(AFP) – Feb 4, 2009
ANTANANARIVO (AFP) — Hundreds of supporters of Madagascar's sacked mayor Andry Rajoelina gathered Wednesday in front of his office to protest against his dismissal in the wake of rioting that killed 68 people.
Rajoelina, the new leader of the Indian Ocean island's opposition, was sacked Tuesday by the interior ministry and replaced as Antananarivo mayor by a provisional administration.
His dismissal came hours after he announced plans to unveil a transitional government on Saturday, having proclaimed himself in charge of the country's affairs and accused President Marc Ravalomanana of being a dictator.
Rajoelina also suffered another blow when the Constitutional Court declared itself incapable of ruling on his demand to have Ravalomanana removed.
In a reply to his petition seen by AFP, the court said the president could only be impeached by the two houses of parliament backed by a declaration of dismissal by the high court.
Addressing some 1,500 supporters, Rajoelina rejected the leadership changes at the municipality and announced he had appointed a close ally to run the city.
"We will never accept the head of the special delegation. It is an insult to the people of Madagascar," Rajoelina said, referring to the city's new government-imposed leader.
"From today, it is Michele Ratsivalaka who will run the Antananarivo commune," Rajoelina said and handed his mayoral scarf to his new appointee.
His supporters backed his rejection of the city's new administration.
"I am annoyed. What Ravalomanana is doing is not at all normal. It is him who is looking for trouble," said one demonstrator who gave her name only as Josiane.
Another protestor, Dina, said: "If I am here it is because Ravalomanana should quit his office. I find it dictatorial to install a new administration in his (Rajoelina's) place."
The crowd later dispersed peacefully and security forces near the city hall allowed Rajoelina access to the building from where he waved to his supporters.
The deposed mayor has also called for another rally on Saturday to unveil his transitional government.
However, his rallies have been drawing dwindling crowds compared to last week when thousands turned up.
The fresh political crisis in Madagascar has prompted calls for calm from the United States and United Nations.
On Wednesday the African Union's top executive, Jean Ping, announced at the close of the continental body's summit in Addis Ababa that an envoy would be dispatched to the island.
"We are going to send an observer there to monitor the situation on the ground, as we do every time the situation deteriorates," Ping said.
The outspoken 34-year-old Rajoelina and Ravalomanana's regime have been on collision course since late last year, when the mayor's private television network was closed down by the authorities.
At least 68 people died in riots that erupted during protests called by Rajoelina to increase pressure on the president and his government.
Foreign powers and the United Nations have expressed concern over the political turmoil on the Indian Ocean island and appealed for calm.
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