Members of Madagascar’s military stormed the presidential palace and overran it Monday evening. President Marc Ravalomanana was in another palace at the time, reports said.
The military took over the palace in Antananarivo, the capital, about 6 p.m. local time (3 p.m. GMT), intensifying the turmoil over whether Ravalomanana stays in office, a government worker told CNN. Ravalomanana pledged Sunday that he would remain in office despite fierce opposition, and urged the country’s military to not intervene. “I am aware of the feelings of anxiety that you feel in the face of intentions to seize power by force,” Ravalomanana told a crowd gathered at the president’s palace Sunday in Lavoloha, according to a statement issued by his office. He pledged to “remain faithful to the people and never leave her alone.” An official with his office told CNN that the president said he would organize a referendum if that would help solve the crisis. The president’s government has been at odds with opposition leader Andry Rajoelina, who recently was ousted as mayor of Antananarivo.
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Rajoelina has called on Ravalomanana to quit. Poverty has been a major issue in Madagascar, boosting Rajoelina’s appeal to a segment of the population angered by the behavior of Ravalomanana, including his recent purchase of a private jet. Earlier Monday, members of Madagascar’s military battled presidential supporters outside the presidential palace.
An eyewitness who blogs from Madagascar, Stefan Armananarivo, told CNN he saw two tanks outside the presidential palace and saw the military shoot at people in the crowd protecting the building. News reports from the scene gave similar descriptions and said the self-declared leader of the armed forces had announced his support for the opposition.