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Madagascar Court Ruling Spurs Ousted President’s Backers to Keep Protesting

Some Madagascar citizens are expressing fear the country could be plunged into serious political turmoil after a court Monday ruled as illegal the activities of a transitional government led by former opposition leader Andry Rajoelina. The ruling energized supporters of former President Marc Ravalomanana who despite a ban on demonstrations vowed to begin fresh protests today until the government steps down. They are also demanding the return of the former president who is in exile, saying he had two more years to serve before being forced to hand over power to the military. The handover paved the way for Rajoelina to take over power when the military threw its support behind him.

Malagasy journalist Mialy Randriamampianina told VOA that most people are confused about the political situation.

"As they (supporters of former president) have already said, they are going to follow the movement (protesting) until Marc Ravalomanana, the former president, will be back in Madagascar because for them, Marc Ravalomanana is still the president of Madagascar. So what they want to do and what they tried to do starting from last week is to enter into the place of democracy in order to make their rally. The problem is that the military and the police under the orders of Andry Rajoelina don't allow them to go there," Randriamampianina said.

She said the clashes between the protesters and the security forces were a direct result of the transitional government's refusal to allow them to express dissenting views.

"That is why most of every day there are some kinds of violence all around the town because there are violence between the Marc Ravalomanana supporters and the military," she said.

Randriamampianina said supporters of the former president seem to have taken a cue from previous opposition protests that forced Ravalomanana to resign.

"Even the way they are doing the protests is really the same as what Andry Rajoelina did before. And you know they want to criticize Andry Rajoelina by forbidding them from protesting because according to them, they are just doing what Andry Rajoelina did before, and they are following the same process. So you know, it is quite ironic, but it is what is happening," Randriamampianina said.

She said although the protesters are demanding the return to power of the former president, it remains unclear when he will end his stay in exile.

"We haven't heard about that. All we know is that the former president is always calling, saying that he is going to be back. But the problem is that nobody knows when he is going to be back in Madagascar, and if he is going to be back, what he is going to do? So we are waiting for what is going to happen," she said.

Randriamampianina said there is a growing controversy after a court ruled as illegal the activities of the Rajoelina led transitional government.

"You know, something that is quite important is that the constitutional court of Madagascar has said again in a declaration today (Monday), saying that the authority of the transition, held by Andry Rajoelina, is not following the constitution. After the day when we called the coup d'état, when Marc Ravalomanana resigned and gave the power to the military, and then after that, when the military gave the power to Andry Rajoelina, the Constitution High Court agreed and accepted this fact. But now they have changed their mind, and according to them what has happened is not following the constitution. So we don't know what is going to happen in the future days and maybe that is going to create some change. We don't know," Randriamampianina said.

The international community including the African Union condemned the take over as a coup d'état.

Security agencies clashed Monday with supporters of former President Ravalomanana after a military crackdown on protestors last week left seven demonstrators dead and a military personnel carrier was blown up over the weekend, reportedly by Molotov cocktails.

Meanwhile, weeks before President Ravalomanana's forced resignation, Andry Rajoelina had only just emerged as the undisputed opposition leader, and Ravalomanana's grip on power appeared under little threat. But political analysts argue his impatience with civil demonstrations cost him dearly.

After initially allowing partisans of the former president to vent their disappointment via daily protests, the transitional government, led by former opposition leader Andry Rajoelina, tightened the screws, banning rallies and unleashing security forces on transgressors.

The new president, a former disc jockey who became a successful businessman before winning the mayoral race in the capital, Antananarivo, relied heavily on his private radio and television network to mobilize support. He accused Ravalomanana of dictatorship and of flouting the constitution after the president banned protests.