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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Opposition Leader Takes Power in Madagascar

18/03/2009 | AlmanarTV

Madagascar's youthful opposition leader Andry Rajoelina sought to consolidate his grip on power on Wednesday after the military named him president in a move that flouted the Indian Ocean island's constitution.

President Marc Ravalomanana resigned on Tuesday, but analysts said he had effectively been given no option after the security forces backed his foe, who has led weeks of anti-government strikes and protests.

The nation's worst unrest in years killed at least 135 people, devastated a $390 million-a-year tourism sector and worried multinationals in its mining and oil industries. The outcome was a slap in the face for the African Union (AU), which has censured recent violent transfers of power that damage the continent's reputation with investors.

Ravalomanana's whereabouts were unclear, while Rajoelina supporters planned a big party in the city's May 13 square. They had accused Ravalomanana of losing touch with the majority of the population who eke out a living on less than $2 a day.

Rajoelina says his priority will be to address social needs in Madagascar, which lies off Africa's east coast and won independence from France in 1960.

The AU had demanded the constitution be respected "scrupulously." But the fact the army refused to take over on Tuesday, as Ravalomanana had requested, means the AU may not brand the events a coup which would have meant suspension.

After recent coups in Mauritania and Guinea as well as the killing of Guinea-Bissau's leader, Ravalomanana's fall raises doubts over the durability of democracies elsewhere in Africa.

South African President Kgalema Motlanthe, who is chairman of the SADC regional trade bloc, denounced the change of power -- underlining the diplomatic difficulties Rajoelina may face.

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