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Troops guard Madagascar square after violent protests

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Dozens of soldiers on Sunday threw a cordon around a public square in Madagascar's capital where opposition protests against new electoral laws have killed one person in the restive island nation.

They later vacated the square, clearing the way for some 100 opposition activists to gather, an AFP reporter at the scene said.

One person died and at least 17 were wounded in clashes on Saturday between thousands of opposition activists and security forces in the same square during demonstrations against new laws the opposition claims favour the ruling party and put in place obstacles to the disadvantage of opponents.  

The large Indian Ocean island of Madagascar is due to hold presidential and legislative elections in late November or December.

Authorities had last week declared the Saturday protest illegal but opposition activists defied the order and forged ahead with the demonstration.

President Hery Rajaonarimampianina is out of the country on official business, according to his office, which did not specify his location.

Elected in 2013, Rajaonarimampianina has not yet announced whether he will stand for re-election.

But two former heads of state have already mooted runs: Marc Ravalomanana, who was president from 2002 to 2009, and Andry Rajoelina, who removed him during a coup. 

Both were barred from running in 2013 and their parties were behind Saturday's protests.    

The Indian Ocean island nation endured several years of turmoil after Ravalomanana was ousted as president in the 2009 coup that led to the withdrawal of foreign investment and donor money.

Ravalomanana was overthrown following an army mutiny that allowed Rajoelina -- then Antananarivo mayor -- to become the country's unelected transition president until 2014.

Rajaonarimampianina's arrival in power brought a temporary end to Madagascar's long series of political crises.

tm-sn/nla

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