afrol News, 17 November - As a controversial referendum is ongoing in Madagascar, Colonel Charles Andrianasoavina claims to have taken control over the island in a coup to "restore democracy" and seek "national reconciliation". He is calling on troops to support his coup.
The situation in Madagascar has remained very unclear throughout the afternoon, with contradicting statements about who controls the capital Antananarivo.
Colonel Andrianasoavina was among the top army officials supporting Mr Rajoelina as he came to power in a coup exactly twenty month ago. Other top army and police leaders this afternoon said they were still loyal to transitional leader Andry Rajoelina.
The colonel claims to have installed a "military council for the welfare of the people," suspending the transitional government of Mr Rajoelina. Mr Andrianasoavina has installed himself in barracks at an army base close to the Antananarivo airport.
Army officers loyal to transitional leader Rajoelina claim they are in control of the capital and stated they would act against the possible "mutiny" of Colonel Andrianasoavina. Mr Rajoelina so far has made no statements on the announced coup.
Transitional Prime Minister Camille Vital however has said government is staying in control, claiming the coup announcement only was made to discredit today's referendum. Colonel Andrianasoavina this evening answered by calling on "brothers in the armed forces" to flock to his barracks and support the power take-over.
The alleged coup comes as the Malagasy population today was called to vote in a referendum over a draft constitution that would legitimise the rule of Mr Rajoelina, that would effectively ban the country's top opposition leaders, including toppled President Marc Ravalomanana, from standing candidate in an upcoming election.
The referendum has been highly controversial, as the proposed constitution was drafted unilaterally by Mr Rajoelina, ignoring the South Africa-brokered negotiations with exiled Malagasy leaders to return Madagascar to a constitutional order.
Mr Rajoelina has continuously lost support from top military leaders as Madagascar has drifted into political instability and international isolation since the 2009 coup. Madagascar has been suspended by the African Union (AU) and Southern African Development Community (SADC), while major donors such as the European Union (EU) and the US have suspended their large aid and trade programmes. The economy has suffered strongly from this isolation.
Transitional leader Rajoelina and his wife today cast their "yes" votes in favour of Madagascar's draft constitution at the Science and Agriculture school in Ambatobe at 08:15 hours this morning, warning that "troublemakers" during the referendum would be handled "by security forces."
Ex-President Ravalomanana has yet to comment on the alleged coup. His party Tiako i Madagasikara however reports from Antananarivo that military forces were "appealing for calm" during the current unclear situation.
A successfull coup in Madagascar may be secretely welcomed by the international community if the putschists embark on a national reconciliation and democratic transition process, involving opposition politicians.
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