Thousands protest against new Madagascar leader

Several thousand Madagascans on Tuesday demonstrated for a second consecutive day against Andry Rajoelina’s army-backed removal of Marc Ravalomanana as president of the Indian Ocean island.

According to an Agence France-Presse (AFP) correspondent, the protesters came in larger numbers than on Monday and numbered close to 10 000 for a rally in the capital’s Ambohijatovo gardens to condemn Rajoelina’s “coup”.

Some of the protesters were waving the 2006 electoral campaign banners of ex-president Ravalomanana.

“I am very optimistic about the future of this movement,” Andrianatoandro Raharinaivo, a spokesperson for Ravalomanana’s TIM party, told AFP at the rally.

“Our aim is the return to constitutional and legal order. We welcome the stance adopted by the world’s great democracies who have rejected Andry Rajoelina’s takeover,” he added.

Rajoelina, who only became the undisputed leader of the opposition two months ago, took the oath as president of a transition authority on Saturday at an inauguration ceremony attended by 40 000 supporters.

Under pressure from the army, Ravalomanana (59) resigned as president on March 17, clearing the way for Rajoelina after a bitter three-month power struggle during which about 100 civilians died.

Rajoelina promptly suspended Parliament and said fresh elections might take two years to organise, drawing a barrage of criticism from Western donors and regional powers who describe his takeover as a coup.—Sapa-AFP

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