Facebook Twitter

Protest targets Madagascar vote

SHARE Protest targets Madagascar vote

ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar — Madagascan police and troops firing teargas and stun grenades failed on Monday to disperse tens of thousands of protesters demanding opposition candidate Marc Ravalomanana be declared winner of presidential polls.

Witnesses said the security forces initially drove a crowd estimated by residents at 30,000 from the capital's central 13 May Square, but the protesters reassembled in nearby streets and retook the square with extra supporters several hours later.

The crowd then swelled to about 80,000, the witnesses said, as protesters threw stones at police and set a vehicle on fire.

Witnesses said several demonstrators were injured, and a nearby hospital appealed to police to stop firing teargas in its direction to protect infants under treatment for respiratory problems.

As relative calm returned, Ravalomanana, who is mayor of Antananarivo, addressed the crowd and vowed to emerge the victor.

"We will see this through and we will win," he said. "We have only one demand in the current conflict: that the truth of what was in the ballot boxes is respected."

Madagascar is expected to hold a second round of voting after provisional results showed no candidate had won an absolute majority in presidential elections held on the Indian Ocean island Dec. 16.

The demonstrators demanded that the High Constitutional Court declare Ravalomanana the outright winner of the polls in the first round of voting.

Provisional results released by the government showed Ravalomanana took 46.59 percent of the vote and veteran President Didier Ratsiraka 40.59 percent. Four others made little impression.

The High Constitutional Court still has 20 days to officially declare the result of the first round.

Any second round vote would be held 30 days after the declaration.

The pro-Ravalomanana protest was the second in four days. Between 5,000 and 10,000 protesters took to the streets on Friday to accuse the government of falsifying the results and demand Ravalomanana be declared outright winner.

Ravalomanana's campaign team say their tally, based on reports from local polling stations by party representatives, shows he won 52 percent of the vote compared with 35 percent for Ratsiraka, who has been in power for more than 20 years.

Both sides have complained of unfair play in the elections on the island off southeast Africa. Ratsiraka's team has said it noted several cases of vote manipulation, particularly in Antananarivo where Ravalomanana enjoys his strongest support.

Ravalomanana, a self-made dairy millionaire who began his career hawking yoghurts, emerged from political obscurity to win election as mayor of the capital in 1999 and has promised to raise living standards on the island of 15 million people, one of the poorest countries in the world.