Half a million protesters in Antananarivo

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afrol News, 28 January - The capital of Madagascar, Antananarivo, was today filled with at least 500,000 supporters of presidential candidate Marc Ravalomanana, claiming he had won the 18 December presidential elections. Today's attendance marked a record in the daily demonstrations.

On Friday, the Malagasy High Constitutional Court had overruled the popular demand of declaring Antananarivo mayor Marc Ravalomanana the winner of the elections and ordered a run-off between Ravalomanana and incumbent President Didier Ratsiraka. Mr Ravalomanana immediately said he protested the ruling and called for further demonstrations.

When, also on Friday, calling for a general strike, Ravalomanana managed to spread his protests out a wider part of the population. According to the AFP news agency, the general strike had appeared to be widely observed. Flights had been suspended and many shops were closed. 

Today, protesters filled Antananarivo streets, saying they "never" would accept a "second round" as the Constitutional Court had ordered. Ravalomanana and his supporters are backed by independent election observers, claiming they can demonstrate that Ravalomanana indeed obtained over 50 percent of the vote in the first poll round on 18 December. 

The Constitutional Court however maintains it was not possible to assess whether any candidate had won the first round outright. According to provisional results published early in January, Ravalomanana had gained 46.6 percent of the votes, while Ratsiraka had noted a score of 40.4 percent. There is however an almost general agreement that these numbers have been rigged. 

On Friday, Ravalomanana spoke to the Antananarivo demonstrators and called for further daily manifestations, saying; "We refuse this verdict and we will stay on [this square] until all our demands are accepted." 

Ravalomanana demands a revision of all official documentation regarding the count. This, he says, must be compared with the findings of his own party and the independent observers. Alternatively, Ravalomanana says there are enough reasons for the court to disqualify the incumbent President for his orders to rig the polls and for his unauthorised use of government funds to finance his campaign.

The Malagasy press has demonstrated sympathy for the actions of Ravalomanana's supporters. The leading Malagasy daily, 'Midi Madagascar', today comments that the demonstrators had "simple wishes", just demanding a comparison of findings from different sources and "some concern over transparency."

Sources: Press reports and afrol archives 

afrol News.

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