afrol News, 20 February - The Malagasy opposition candidate, who claims he was cheated out of victory in the December presidential elections, today announced he would abandon further negotiations with President Didier Ratsiraka and "seize power" of Madagascar.
According to Ravalomanana's party, Tiako i Madagasikara, the candidate said this in is daily speech to the protesting crowds on the Place of 13 May, central Antananarivo. Marc Ravalomanana said this was "a logic consequence of the failure of the recent negotiations," facilitated by mediators from the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) and the UN.
- I have listened to the calls from pastors and priests telling me to take power, Ravalomanana told the tens of thousands of protesters gathered at the downtown square. "I am now ready to do it."
Ravalomanana said he would observe an inauguration ceremony on Friday, 22 February. The ceremony was to take place on the municipal stadium Mahamasina. Given the up to 500,000 protestors that have followed the daily manifestations in Antananarivo in support of Ravalomanana, the Mahamasina ceremony is expected to become a massive power demonstration.
The OAU Assistant Secretary General, Said Djinnit, had mediated between the two presidential candidates and yesterday announced new talks would take place within few days. Ravalomanana today denied he had agreed to that move, saying the recent "talks orchestrated by the international mediators were a complete fiasco." A "second session of meetings" would not take place.
Ravalomanana's move - which first was interpreted like a threat of a coup d'état (BBC) - is likely to irritate the international community, which had invested much prestige in finding a negotiated solution. The OUA, UN, EU and the Francophonie had pushed for a second election round, as demanded by President Ratsiraka, and promised to send a large number of observers to reassure Ravalomanana.
The opposition leader also announced he had asked the army to keep the peace, but had not asked them to choose side in the conflict between him and Ratsiraka. He thus said he had received assurances from the military that they would remain neutral.
Marc Ravalomanana still claims he won the 18 December elections outright and is backed by independent election observers. While Ratsiraka and the Constitutional High Court demanded a second election round had to be executed by next Sunday, Ravalomanana at first demanded the first round ballots to be recounted. During the OAU led negotiations, he demanded to be able to pick the prime minister of a transitional government, which was to run the country ahead of the second round.
Up to 500,000 demonstrators have backed Ravalomanana's claims in daily manifestations in Antananarivo since early January. A general strike called by Ravalomanana paralyses the Malagasy economy and a blockade on major transport routes - believed to be organised by Ratsiraka's supporters - endangers food supply to Antananarivo.