- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 18, 2002

ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar The Supreme Court of Madagascar yesterday annulled the results of December's disputed presidential election and called for a recount.
It proclaimed the "nullity" of results announced in January from a first-round presidential vote held Dec. 16. Businessman Marc Ravalomanana declared himself the outright winner after the High Constitutional Court (HCC) gave him the edge over incumbent President Didier Ratsiraka, but not outright victory. The challenger charged that the count was rigged.
Jacques Sylla, Mr. Ravalomanana's prime minister, told reporters yesterday that Mr. Ravalomanana would take part in a second-round runoff if determined necessary after the proposed recount.
On April 10, the Supreme Court annulled the HCC, saying that the decree nominating the panel had been "tainted with irregularities." However, in yesterday's ruling, it reinstated the panel. Legal scholars said the reinstatement means the same HCC will carry out the recount. Of the nine members of the HCC, five are known to favor Mr. Ratsiraka.
Meanwhile, the European Union yesterday called for "a government of national reconciliation" for Madagascar, which it said should organize new elections. The EU also condemned violence and human-rights violations that have racked Madagascar since the disputed election.
The 15-country bloc urged Messrs. Ravalomanana and Ratsiraka to seize the opportunity of their current visits to Senegal to hold a meeting under the auspices of the Organization for African Unity (OAU).
The two would-be presidents of Madagascar had separate meetings early yesterday in Dakar with four African presidents, who are trying to mediate in their election dispute.
An observer at the talks in the Senegalese capital said the rivals seemed inflexible and that brokering peace would be difficult.
But another observer said the two men would not have "traveed across the whole of Africa" if they did not want an end to the status quo. "I think both of them want to find a compromise," the source said on the condition of anonymity.
A day earlier, two civilian women and an army general loyal to Mr. Ratsiraka were killed in separate incidents in Madagascar as tension and violence continued.
Gen. Raymond Randrianaivo was assassinated by three gunmen at a hospital in the central city of Fianarantsoa, where he had been taken after being injured.
His killing came hours after the deaths of two women who were shot by troops under his command during unrest in the troubled city. A hospital worker said the two women ages 16 and 31 were "fatally wounded by soldiers who randomly opened fire from three trucks at the southern exit from the city."
Several policemen told Agence France-Presse that Mr. Ratsiraka's backers had sent a convoy of around 20 soldiers from Toliara, some 250 miles away on the southwestern coast, to bolster pro-Ratsiraka troops protecting the besieged governor's palace in Fianarantsoa.
More violence was reported earlier Tuesday, when mobs torched the homes of two of Mr. Ratsiraka's backers in Antsirabe, in apparent retaliation for the destruction of a key bridge as part of a continuing blockade of the capital, Antananarivo, Mr. Ravalomanana's stronghold.

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