By Lovasoa Rabary
ANTANANARIVO (Reuters) – Former Madagascar president Marc Ravalomanana said he had sustained a leg injury on Saturday when police and soldiers fired teargas to disperse a gathering of his supporters and those of other candidates challenging the incumbent president.
The Indian Ocean island is hoping for its third peaceful election since the upheaval of 2009 when incumbent president Andry Rajoelina ousted Ravalomanana in a coup.
Ravalomanana, who is among 11 candidates cleared to challenge Rajoelina in elections set for Nov. 9, showed on his Facebook page a photo of an injury on his left leg with blood dripping from it.
It was not immediately clear what specifically caused the injury.
Julien Andriamorasata, a member of the political bureau of Ravalomanana’s party, confirmed he had been hurt.
“His leg injury seems quite serious,” he told Reuters.
Police and other government officials were not immediately available to comment.
Siteny Randrianasoloniaiko, another presidential candidate, told a news conference addressed by several of the candidates that Ravalomanana was the second candidate in recent days to be injured during a march, after Andry Raobelina was hurt earlier this week.
Marchers were demanding changes to the officials running the election commission and for the formation of a special court to hear election disputes.
They also want Rajoelina to be disqualified from running on the grounds that he is not a Madagascan citizen, an accusation he has in the past dismissed.
“We continue to fight peacefully and without violence,” Roland Ratsiraka, another of the candidates, told the news conference, adding there would be another march on Monday.
Earlier, a Reuters witness at the scene in the centre of Madagascar’s capital Antananarivo confirmed that police had fired teargas at the demonstrators, who numbered in the hundreds.
The Reuters witness said another former president Hery Rajaonarimampianina was also present among the crowd who had gathered to march before the teargas was fired.
Rajoelina resigned in early September after being confirmed as a candidate in the forthcoming poll, in line with Madagascar’s constitution that requires a sitting head of state who wants to contest a presidential election to first step down.
Jaona Ranarivelo, head of Madagascar’s Presbyterian Church, told the same news conference that the church – under the umbrella Ecumenical Council of Christian Churches – was taking steps to bring all the candidates together for talks to ensure the elections run peacefully.
(Reporting by Lovasoa Rabary; Writing by George Obulutsa in Nairobi; Editing by David Holmes)