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Tuesday, 26 February, 2002, 13:20 GMT
Rival Madagascar premier named
Jacques Sylla (left) and Marc Ravalomanana (right) shake hands
People are waiting to see how the government will react
The self-proclaimed president of Madagascar, Marc Ravalomanana, has named a prime minister to head a parallel government in the latest twist in a dispute over presidential elections.

The man he has appointed is a former foreign minister, Jacques Sylla.


I am very happy. Now we will begin to work for this country

Jacques Sylla
Mr Ravalomanana declared himself president on Friday after negotiations over the disputed election result ended without agreement.

The same day, the goverment of incumbent president Didier Ratisiraka gave itself extra powers to try to counter his claim.

But no action has been taken yet to prevent mass demonstrations in the capital or to arrest Mr Ravalomanana.

And there have been continuing reports of isolated incidents of violence around the island.

Serious challenge

The new prime minster said he would begin appointing his cabinet very shortly, and that he wanted an open government.

The BBC's Alistair Leithead, who is in Madagascar, said this suggests that Mr Sylla will perhaps call on members of other political parties to join him.

Mr Sylla, a lawyer from Tomatave in the east of the island, served in the administration of President Albert Zafy in the early 1990s.
President Didier Ratsiraka
President Ratsiraka denies the counting was rigged

He insisted that the government of Marc Ravalomanana was legitimate and legal.

The new prime minister's appointment was announced during a brief ceremony in the capital Antananarivo - Mr Ravalomanana's stronghold.

But there has been no response from Mr Ratsiraka's administration to this serious challenge to their authority.

People are waiting to see how they will react.

At the weekend, Mr Ravalomana said the priority was to meet the military to try to win their support, and then to bring the civil service back to work - but under his control.

'Cheated'

Isolated incidents of violence continue to be reported around the island, but so far the situation remains peaceful in the capital Antananarivo.

A television and radio station in the second city, Fianarantsoa, was destroyed at the weekend.

An overnight curfew was introduced in the city, about 180 kilometres from Antananarivo.

Mr Ravalomanana believes he was cheated in the December elections. He beat Mr Ratsiraka, but not by a big enough margin to win outright.

He has proposed a referendum to resolve the election dispute which has sparked weeks of strikes and mass demonstrations.

Demonstrations are now banned under the state of emergency and the government is empowered to requisition all public services and take total control over the media, the post and telephone service.

Mr Ratsiraka, who is reported to have left the capital for his stronghold in the east of the country, has said that the opposition leader's campaign is illegal and unconstitutional.

Talks to resolve the stalemate over the elections and the widespread evidence of fraud have failed to produce an agreement.

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Alistair Leithead
"People power is something the self proclaimed new president can rely on"
See also:

25 Feb 02 | Africa
Violence flares in Madagascar
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