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Madagascar Tourism Industry Affected by Instability, Says an Expert

Madagascar's leader Andry Rajoelina speaks to the press after casting his vote at a local polling station in Antananarivo on November 17, 2010. Madagascans went to the polls on November 17 to vote on a constitutional referendum organised by the island's c

A Madagascar-based consultant said the country’s bourgeoning tourism businesses has been adversely affected following Wednesday’s attempted coup d’état that led to a renewed political crisis in the southern African island nation.

Patricia Rajeriarison said the situation in the capital, Antananarivo remains tensed, adding that it will take several more days for the electoral body to declare the final results of the referendum.

“According to the people I met today, most of them didn’t vote yesterday (Wednesday) because they thought it was useless and it won’t change much. And they knew that “Yes” would win so as for them, they felt that their vote wouldn’t change a thing,” said Rajeriarison.

“I wouldn’t say that they are quite happy with the coup attempt, but they said maybe it is not such a bad thing. And that it will help towards a solution that would be negotiated.”

Her comments followed reports that representatives of President Andry Rajoelina are negotiating with troops who declared a coup Wednesday but are now holed up in their barracks.

The unrest occurred on the same day that Madagascar voted on a new constitution. If passed, the new charter would solidify Mr. Rajoelina's hold on rule. He seized power in a coup last year.

Rajeriarison said there are suspicions that the officers are backing some of the country’s former leaders including Ex-President Marc Ravalomana.

“It is quite strange that those military people managed to get together (when) they were enemies yesterday and now they are allies. There were people there who supported (Mr.) Rajoelina when he took power in March 2009. There were some military people who were working with Marc Ravalomanana (and) there were people that worked with (Didier) Ratsiraka.”

Initial returns showed voters approving the new constitution but turnout was below 40 percent. Several hundred protesters tried to block security forces from reaching the rebels at their barracks late Wednesday but were dispersed by police using tear gas.

The spokesman for the rebel officers, Colonel Charles Andrianasoavina, was one of Mr. Rajoelina's main supporters during the coup that toppled President Marc Ravalomanana. The rebel spokesman has called for all the armed forces to support the attempt to overthrow the Rajoelina government.

The Rajoelina government has said the new constitution will help stabilize the country following nearly two years of political turmoil.