Thousands march in Madagascar to protest against election laws

On Monday, thousands of demonstrators, most of them dressed in white, assembled in front of the city hall and a public square.

A few hundred people gather in the centre of Antananarivo on 22 April 2018 to erect a roadblock, during a rally to protest against the new electoral laws. The demonstrators are protesting against new electoral laws that the opposition claim could stop some candidates from standing in the upcoming presidential elections of November or December 2018. Picture: AFP.

ANTANANARIVO - Thousands marched in Madagascar’s capital on Monday to protest against new electoral laws and the death of two people in a similar march at the weekend, a Reuters witness said.

On Saturday, police fired teargas at an opposition demonstration where a person died and more than a dozen were treated for injuries, some caused by teargas canisters.

Another individual injured in Saturday’s unrest died on Sunday, Olivat Alson Rakoto, director of the Joseph Ravoahangy Andrianavalona Hospital, told Reuters.

On Monday, thousands of demonstrators, most of them dressed in white, assembled in front of the city hall and a public square. They brought the coffins two of the victims of Saturday’s clashes with them, the Reuters witness said.

The coffins were covered with the national flag, the witness said. Protesters and some lawmakers carried them before placing them on the ground.

Supporters of opposition politician Marc Ravalomanana, a former leader of the Indian Ocean island nation, say the new electoral laws are designed to block him from running in the election. The opposition is also challenging provisions on campaign financing and access to media in the laws.

“We protest these laws that were adopted by corrupted members of parliament,” said Christine Razanamahasoa, an opposition lawmaker.

Harivonjy Randriamalala, a 42-year-old father of three children, said: “We want the president to resign. We want freedom of speech. We want elections in which all people can run.”

Ravalomanana, who was removed in a 2009 coup, has teamed up with the man who succeeded him, Andy Rajoelina, to oppose the laws pushed by President Hery Rajaonarimampianina.

Before Monday’s march began, General Beni Xavier Rasolofonirina, the defence minister, appealed to politicians to find an outcome that would avoid violence.

“The security forces invite politicians to discuss and find a political solution to a political problem. The police will never accept power that does not come from the electoral process,” he said in a statement.

He said police would stay away from the area where people were marching.

“The police reminds us that their mission is to protect the population and its property ... to avoid violent clashes, the police decided to withdraw from the protected area (closed to demonstrations).”