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Friday, 5 July, 2002, 16:24 GMT 17:24 UK
Q&A: Madagascar turmoil

The Indian Ocean island of Madagascar has been split in two following presidential elections on 16 December 2001. But military and political developments mean an end to the conflict could be in sight. BBC News Online examines the background to the turmoil.

What's the problem?

Yoghurt tycoon Marc Ravalomanana said that he had won the election against Didier Ratsiraka, who has ruled Madagascar for most of the past 30 years.

But Mr Ratsiraka disagreed.

Mr Ravalomanana's support base is in the capital, Antananarivo, and when he declared himself president in February, Mr Ratsiraka set up a rival government in the eastern port city of Tamatave.

Who has the upper hand now?

Marc Ravalomanana
Self-made millionaire: Marc Ravalomanana

It's looking good for Mr Ravalomanana.

In May, the constitutional court declared that he had indeed won the elections after a recount and he was sworn in as president.

His troops have taken three provinces in the past few weeks - ending the blockades which Mr Ratsiraka had imposed on Antananarivo - and look set to move into Mr Ratsiraka's eastern stronghold, Tamatave.

The United States, Japan, Germany, Australia and now France have recognised him as the legitimate leader.

So what's Ratsiraka doing?

Didier Ratsiraka
Long-time ruler: Didier Ratsiraka

He said that the court decision was biased and refused to stand down.

But his forces only remain in control of Tamatave and now he has left the country.

Mr Ratsiraka and his immediate family flew to Seychelles. It is not clear if he was leaving temporarily or going into more permanent exile.

What happens next?

We wait to see whether Mr Ratsiraka's loyalists in Tamatave fight on despite a call by the town's mayor for people to welcome the arrival of Ravalomanana's forces.

And we also wait to see if Mr Ratsiraka has indeed gone into exile.

Mr Ratsiraka previously left power in 1991 but bounced back to win elections in 1994.

Has the dispute been very violent?

Around 70 people have been killed.

But both sides have generally shown a lot of restraint, with the armed forces refusing to take sides for a long time.

The first conflict between armed supporters of the political rivals occurred in June.

What shape is Madagascar in?

A mess.

Before the elections, the economy was booming, with lots of foreign investment.

Factories were set up in an export zone in Antananarivo, providing jobs and foreign exchange.

Until then, Madagascar had largely survived on exporting vanilla.

So what happened?

The blockades on Antananarivo meant the factories closed down and people were laid off.

For many months, it was very difficult to find petrol in the capital.

Prices of basic foods rocketed and aid workers warned of a humanitarian crisis.

If Mr Ratsiraka's rule is now over, Mr Ravalomanana will inherit a very tough job.

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03 Jul 02 | Africa
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