Madagascar’s President Hery Rajaonarimampianina on Sunday refused to yield to opposition demands that he resign from office, following eight days of anti-government protests in the capital.
“I am president by the will of the Malagasy people. There are millions of people who voted for me, it would really betray the people to resign,” the president said at a press conference.
Just seven months from general elections, he is confronted with an unprecedented revolt since coming to power in late 2013.
The opposition accuses the government of trying to elbow them out of the race through new electoral laws they claim benefit the incumbent.
They claim that the new laws could bar some candidates from standing in the presidential election, and they have asked the country’s constitutional court to rule on the measures.
The protests erupted last week and on the first day two people were killed and at least 16 people wounded, with the police accused of firing real bullets at the crowd.
“No one gave the order to the security forces to fire real bullets,” Rajaonarimampianina said Sunday.
“They want to blame the State but it is not responsible.”
The large Indian Ocean island, which has been beset by decades of political instability, is due to hold polls in late November or December.
Rajaonarimampianina has not yet announced whether he will stand for re-election, but on Sunday he was defending his record.
“We are still poor but there are building projects underway everywhere in Madagascar, the aim of which is to improve the living conditions of the population,” he said.
Two former heads of state have already said they would be candidates: Marc Ravalomanana, who was president from 2002 to 2009, and Andry Rajoelina, who removed Ravalomanana during a coup.
Both were barred from running in 2013 and their parties have been involved in the demonstrations.
Representatives of both the president’s party and of the opposition had met on Wednesday to try to find a solution to the crisis, but to no avail.