Madagascar: Is a coup underway?

After several months of opposition protests, now, Madagascar president Marc Ravalomanana has been forced to camp outside of the capital while tanks and gunmen break into his presidential compound. Opposition leader Andry Rajoelina has proclaimed himself leader, having appointed prime ministers and a cabinet. And he has called for the current president’s arrest with the ...

By , International Crisis Group’s senior analyst for Colombia.
587746_090316_Madagascar12.jpg
587746_090316_Madagascar12.jpg
Madagascan soldiers loyal to opposition leader Andry Rajoelina stand gaurd at a rally in Antananarivo on March 16, 2009. Rajoelina ordered the security forces today to arrest his rival, President Marc Ravalomanana, after claiming that he controlled the military. "I order the security forces to execute, without delay, the measures by the minister," Rajoelina told thousands of supporters in the capital, referring to a "warrant" issued by the "justice minister" in a rival administration named by the opposition leader last month. Rajoelina claimed today he was in control of the army and that it was no longer taking orders from the president. AFP PHOTO / ALEXANDER JOE (Photo credit should read ALEXANDER JOE/AFP/Getty Images)

After several months of opposition protests, now, Madagascar president Marc Ravalomanana has been forced to camp outside of the capital while tanks and gunmen break into his presidential compound. Opposition leader Andry Rajoelina has proclaimed himself leader, having appointed prime ministers and a cabinet. And he has called for the current president's arrest with the apparent support of at least part of the army.

Rajoelina claims all this is not a coup d'etat, but... can he suggest a better name?

After several months of opposition protests, now, Madagascar president Marc Ravalomanana has been forced to camp outside of the capital while tanks and gunmen break into his presidential compound. Opposition leader Andry Rajoelina has proclaimed himself leader, having appointed prime ministers and a cabinet. And he has called for the current president’s arrest with the apparent support of at least part of the army.

Rajoelina claims all this is not a coup d’etat, but… can he suggest a better name?

Desperate to improve things, President Ravalomana offered to call an election over the weekend — letting the voters decide who is really in change. Rajoelina, however, looks in no mood to negotiate. This wave of popular support is probably the best shot he has at power, and the opposition is keen to ride it to its fullest. African Union and United Nations calls for calm are falling on deaf ears.

What next? A worst case scenario will see a coup — and one that promises to be bloody. On top of the 100 already killed in protests, more would certainly fall victim to the president’s toppling. Ravalomanana supporters are gathering sticks and makeship weapons to defend his final stand outside the city.

The worse case could also see the exit of some of Madagascar’s recent international investors — mining companies and Korean giant Daewoo. Now is not the best time to be losing foreign cash, as developing countries are expected to see a $700 billion shortfall in the financial crisis. But somehow, I doubt all that is on Rajoelina’s mind. He has a different kind of capital control to worry about. 

Elizabeth Dickinson is International Crisis Group’s senior analyst for Colombia.

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