ANTANANARIVO. March 15 (Xinhua) -- Madagascan President Marc Ravalomanana said here on Sunday that he was ready to hold a national referendum "if necessary" to resolve the current crisis.
Speaking before a crowd of several thousand supporters outside the presidential palace following an ecumenical worship on Sunday morning, Ravalomanana reiterated that he would not resign.
While expressing the willingness to hold a referendum, the president told his supporters that he was confident in the legitimacy of his presidency and his popularity among the Madagascan people to express themselves.
The gesture of the president represented a challenge to his political rival Andry Rajoelina, who has claimed to be "the spokesman of the people" ever since the political stalemate began last December.
Almost at the same time when Ravalomanana was speaking, Rajoelina, the sacked Antananarivo mayor, said also at a worship that he would not mix religions with politics.
Rajoelina called on his supporters to come to an anti-government gathering again on Monday, during which he would announce "big things", which he did not elaborate.
The development came after Rajoelina failed to take over the presidency after 6:00 p.m. (1500 GMT) on Saturday as he threatened to do so earlier on the day.
Addressing a mass gathering after lunch time, Rajoelina gave a four-hour ultimatum to resign peacefully after which he would go to the presidential palace to take over the presidency.
He would go to the presidential palace not for negotiation but to say goodbye to President Ravalomanana, said the sacked Antananarivo mayor.
This is the first time for Rajoelina to show himself in public since March 4, when President Ravalomanana ordered the police and the armed forces to go to street to restore peace and order in the capital city.
The political stalemate between Ravalomanana and Rajoelina, the worst for years in the country, began last December when Ravalomanana ordered to shut down the radio and television station owned to Rajoelina.
On Saturday morning, Prime Minister Charles Rabemananjara's office was taken over by Monja Roindefo, the prime minister appointed by Rajoelina early last month.