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Monday, 19 November, 2001, 17:42 GMT
Madagascar shuts opposition business
Authorities in Madagascar have closed factories belonging to one of President Didier Ratsiraka's main rivals in presidential elections due next month.

President Didier Ratsiraka
President Ratsiraka is due to begin campaigning shortly
Officials said they had closed the businesses of Marc Ravalomanana because he had a large overdue tax bill.

Associates of Mr Ravalomanana, who is mayor of the capital Antananarivo, said the move to close the mayor's Tiko food business was politically motivated.

The company employs about 5,000 people across Madagascar in factories making dairy products, soft drinks and cooking oil.

'Political machination'

Tax office chief Mamisoa Rakotosalama told AFP news agency the factories were sealed because Mr Ravalomanana had not replied to a tax demand sent in September.

Tiko's managing director, Heriniana Razafimahefa, told reporters that this was a "political machination" and that the matter would be taken up by the courts.

Campaigning for the election is due to begin shortly.

President Ratsiraka has said he is opposed to the presence of foreign observers at the polls at which he will seek a fifth term, saying they would infringe on Madagascar's sovereignty.

Mr Ravalomanana has won support for his efforts to modernise the capital, and is seen posing a strong challenge at the 16 December polls.

There are no other candidates considered to have a chance of winning.

See also:

17 Aug 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Madagascar
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