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Madagascar Presidential Crisis Continues

Madagascar's opposition leader, Marc Ravalomanana, has been sworn in as president, after the country's High Constitutional Court declared him the outright winner in the December presidential election. However, the development has not brought to an end the political crisis in the Indian Ocean island country. Marc Ravalomanana was sworn in before tens of thousands of cheering supporters who packed a stadium in the capital, Antananarivo. The court last week concluded a recount of the ballots of the disputed December presidential poll, and declared Mr. Ravalomanana the outright winner.

That announcement was rejected by incumbent President Didier Ratsiraka. Mr. Ratsiraka had agreed to the recount at a meeting last month hosted by Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade, but he declared the composition of the court to be illegal. Mr. Wade has scheduled further talks between the two rivals for the presidency later this week, but it remains unclear whether either will attend.

Mr. Ravalomanana has promised to establish a government of reconciliation and ensure that calm and unity return to Madagascar, after months of uncertainty.

In January, Mr. Ratsiraka announced that the result of the December election was inconclusive, and planned a second round of voting. Mr. Ravalomanana, charging widespread vote-rigging, said he was the outright winner. For weeks, tens-of-thousands of his supporters demonstrated daily in the capital, bringing the city to a standstill and disrupting the economy.

Last month, Mr. Ravalomanana declared himself president, and appointed Cabinet officials, who installed themselves in government offices. In response, Mr. Ratsiraka retired to his home province Mahjanga on the east coast. His supporters have erected roadblocks, and blown up at least five bridges, isolating Antananarivo from the rest of the country, and cutting off essential fuel and food supplies. Four of five provincial governors have virtually seceded, and announced their intention to form a new confederation.

It is not clear whether Mr. Ravalomanana's inauguration has the support of the international community. The ambassadors of most Western governments, including the United States, did not attend the ceremonies. Instead, they sent lower-ranking officials. African countries earlier urged Mr. Ravalomanana to postpone the ceremony.

It also remains unclear whether the military will throw its weight behind Mr. Ravalomanana.