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Madagascar Opposition to Press Home Demands for Democratic Reforms


In Madagascar, the main opposition is expected to hold a rally today in the capital, Antananarivo to press home its demands for the resignation of embattled President Marc Ravalomanana. This comes a day after officers in a military camp in the capital refused to take any more orders from Ravalomanana's government, a move that has split the army in two. Some of the officers promised their support for the main opposition leader, who is also the deposed Antananarivo mayor, Andry Rajoelina. The move is expected to worsen the political stalemate between President Ravalomanana and the opposition leader. Monja Roindefo is a leading opposition figure in Madagascar. He tells reporter Peter Clottey that today's rally aims to restore true democracy in the country.

"There will be a big rally today in order to resume the demonstration after the president attempted to quash the action," Roindefo noted.

He said the opposition will be legally challenging the president after accusing him of infringing upon the constitution by what the opposition describes as stifling dissenting views.

"We will be making a legal representation because you know the president has never respected the constitution, and he has never respected any democratic principles in this democratic country. He has also not respected free market or the law of competition, and we really have to restore those principles in the country. So we have to set up the transitional authority and in fact with all the political forces in Madagascar," he said.

Roindefo justified the opposition protests by saying ordinary Malagasy cannot live with the abject poverty staring them in the face, which they accused the president of not resolving.

"The problem is that he (Ravalomanana) has infringed upon the constitution of the country repeatedly. And you know, in a representative democracy like us, the president has made it impossible for people to express themselves through our institutions. And our institutions have been deliberately stifled by the president, so we have to resort to protests in order to restore the democratic principles in the country," Roindefo pointed out.

He said the opposition aims to force the president to resign, despite having two more years left on his tenure.

"So to wait two more years, that means that we will allow the infringement of the constitution for another two years. And for the next two years, allow the president to stifle the law of competition in a free democracy in a free market. So for another two years we will allow for the embezzlement for another two years and allow the abject poverty for another two years to continue. The Malagasy people cannot afford that and for that reason they have to resort to protests for a transitional authority to reform the electoral code and organize free and new democratic elections," he said.

Roindefo denied the opposition organized protests will destabilize the country as claimed by some political analysts.

"We are very careful in what we do and so are the military careful in what it does. But you know one thing is that the soldiers or the military people are also affected by the dictatorship of the president. And they and their families also suffer from poverty and the president's refusal to tackle the numerous problems in the country as he promised to do," Roindefo pointed out.

Meanwhile, opposition leader Rajoelina is reportedly in hiding and his television station off air on Sunday as authorities intensified their crackdown on his anti-government movement after weeks of unrest.

Some Malagasy people blame Ravalomanana for dismal levels of poverty at a time the economy of the world's fourth largest island has grown steadily off the back of booming oil and mineral sectors. This strengthened the opposition leader's call for the president to resign after accusing him of infringing on the country's constitution and being a dictator, a charge the government rejected.

In the past few days, Security forces have thwarted anti-government supporters from gathering in the city's May 13 Plaza -- epicenter of popular rebellions since the Indian Ocean island won independence from France in 1972 -- and on Saturday night took Rajoelina's private TV and radio station off the air.

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