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EU calls power handover a 'coup d'état'

Video by Richard TOMPSETT

Text by FRANCE 24 (with wires)

Latest update : 2009-03-20

The European Union considers the army-backed ousting of the democratically elected president in Madagascar to be a coup d'etat, the Czech EU presidency said Thursday.

Madagascar's acting president suspended parliament on Thursday as the United States and African nations slammed his army-backed rise to the helm of the Indian Ocean island as undemocratic.

Two days after Rajoelina unseated president Marc Ravalomanana at the age of 34, his cabinet's first move was to suspend parliament and replace it with two new bodies tasked with administering the country until fresh polls are held.

 

On Thursday, Rajoelina met foreign diplomats at the presidential palace in Antananarivo, according to FRANCE 24's Virginie Herz, and sought to reassure them about his democratic intentions. "Rajoelina's greatest challenge now is to get the international community to recognise his leadership, because he needs foreign donors to eradicate poverty on the island," says Herz.

 

The new president also invited foreign embassadors to attend his inauguration on Saturday, Herz added.

Since the army forced Ravalomanana to step down on Tuesday and handed power to Rajoelina, a former disc jockey and sacked mayor of Antananarivo, the international community had largely delayed its response.

But the Southern African Development Community (SADC), whose 15 members include Madagascar, struck the first blow as it refused to recognise Rajoelina despite his confirmation as president by a constitutional court a day earlier.

"SADC does not and cannot recognise Rajoelina as president because his appointment does not only violate the constitution of Madagascar, but also international principles, like the SADC, AU and United Nations protocols," the grouping's security organ said during a meeting in Swaziland.

Washington was next to criticise Rajoelina's rise to power, after a three-month struggle between his opposition movement and the regime that left around 100 people dead.

"We view this as undemocratic transfer of power," State Department spokesman Robert Wood told reporters.

Meeting for the first time in Antananarivo, the partial cabinet Rajoelina had formed last month during his struggle against Ravalomanana suspended a parliament overwhelmingly dominated by MPs from the outgoing ruling party.

"The activities of the following institutions are suspended by the present order: the senate, the national assembly," government spokesman Augustin Andriamananoro said.

"Priority is given to setting up the transition and guaranteeing public order," acting prime minister Monja Roindefo told AFP before the start of the cabinet meeting.

Roindefo said his government would continue efforts to develop the country and voiced confidence that the transfer of power on the Indian Ocean island would not scare off donors.

"Honestly, I don't see why they would sever ties now if they were not dissuaded by Ravalomanana's governance," said Roindefo.

However Norway had announced it was maintaining a freeze on aid despite Rajoelina's confirmation as acting president by the constitutional court.

"Bilateral aid is still frozen," said foreign ministry spokeswoman Ragnhild Simenstad, whose country gives Madagascar 14 million dollars a year.

Speaking on Wednesday to 15,000 supporters celebrating victory after a deadly three-month power struggle, Rajoelina promised to tackle poverty.

Rajoelina added that his administration had slapped a travel ban on some outgoing ministers.

"There are many files pending at the moment, they should not leave the country until a real assessment of the state of the country has been conducted. A lot of money has been released from the banks in Madagascar," he said.

The youthful president, who only became the country's undisputed opposition leader two months ago, also said the warrant his justice minister issued against Ravalomanana last week was still valid.

The ex-president has not been seen in public since last week.

Rajoelina added that the ousted president had likely found refuge in an embassy residence. "If you're in a protected embassy residence, nobody can go in," he said.

Date created : 2009-03-19

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