President Marc Ravalomanana's proposal of a holding a referendum to end Madagascar's violent political crisis has been met with rejection and, worse, a call for his arrest by opposition leader Andry Rajoelina.
In a radio address to the nation on 15 March the embattled president said holding a referendum was the only way to "truly hear the demands of the people through a democratic process", and bring an end to a crisis that has "economically and socially fatal consequences" for the country.
In response, Rajoelina, former mayor of the capital, Antananarivo, and self-declared leader of the Indian Ocean island, turned down the proposal and said on national television: "The referendum is already done; the people have already expressed themselves - the resignation of Ravalomanana is the solution."
At a rally in Antananarivo on 16 March Rajoelina went even further and urged the military to arrest Ravalomanana because "Andry Rajoelina is impatient to get into office," local media reported. He said he had appointed his own parallel "transition government" and a new prime minister.
Military in the middle
After an "emergency meeting" on the situation in Madagascar on 16 March, the Peace and Security Council of the African Union (AU) strongly condemned any attempt to take power by force and appealed for a dialogue to find a solution to the conflict.
"If the opposition wants to seize control without fulfilling legal and constitutional requirements, that will be seen as a coup d'état and we will condemn it," Edouard Alo-Glele, Benin's envoy to the AU, told reporters in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
While Madagascar's military traditionally remains neutral during political disputes, elements in the ranks have openly said they will step in if a solution is not found soon. It is still unclear where loyalties lie, or to what extent.
The army has also denied it was involved in a series of explosions heard close to the presidential residence - initially raising fears of possible violence - where some of Ravalomanana's supporters had gathered in the early hours of 16 March.
Rajoelina and Ravalomanana have been locked in a political struggle since January 2009, in which over 135 people have been killed in rioting and an army crackdown on protesters.
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This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions