Antananarivo (AFP) - Madagascar's president defended himself Wednesday through his lawyers, denouncing a recent vote to impeach him as an attempted "institutional coup d'etat".
The country's parliament voted overwhelmingly two weeks ago to dismiss President Hery Rajaonarimampianina for alleged constitutional violations and general incompetence in the Indian Ocean state.
But the president has challenged the legality of the lawmakers' decision, accusing his opponents of having bought the vote, and the constitutional court is assessing whether the impeachment process can go ahead.
Rajaonarimampianina's lawyers said Wednesday that lawmakers are not entitled to file a complaint against the president and therefore acted illegally.
"Hence our qualification of an institutional coup d'etat," said one of the lawyers, Sahondra Randriamorasata, regarding the impeachment motion.
He noted that lawmakers were already speculating about the replacement of the head of state by Jean Max Rakotomamonjy, the current parliamentary speaker.
The five lawyers for the lawmakers cited seven constitutional violations by the president, 27 laws not promulgated within strict deadlines, and three never enacted.
They also highlighted the violent seizing of an opposition lawmaker's car and $74,000 in cash in the capital Antananarivo.
Officers used tear gas to disperse about 20 opposition lawmakers at the scene who tried to halt the search by arguing that female lawmaker Lanto Rakotomanga was protected under parliamentary immunity.
Only lawyers, lawmakers and journalists were admitted at the court hearing, without cameras or recording devices.
A few dozen students demonstrated briefly near the strictly-guarded court to demanding the resignation of the president.
Rajaonarimampianina, an accountant, came to power in 2013 elections, vowing to end turmoil after his predecessor Marc Ravalomanana was ousted in a coup. But the latest developments threaten to revive political chaos.