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More Electoral Violence in Madagascar - 2002-02-27

In Madagascar, one person is reported dead and dozens more injured in violence between supporters of opposition leader Marc Ravalomanana and President Didier Ratsiraka in the capital Antananarivo. Tension has risen in Madagascar since Mr. Ravalomanana, who disputes the result of the December presidential election, proclaimed himself president last week.

There were running battles on the streets of Antananarivo between government and opposition supporters wielding stones, clubs, and machetes. A radio station that supports the government and a government vehicle were gutted by fire.

This is the first time government supporters have taken to the streets, after nearly two months of peaceful demonstrations by opposition supporters. The opposition disputes the outcome of Madagascar's December presidential elections.

Neither candidate gained 50 percent of the vote, the percentage necessary to avoid a runoff.

Forty-six percent of the votes were cast in favor of opposition leader Marc Ravalomanana, the mayor of the capital, while incumbent President Didier Ratsiraka won 40 percent of the vote.

The constitutional court has ordered a second round of voting on March 24, but Mr. Ravalomanana has rejected this, saying the election was rigged and that he won 52 percent of the vote.

After weeks of protest, Mr. Ravalomanana sparked a crisis when he proclaimed himself president last Friday before a crowd of 100,000 people. African and Western leaders condemned the move and urged the candidate to submit to a second round of voting. President Didier Ratsiraka responded by declaring a state of emergency.

But Mr. Ravalomanana was not deterred. This week the self-styled president appointed a prime minister and announced plans to form a government.

Madagascar's military leaders have said they will remain neutral in the dispute. Little is known of Mr. Ravalomanana's support outside of Anantananarivo, but five of six provincial governors say they continue to recognize Mr. Ratsiraka as president of Madagascar.