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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Military Likely to Pick Madagascar's President

ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar -- General Edward Randriamiarisoa sighed as he said that his soldiers had no guns. Madagascar's other military has guns, but its authority is blatantly ignored in the capital.

Madagascar finds itself in the bizarre situation of having two defense establishments appointed by competing presidents after a disputed presidential election.

The Indian Ocean island nation also has competing ministries and competing capitals. But it is the split in the military that many believe will determine whether Didier Ratsiraka remains president or the opposition government of his challenger, Marc Ravalomanana, takes control.

The opposition, which includes Randriamiarisoa, claims to have the support of 80 percent of the military, a figure that is disputed by the official government and is almost impossible to verify.

However, it is apparent that officers loyal to Ratsiraka are in control of the camps where the nation's weapons are stored.

The dispute followed the release of official results from the Dec. 16 election showing no candidate had won more than half the vote, forcing a runoff between Ratsiraka and Ravalomanana.

Ratsiraka insists the runoff should go ahead, but Ravalomanana says he won outright and will only agree to another election if his allegations of vote rigging are investigated.

Last month, Ravalomanana, 51, the popular mayor of the capital Antananarivo, began appointing an alternative Cabinet and seizing government offices -- including the Defense Ministry -- as the military watched passively.

Randriamiarisoa, secretary-general of the Defense Ministry, is one of 20 senior generals to have formally pledged allegiance to Ravalomanana.

Madagascar only has about 13,000 soldiers and 8,000 military police. While the military police are reasonably equipped and trained, only a small fraction of the army is believed to be battle-ready.

Randriamiarisoa finds himself at political loggerheads with some of his former colleagues and unsure of the loyalties of the troops under his command.

The 67-year-old Ratsiraka -- who relocated his government to the eastern city of Toamasina -- appointed General Leon Raveloarison as military governor of Antananarivo after Ravalomanana proclaimed himself president.

With only 1,000 troops and the most basic of weapons at his disposal, Raveloarison concedes his control is limited.

Western diplomats believe a military solution to the political stalemate is unlikely, but feel the generals can play a key role in forcing the dispute back to the negotiating table.