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Madagascar: opposition protests, candidate briefly arrested

Madagascar: opposition protests, candidate briefly arrested
Opposition member and Presidential candidate Jean Jacques Ratsietison (C) is turned away   -  
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RIJASOLO/AFP or licensors


Madagascar's opposition once again attempted to protest on Monday, but demonstrators were dispersed and one of the candidates in the presidential election, the first round of which is scheduled for November 16, was briefly arrested, police said.

After an upsurge in tension on Saturday, when the police prevented an opposition demonstration in the capital Antananarivo using tear gas, a small procession of opponents tried once again to reach the emblematic Place du 13-Mai, despite a prefectoral ban.

But the center was cordoned off by the forces of law and order, AFP noted.

Six-year-old candidate Jean Jacques Ratsietison, an economist and founder of an association defending the purchasing power of the Malagasy people, was arrested in the late morning, according to several journalists on the scene.

Mr. Ratsietison was finally released in the evening and later declared on national television that the charges against him - acts of violence and attempted coup - were disproportionate.

Madagascar has been shaken for weeks by a fierce electoral battle between the government and a dozen candidates who will oppose incumbent president Andry Rajoelina at the ballot box.

Gathered in a collective in which each candidate is nevertheless running individually for the supreme office, the opponents, who have been calling regularly for over a month to take to the streets, denounce "an institutional coup d'état" orchestrated by Rajoelina in view of the election, and are calling for a "free and fair" election.

At a press briefing on Monday, the police, gendarmerie, and army general staff proposed to ensure the protection of all thirteen presidential candidates, without distinction, and their families.

"We have heard rumors of planned attacks against certain candidates", said a spokesman, specifying that this protection did not apply to political meetings or demonstrations.

Roland Ratsiraka, a candidate of the collective, was outraged by Mr. Ratsietison's arrest, saying it was "not a solution": "We have filed a complaint with the administrative court against the prefect's decision" to ban demonstrations on Place du 13-mai. "The prefect does not respect the law."

Another presidential candidate, Auguste Paraina, denounced the "dictatorship" of this arrest of his colleague "in the middle of the street". "We're not going to stop, we're not afraid!" he told AFP.

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