ANTANANARIVO (AFP) - Thousands of Madagascans on Monday protested Andry Rajoelina's army-backed rise to power, piling further pressure on the island's new master, who is already facing international sanctions. Demonstrators gathered in the capital's Ambohijatovo gardens, chanting slogans against the 34-year-old sacked mayor of the city, who was sworn in as president of a transition authority on Saturday. "Come back our father, come back Ravalo," chanted some of the protesters, referring to deposed president Marc Ravalomanana, who ruled the country for seven years before the army forced him to resign last week and swept Rajoelina to power. "We see Andry Rajoelina's accession to power as illegal and the international community says the same thing," Andrianatoandro Raharinaivo, a spokesman for Ravalomanana's TIM party, told AFP at the rally. Rajoelina, who became the opposition's undisputed leader only two months ago, took the oath as president of a transition authority on Saturday at an inauguration ceremony attended by 40,000 supporters. Unde pressure from the army, the 59-year-old Ravalomanana resigned as president on March 17, clearing the way for Rajoelina after a bitter three-month power struggle during which around 100 civilians died. Rajoelina promptly suspended parliament and said fresh elections might take two years to organise, drawing a barrage of criticism from Western donors and regional powers who describe his takeover as a coup. "We want Rajoelina to leave power. In Madagascar, there can be no inauguration without elections," said another official with close ties to the former regime. Washington, Paris as well as the African Union and the Southern African Development Community all denied the former disc jockey the legitimacy he had craved after successfully toppling Ravalomanana. In an interview with the Financial Times published Monday, Rajoelina urged the international community to respect popular will and refrain from turning off the aid tap to his impoverished Indian Ocean island. "One man alone cannot build a house. But... the international community must know that they must respect the popular will. It's the Malagasy people who decide what happens in Madagascar," he said. Rajoelina also rejected suggestions he took power in a coup, saying: "It was not at all a coup d'etat. The high constitutional court has validated this transfer of power." Rajoelina rose to prominence in 2007 when, as a young entrepreneur, he launched his own television and radio station and mounted a successful electoral bid to become mayor of Antananarivo. As Ravalomanana tightened his grip on power, Rajoelina attracted public support for his outspoken criticism of the president, whom he described as a dictator starving his people and running the country like a private company. Almost a week after he announced his resignation, Ravalomanana's whereabouts remained unclear. Rajoelina, whose cabinet issued an arrest warrant against him last week, said recently that he believed the former president had found refuge in an embassy residence in Antananarivo.