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Madagascar coup attempt: rebel leaders appear to lose momentum

Madagascar mutineers announced a coup attempt Wednesday, the same day the unstable country held a constitutional referendum. But there has been no movement from the coup leaders.

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He would not say how many people were behind them, apart from two generals and "not a bad number" of other military personnel, or whether their coup announcement followed had political rather than military backing.

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He said they were military politicians who aimed to put in a new, inclusive, government to help restore peace and prosperity to the ailing island after 20 months of economic and diplomatic isolation.

President's hope in elections

Rajoelina expected the elections to be the first step toward restoring order and confidence in Madagascar after the international community refused to recognize his presidency. Yesterday's actions were not the vote of confidence he expected, and many think that he will be forced back to the negotiating table at home and abroad.

The referendum was boycotted by the Indian Ocean island's main opposition parties, as they did not participate in government-led talks with around 100 smaller parties that created the constitution and electoral calendar.

This week's vote precedes long-awaited legislative and presidential elections next year, but critics say that the new constitution is a tool to legitimize his power, as it does not set a deadline for the transition.

Candidates must also be resident in the country six months prior to standing, which some view as a block to rival the former president, Marc Ravalomanana, who has lived in South African exile since forced out by Rajoelina's coup. He was sentenced to life imprisonment with hard labor in August.

The opposition's refusal to participate has so far not yielded the desired result, according to the most recent results from the National Independent Electoral Commission today, which claimed a higher than average 46 percent participation, with 68 percent voting for and 31 percent against.

There was no national, credible "no" party until last week, when Pierrot Rajaonarivelo, head of the opposition Madagascar Democracy Movement, joined fellow lawyers in opposing the new constitution on the grounds that the government awareness campaign was insufficient and people did not know what they were voting for.

Harotsilavo Rakotoson, a lawyer and "no" campaigner, said that "one of the government's concerns is the lack of popular legitimacy. They will use a positive result to pretend they have been elected by Madagascar's people.''

He predicts the no party will take Antananarivo, but the yes will claim the rest of the country.

Fellow Harvard Law School graduate Sahondra Rabenarivo agrees that this document will be used to legitimize the government, but that yesterday's actions have taken the spotlight off the referendum and returned it to Madagascar's fractious military and political instability.

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