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Mayor pushes for President to go, as offices reopen

School and work re-opened on Monday for many Antananarivo inhabitants but hundreds continued to protest in the main square in support of Mayor Andry Rajeolina, who is trying to oust President Marc Ravalomanana.


AFP - Offices and schools in the Madagascan capital re-opened Monday but die-hard protestors vowed to keep up efforts to bring down President Marc Ravalomanana.

Hundreds gathered at a main square to await Andry Rajoelina, the mayor of Antananarivo who has led a campaign to oust Ravalomanana that descended into violence last week at the cost of at least 68 lives.

Ravalomanana, 59, was forced to miss a regional summit in South Africa and rushed back home on January 25 to confront his worst crisis since winning re-election in 2006.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, attending an African Union summit in Ethiopia, said Monday he was very worried about the events on the Indian Ocean island.

"I am particularly concerned about recent developments in Madagascar and urge that all parties address their differences peacefully and through existing constitutional mechanisms," Ban said.

Rajoelina on Saturday claimed he should be in charge of the island's affairs as he escalated his war of words with the president.

There were signs however that his protest movement might be losing momentum as ministries, schools and courts resumed work on Monday. Widespread rioting and looting in the capital last week forced their closure.

"I am going to work as usual. But we will see. I am going to gauge the temperature," one government employee, who gave her name only as Iarisoa, told AFP.

An administrator at a city primary school said: "Unless otherwise, it is the president who gives orders and with the children it is different, they have to go to school, it is important for their future."

At Antananarivo's May 13 Plaza, a symbolic site of the country's political struggle, around 1,000 die-hard Rajoelina supporters gathered to wait for the 34-year-old mayor.

Numbers were down on mass rallies last week, but one supporter said that would change.

"There are fewer people today. People wanted to return to work. But I think they will return tomorrow when they see that the protest is waning," said the man, who gave his name only as Nicolas.

On Saturday, Rajoelina said he would run the affairs of the country because Ravalomanana and his government were not fulfilling their responsibility and vowed to seek the president's resignation through parliament.

The two men have been at odds since the mayor's election in 2007, but the tug-of-war between them worsened in December when authorities shut Rajoelina's TV network for airing an interview with the country's former president.

Madagascar was rocked by riots when tens of thousands turned out for a similar protest on January 25, while another demonstration was held peacefully two days later. At least 68 people were killed in the protests.

Rajoelina is to kick off a countryside tour from Wednesday, his deputy said.

The United Nations, United States, Canada and France have issued calls for calm in the former French colony.

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