Clashes over gag laws before polls leave 1 dead in Madagascar

Clashes between security forces and opposition parties, who are protesting against new election laws, left one dead and 17 injured in Madagascar’s capital Antananarivo on Saturday.

The opposition had denounced President Hery Rajaonarimampianina (pictured) government’s “gag laws” ahead of presidential and legislative elections due to be held in late November or December.

They claim three election laws, adopted earlier this month, favour the ruling party while placing hurdles before opponents.

The president is on an official trip abroad and one opposition lawmaker said it would be good for him to remain where he is.

The restive island nation has witnessed coups. Parties led by two former heads of state — Marc Ravalomanana, who was ousted as president in the 2009 coup, and Andry Rajoelina, who removed him during the coup — are said to be behind Saturday’s protests.

Both Ravalomanana and Rajoelina are planning to run for the president. They were barred from running in 2013.

Rajaonarimampianina, who was voted to power in 2014, has not yet announced whether he will stand for re-election.

Prime Minister Olivier Mahafaly Solonandrasana said he was sad to hear the death of a person during Saturday’s demonstration.

He said an investigation has been launched into the incident adding that people should stop seeking solutions through violence.

On Saturday, the protesters gathered in large numbers at the public square outside the city hall in the capital defying a government order not to hold the “illegal” protest.

Clashes erupted after police fired tear gas to disperse the swelling crowd of protesters occupying the square, an AFP reporter at the scene said. Some angry protesters reacted by hurling rocks at the officers.

Despite criticism against him, Rajaonarimampianina’s rule brought a temporary end to Madagascar’s long series of political crises.