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Tuesday, 5 March, 2002, 12:37 GMT
Madagascar 'rival capital' named
Agriculture Ministry
President Ratsiraka's portraits are being taken down
A plan to set up a rival capital to opposition-controlled Antananarivo has been revealed by regional governors as the crisis over Madagascar's disputed presidency continues.

Five of the country's six provincial governors, say the new capital should be Tamatave (or Toamasina), an eastern port city which is in incumbent President Didier Ratsiraka's heartland.

Tension has continued in the island state off the east coast of Africa since Marc Ravalomanana, the mayor of Antananarivo, alleged the 16 December presidential election had been fixed.

Mr Ravalomanana declared himself president last week, and on Monday the officials he had named as ministers took control of government buildings in the capital.

Although President Ratsiraka declared martial law in Antananarivo last week, soldiers stood aside as the "ministers" moved into their offices.

Army support

Mr Ravalomanana now controls administrative power in Antananarivo, and has not met any resistance from the military so far.

On Monday he took over as commander of the armed forces and appointed a high-profile general, Jules Mamizara, as his defence minister.

Soldiers in Antanarivo
Soldiers let the opposition enter government offices
Mr Ravalomanana told the BBC he had the support of 80% of the armed forces.

He also said he was ready for dialogue with Mr Ratsiraka.

The only response has been the governors' declaration of Tamatave as the country's new capital, which they say has the support of President Ratsiraka.

But the BBC Alastair Leithead says the move is clearly unconstitutional, and how it could be managed in practical terms also must be questioned.

Madagascar's civil servants have been on strike for the past five weeks, and Mr Ravalomanana says they are ready to go back to work under his new administration.

The Organisation of African Unity (OAU) is to send a "contact group" to Madagascar on Wednesday to try to resolve the political crisis.

See also:

04 Mar 02 | Africa
Madagascar army 'switches sides'
28 Feb 02 | Africa
Martial law imposed in Madagascar
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