Army-backed leader cements grip in Madagascar

Wed Mar 18, 2009 2:33pm GMT

By Richard Lough

ANTANANARIVO (Reuters) - Madagascar's new president, Andry Rajoelina, celebrated and consolidated power on Wednesday after being appointed by the Indian Ocean island's military in a move drawing international disapproval.

Rajoelina, a 34-year-old former disc jockey who is now the youngest and newest president in Africa, partied with supporters in the street after meeting his ministers to plan strategy.

His priorities are anti-poverty programmes expected by locals, handling international concern at his ascent to power and controlling some dissent in the armed forces.

"We will bring about the return to a normal life, to security and above all national reconciliation, which is at the heart of democracy," he told several thousand supporters celebrating in the capital Antananarivo's May 13 square.

In a boost to Rajoelina's legitimacy, Madagascar's Constitutional Court issued a statement endorsing the takeover.

He is to be formally sworn in on Saturday.

President Marc Ravalomanana, 59, resigned on Tuesday after most of the military backed his rival, who had led weeks of anti-government strikes and protests.

The unrest killed at least 135 people, devastated the $390 million-a-year tourism sector and worried multinationals with investments in the mining and oil industries.   Continued...

<p>Madagascar's new president Andry Rajoelina greets his suppoters at Antananarivo city centre, March 18, 2009. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko</p>
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