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Saturday, 2 March, 2002, 11:52 GMT
Malagasy opposition presents 'cabinet'
Choir of opposition supporters
Mass protests have been going on since the elections
Thousands of people in Madagascar have turned out to greet the new cabinet of opposition leader and self-declared president Marc Ravalomanana in the capital Antananarivo, in defiance of martial law.

Introducing the 17 ministers, Mr Ravalomanana's head of government - Jacques Sylla - called for "positive dialogue" to deal with the country's crisis.

Ratsiraka might send military, but if the people don't want Ratsiraka he can't do anything, we will stay anyway

Ravalomanana supporter
Mass protests have been going on since the opposition unilaterally declared victory in December's presidential elections.

Incumbent President Didier Ratsiraka announced martial law on Thursday after opposition protests descended into violence.

But the city's new military governor - appointed by Mr Ratsiraka - said he does not want bloodshed, and his men will not fire on the people.

Marc Ravalomanana at Friday's 'inauguration' rally
Mr Ravalomanana insists he won December's poll
The general strike continues and the incumbent government has lost control of the civil service.

Meanwhile, Mr Ravalomanana named a parallel cabinet and said he intended to get civil servants back to work under his jurisdiction.

But the BBC's Alastair Leithead says there is a question mark about who the military are faithful to.

So far, they have maintained neutrality but as time passes it becomes less likely that they will act to impose control by force.

Call for change

Residents made their way to the May 13 Square early on Saturday for the ceremony to present the new self-declared cabinet.

Crisis timeline
16 Dec - Presidential election held
7 Jan - Opposition claim rigging, begin daily protests
25 Jan - Result announced, run-off ordered
28 Jan - Opposition strike begins
22 Feb - Ravalomanana declares himself president, PM announces state of emergency
27 Feb - First violent clashes in capital
28 Feb - President imposes martial law in capital
"I have had enough of Ratsiraka," said retired civil servant Emeltine Razafindraketaka. "I have given my life to God and to Ravalomanana because he wants to change Madagascar."

"Ratsiraka might send the military but, if the people don't want Ratsiraka, he can't do anything. We will stay anyway," said another protester, Andre Razafindrakoto.

Mr Ratsiraka said he was imposing martial law because of general strikes which have devastated the economy, and violence which he blamed on the opposition.

He said he was handing over all his powers in the capital to a military governor - General Leon Claude Raveloarison - in effect by-passing his rival, the mayor.

Under pressure

Mr Ratsiraka, who was Madagascar's military ruler for 17 years before coming to power in elections in 1996, has been facing mounting pressure to step down.

The formal economy and government have been at a virtual standstill for more than a month due to a general strike and pro-Ravalomanana demonstrations.

Observers say there is an almost complete power vacuum as most government ministries have closed.

The BBC's Alastair Leithead in Antananarivo
"The mass demonstrations are continuing"
See also:

28 Feb 02 | Africa
Martial law imposed in Madagascar
27 Feb 02 | Africa
Riots rock Madagascar
26 Feb 02 | Africa
Rival Madagascar premier named
25 Feb 02 | Africa
Violence flares in Madagascar
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