Political tensions escalate in Madagascar

Madagascar’s security forces fired tear gas at opposition leaders and hundreds of their supporters outside Parliament on Tuesday as political tensions escalated on the Indian Ocean island.

The brief flare-up at the National Assembly in the capital, Antananarivo, took place as the opposition planned to form a Parliament that President Andry Rajoelina says is illegitimate.

The crowd was quickly dispersed, leaving a few small groups taunting the military police.

“We have lost our jobs because of the crisis but the government won’t listen to us even though it preaches about democracy. It’s shameful,” one protester, Fanja Rakotoson, told Reuters.

Rajoelina, who seized power in March with the backing of dissident troops, deepened the turmoil in the oil- and mineral-producing country over the weekend when he tore up a series of power-sharing deals and named an army colonel as prime minister.

Armoured riot police carrying tear gas rounds and semi-automatic rifles surrounded the assembly building from early morning. Protesters used overturned garbage containers and rocks to set up barricades on roads accessing the Parliament.

The opposition says it will press ahead with forming a unity government and an interim Parliament as agreed under the internationally brokered agreements.

But it was not immediately clear whether Rajoelina’s rivals intended to proceed with Tuesday’s planned parliamentary session after the skirmish.

Legislative elections are slated for March 20.
Some local observers have voiced concerns that a poll unilaterally organised by a military-led government will lack credibility.

France, Madagascar’s colonial power, has urged all parties to renew dialogue and seek a solution through consensus.—Reuters

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