this month, Madagascar’s opposition leader Andry Rajoelina called on his arch foe, President Marc Ravalomanana, to resign Saturday.


Speaking to a crowd of supporters shortly after the opposition declared it had seized power in the Indian Ocean island, Rajoelina called on Ravalomanana to "humbly leave power in the next four hours".


Reporting from Independence Square in Antananarivo, FRANCE 24’s Cyril Vanier said Rajoelina appeared on the platform before his supporters, flanked by military personnel in what was clearly meant as a signal that he enjoyed the country’s military support.


The former mayor of Antananarivo emerged from hiding Saturday to address a crowd of jubilant supporters sporting orange T-shirts, hats and scarves at Independence Square, which has been the epicentre of opposition protests in the past seven weeks.


But in his first response to Saturday’s events, Ravalomanana denied opposition claims that he had lost power.



In a communiqué released Saturday, the presidential office maintained that power was still in the president’s hands.



The political crisis in Madagascar broke out late last year when a bitter power struggle between Ravalomanana and Rajoelina saw supporters taking to the streets, which led to deadly crackdowns. More than 130 people have been killed in the turmoil, crippling the picturesque island nation’s critical tourism industry.


Earlier this week, army chief Gen. Edmond Rasolofomahandry was ousted after warning the feuding political leaders that they had 72 hours to resolve their differences. He was replaced by a rebel soldier.


Opposition declares it has seized power


Earlier Saturday, Roindefo Zafitsimivalo Monja, the opposition’s nominee for the prime minister’s post, read a statement by Rajoelina, which declared that the president, the national assembly, the senate, and the government had been “removed from their duties.”


Reporting from Madagascar’s capital of Antananarivo, FRANCE 24’s Cyril Vanier said residents of the city were glued to their radios as the opposition declared it was in power.


“The opposition is demanding that the constitutional courts oust the current president, Marc Ravalomanana, from power,” said Vanier. “They’re saying the new acting president is the opposition’s leader, the 34-year-old former mayor of the capital city, Andry Rajoelina.”


The opposition has announced it will hold a presidential election within two years.


International community monitoring the situation


With the events in Madagascar rapidly changing, the international community has been closely monitoring the situation.


In a communiqué released Saturday, the European Commission said it was “seriously preoccupied” with the political crisis in Madagascar, which could threaten the stability of the country.


While critics accuse Rajoelina, a 34-year-old former disc jokey, of being a maverick and a troublemaker, experts are still not sure whether he enjoys popular support across the island or has over-played his hand in a bitter personal and political feud.


“The question we have about the mayor of Antananarivo who hasn’t been elected president and doesn’t have support outside the capital city is, is he simply seeking power or does he have a programme for change,” said Douglas Yates, political science professor at the American University of Paris.


Date created : 2009-03-14