Madagascar’s deposed leader Marc Ravalomanana has denied rumours he is seeking political asylum abroad and condemned violations of human rights under the new government. Many fear his possible return to the crisis-wracked Indian Ocean island would trigger more of the political violence that battered the country’s $390 million-a-year tourism sector and worried foreign investors earlier this year.

formerRavalomanana, who surrendered power in March under pressure from the army and fled to southern Africa, insists he remains the legitimate leader of the Indian Ocean island and has rejected sharing power with new president Andry Rajoelina. “(Ravalomanana) denied reports that the president is applying for asylum in South Africa as has been incorrectly reported in Madagascar and elsewhere,” said the written statement released late on Tuesday.

Relative calm has returned to the streets of the volatile capital Antananarivo though tensions remain high after a spate of political arrests and a violent crackdown on anti-government demonstrators. Ravalomanana called the protracted political crisis a fight for citizens’ rights, a struggle he said he was prepared to lead.

However observers, who say the self-made millionaire lacks popular and military support, suggest his return is improbable while there remains an arrest warrant for him. “Ravalomanana won’t be back soon. His backing is mostly among the middle class and he is not popular with the poor who are the majority. The memories of his errors are too fresh,” said Lydie Boka of the risk consultancy group StrategieCo.



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