March 17th, 2009 in Breaking News, Martial Law, World Alerts

Madagascar under martial law

Madagascar president hands over power to military - Yahoo! News.

ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar – Madagascar’s president handed over power Tuesday — but not to the rival who plunged this Indian Ocean island nation into weeks of turmoil with his bid for power.

In a radio address Tuesday, President Marc Ravalomanana said he was ceding power to the military.

“After deep reflection, I have decided to dissolve the government and give up power so that a military directorate can be established,” he said. “This decision was very difficult and very hard, but it had to be made. We need calm and peace to develop our country.”

An aide to Ravalomanana said the military directorate would be made up of veteran, high-ranking military leaders who would organize a national conference that would be responsible for holding elections within two years. Ravalomanana’s term would have ended in 2011.

The members of the directorate were not named.

There was no immediate reaction from opposition leader Andry Rajoelina, who has led weeks of anti-government protests.

Rajoelina accuses Ravalomanana of misspending public funds and undermining democracy in Madagascar — an impoverished Indian Ocean island of the coast of Africa known both for its natural beauty and its history of political infighting and instability.

Over the weekend, Rajoelina declared himself president of a transitional government and promised new presidential elections within two years. On Monday, he called on the army to arrest the president, but soldiers refused.

The president says Rajoelina is seeking power by unconstitutional means. A breakaway army faction had claimed it was neutral and interested only in restoring order, but the split in the military has greatly weakened the president.