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Friday, 22 February, 2002, 20:38 GMT
State of emergency in Madagascar
Ravalomanana's 'inauguration' ceremony
The new security measures ban demonstrations
Madagascar's President Didier Ratsiraka has imposed a state of emergency after opposition leader Marc Ravalomanana declared himself president.

The President of the Republic decrees a state of national necessity across the entire national territory for three months

Prime Minister Tantely Andrianarivo

The announcement was made by Prime Minister Tantely Andrianarivo after the opposition leader told hundreds of thousands of supporters he was now leading the country.

The prime minister said the so-called "state of necessity" was valid for three months and gave Mr Ratsiraka powers to pass laws by decree.

The emergency measures ban demonstrations and allow the government to requisition all public services and take total control over the media, the post and telephone service.

There has as yet been no response from Mr Ravalomanana, but the BBC's Alistair Leithead says the next 24 hours will be crucial for the future of the island.

Carnival over

The crowds began to disperse quickly after the announcement of the state of emergency, which gives police wide-ranging powers of arrest.

Marc Ravalomanana at Friday's rally
Ravalomanana insists he won December's polls

About 100,000 had earlier gathered in a stadium to witness Mr Ravalomanana's declaration that he was president.

The announcement of the state of emergency followed swiftly, giving the president the power to ban any public assembly and to order anyone to be questioned for disturbing public order.

"If necessary, the period could be prolonged," Mr Andrianarivo was quoted as saying after a cabinet meeting.

Mr Ratsiraka has said that the opposition leader's campaign is illegal and unconstitutional.

The United States also criticized Mr Ravalomanana's unilateral move and urged him to reconsider his actions.

"The United States objects to the action taken by opposition presidential candidate Marc Ravalomanana to declare himself president," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher was quoted as saying.

Crisis timeline
16 Dec - Presidential election held
7 Jan - Opposition claim rigging, begin daily protests
16 Jan - Court orders vote recount
25 Jan - Result announced, run-off ordered
28 Jan - Opposition strike begins
22 Feb - Ravalomanana declares himself president, PM announces state of emergency

"We urge Mr Ravalomanana and all parties to consider carefully the repercussions that extralegal or violent actions could have on Madagascar's future and its relationship with the international community," he said.

Mr Ravalomanana won December's elections but officially not by enough to secure the presidency without a second round of voting.

He claimed the first round was rigged and vowed to take over the role of president. The government wants a second round of voting.

Hundreds of thousands of Mr Ravalomanana's supporters have taken to the streets of the capital almost daily ever since then in support of his claim.

A general strike has also paralysed the island.

Talks chaired by the Organization of African Unity to settle the stalemate over the elections and the widespread evidence of fraud have failed to produce an agreement.


Our correspondent says the carnival mood was fast evaporating after a day of celebrations on the streets of the capital.

Opposition supporters
The carnival atmosphere has fast evaporated

He added that many will remember the last time there was a popular movement in Madagascar to depose President Ratsiraka in 1991.

As many as 100 people were killed during those protests when the presidential guard opened fire on the demonstrators.

Since December's elections, there have been weeks of strikes in support of Mr Ravalomanana in Antananarivo, where he enjoys widespread support.

But officials had said earlier that they would not let Mr Ravalomanana take power.

"The affairs of state won't suffer any vague desires for a forceful takeover," Mr Andrianarivo told journalists on Thursday.

The BBC's Alastair Leithead
"It is a very critical time in the future of Madagascar"
See also:

20 Feb 02 | Africa
'Power seized' in Madagascar
14 Feb 02 | Africa
Madagascar's capital 'cut off'
15 Feb 02 | Business
Election row sours Malagasy success
12 Feb 02 | Africa
Call to postpone Madagascar poll
11 Feb 02 | Africa
OAU chief in Madagascar
09 Feb 02 | Africa
Madagascar vote 'rigged'
05 Feb 02 | Africa
'Ghost day' in Madagascar
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