April 26, 2018 / 5:31 PM / 2 years ago

Madagascar opposition calls on president to resign in election law dispute

ANTANANARIVO (Reuters) - Madagascar’s opposition called on Thursday for the president and prime minister to resign and said it would no longer negotiate in a deepening dispute over new election laws.

Madagascar's former President Marc Ravalomanana attends a march in protest after the president denounced unrest in which two people were killed as a "coup" intended to divide the country's people in Antananarivo, Madagascar April 23, 2018. REUTERS/Clarel Faniry Rasoanaivo

Supporters of opposition politician Marc Ravalomanana, who served as president from 2002 until he was toppled in a 2009 coup, say the new laws are intended to block him from running in a vote due later this year on an as-yet-unannounced date.

The opposition has been holding daily demonstrations. On Saturday, police fired teargas at an opposition march at which two people were killed.

“We have done enough. We have sufficiently warned. But nobody listened to us. That’s why the situation has come to where it is. We will no longer discuss electoral laws,” Hanitra Razafimanantsoa, ​​Vice-President of the National Assembly and Member of the opposition Tiako I Madagasikara (TIM) Party, told a protest march on Thursday.

“Since we left the National Assembly, it is no longer just a question of electoral laws. We demand the resignation of the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister, the Government.”

The opposition says the new election laws could be used to block Ravalomanana from standing over criminal convictions that stem from cases tried while he was in exile after the coup. It is also challenging provisions on campaign financing and access to media.

Ravalomanana has teamed up with the man who succeeded him, Andy Rajoelina, to oppose the laws, which have been backed by President Hery Rajaonarimampianina.

Rivo Rakotovao, the head of Rajaonarimampianina’s party, asked the opposition to give negotiations a chance and attend a second day of talks which the opposition has said it will skip.

“We understand that there are differences of opinion and position. The president was not elected at 100 percent. But that does not mean he has to resign because those who did not vote for him ask for it,” he told Reuters by phone.

“They have the right to ask that and we respect their opinion, but that does not mean that we will accept. We must discuss. We are ready for that.”

On Tuesday, the Southern African Development Community, a regional bloc, said it had asked its special envoy for Madagascar, former Mozambique President Joaquin Chissano, to travel to the island to help cool down the tension. But some opposition politicians have rejected him as a mediator.

“Now, Chissano will come back. He has been here for a number of years but has not brought anything for us. Do we want him to bring back all the problems he has created?” Razafimanantsoa said.

Editing by George Obulutsa and Peter Graff

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