The political thrust and parry has heated up in Madagascar, but the stand-off continues.
The opposition claims it has presidential authority. Its leader Andry Rajoelina attended a rally in the capital – his first appearance since going into hiding a week ago. In front of thousands of supporters, he issued an ultimatum to the President, giving him four hours to dissolve the government and resign. He went on to say God was on his side. The opposition has moved into the offices of the Prime Minister and proclaimed its own Premier. But hours after the deadline has passed, the President Marc Ravalomanana remained in his palace. He refused to step down and issued a statement calling the opposition movement a “street protest using terror to survive”. With his supporters manning road blocks outside the palace, Ravalomanana has called on security forces to restore law and order. But dissidents in the army refuse to obey his commands. They say they’ve moved tanks to a secret location, just in case mercenaries are brought in. But they have ruled out launching a coup d’etat and installing a military regime. Instead they say they are maintaining order until the politicians resolve their differences. There seems little chance of a rapid resolution to the stand-off. The President has called for dialogue but the opposition refuses to come to the negotiating table while he is still in control.