Madagascar’s president defies resignation demands

ANTANANARIVO (Reuters) – Madagascar’s President  Marc Ravalomanana defied an opposition demand yesterday to  resign and end a political crisis on the Indian Ocean island  that has killed more than 135 people this year.

The president of the Indian Ocean island is under growing  pressure. Some dissident soldiers said this week Ravalomanana  should go and a former prime minister defected to the opposition yesterday, saying his former close ally should resign.

Opposition leader Andry Rajoelina emerged from hiding to  tell thousands of his supporters in the capital’s central square  he was giving Ravalomanana four hours to quit.

Less than an hour after the deadline passed, Ravalomanana  came out of his presidential palace to talk to thousands of his  own supporters blocking the road from the city centre.

“Yes, of course I’m still the president,” he told Reuters.  “No, I will not be resigning in the next 24 hours.”

The political crisis has been running since the beginning of  the year, damaging Madagascar’s image as a destination for  foreign investment and crippling the island’s $390 million a  year tourist industry.

Rajoelina, 34, a former disc jockey, had been under UN  protection since fleeing attempts to arrest him last week. He  calls the president a dictator and has tapped into deep public  resentment at Ravalomanana’s failure to tackle poverty.

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