Coups and popular revolts - sometimes in
collaboration - have characterized Madagascar's politics
during independence after 1960. There have also been
frictions between the inhabitants of the interior and
the coastal areas, as well as contradictions between
those who wished to have a strong central power and
those who advocated regional autonomy.
The first few years after independence from France in
1960 became troubled in Madagascar. President Philibert
Tsiranana's submissiveness to the French (see Older
History) led to him having to relinquish power in 1972
to Commander-in-Chief Gabriel Ramanantsoa, who pursued
a more leftist and nationalist policy.
List of most commonly used acronyms containing Madagascar. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.
Following a police riot, in February 1975,
Ramanantsoa surrendered power to another military,
Richard Ratsimandrava, who was murdered six days later
under unclear circumstances. Thereafter, a military
council took office which broke down the mutiny,
dissolved all political parties and introduced press
censorship. In June of that year, one of the members of
the military council, Commander Didier Ratsiraka, was
Ratsiraka, who is côtier (off the coast), proclaimed
a socialist revolution that meant the privatization of
private and French-owned companies, including French
banks. His politics were largely based on Marxist and
Socialist one-party rule
Ratsiraka, in practice, acquired dictatorial power.
He founded the Party of Madagascan Revolutionary Forces
(Arema) in 1976, which became the core of the unity
front of the National Front for the Defense of the
Malagasy Socialist Revolution (FNDR). All parties
wishing to participate in elections had to belong and be
approved by FNDR.
While Ratsiraka made contacts with North Korea and
the Soviet Union and sought to build a position as
spokesman for the Third World, the unrest in society
increased. Behind the unrest were unemployment,
corruption, crime and a lack of basic commodities. The
food shortage triggered violent demonstrations in the
coastal cities in the south in 1985. Proposals for
changes in higher education led to strong student
protests. Opposition to the regime also grew among the
parties of the unit front.
Ratsiraka was re-elected in 1989 but in the same year
was forced to give up the power front of the unit front.
Communism's fall in Eastern Europe had increased
Madagascar's dependence on French aid. The combination
of an increasingly loud opposition and harsh pressure
from the donors forced Ratsiraka to introduce
multi-party systems in 1990.
Several of the unity front parties opposed the
government, along with a number of start-ups. The
parties loyal to Ratsiraka joined Arema and formed a new
alliance, Madagascar's militant movement for socialism.
Ratsiraka's regime is falling
In 1991, a newly formed opposition alliance, the
Living Forces Committee, announced mass demonstrations
and general strikes. The alliance, led by, among others,
surgery professor Albert Zafy, challenged the regime by
ignoring demonstration bans and appointing a provisional
shadow government. During a peaceful demonstration
outside the presidential palace in August 1991,
Ratsiraka's bodyguards killed at least 100 protesters.
After that, the demands for a negotiated solution began
to increase from both the army and foreign aid donors.
Ratsiraka was forced to cooperate with the opposition.
In October of that year, a transitional government was
formed under the leadership of Zafy.
Despite fierce opposition from Ratsiraka, the new
government in 1992 passed a new constitution that gave
increased power to the National Assembly (Parliament),
while emphasizing that the country would remain a
In the 1993 presidential election, Zafy won by a
large majority over Ratsiraka. In the election to the
National Assembly that year, parties with roots in the
Living Forces Committee got a clear majority, but they
were divided and those loyal to Zafy were at a
After a conflict with his prime minister, Zafy pushed
through a 1995 referendum that the president - not the
parliament - would appoint the head of government. Zafy,
however, continued to run into parties that had
previously stood on his side and soon got the whole
parliament against him. In July 1996, he was dismissed
by Parliament for violating the Constitution.
Ratsiraka back in power
When a new presidential election was held in November
1996, Ratsiraka was able to regain power. He had the
constitution rewritten so that the president's power was
strengthened at the expense of parliament and the
provinces gained greater independence. The proposals
were approved by a small majority in a referendum in
The May 1998 parliamentary elections gave the
Ratsiraka party Arema a clear majority with the support
of several other parties. With democratic means, the
former dictator had now gained control of both
Parliament and the government and the presidential post.
In 1999, the politically untested corporate leader
Marc Ravalomanana was elected mayor of the capital
Antananarivo. He quickly became popular and in December
2001 he ran for president. Sensationally, Ravalomanana
received the most votes in the first round of elections.
The official figures were 46 percent of the votes for
Ravalomanana as against 40 percent for Ratsiraka.
However, Ravalomanana himself claimed that he received
more than 52 percent and should be called out to the
president immediately, instead of meeting Ratsiraka in a
second, crucial election round.
The Constitutional Court, where six judges had
recently been replaced by the president, rejected
Ravalomanana's claim and there was a tug of war for
power. Every day for many weeks in early 2002, close to
100,000 followers gathered at Ravalomanana in the center
of Antananarivo demanding that he be appointed
president. From the end of January, the confrontation
intensified when a strike crippled almost all economic
activity in the capital. The strike, according to the
World Bank Madagascar, cost up to $ 14 million a day.
Only at the end of March did Ravalomanana stop the
The country is divided in power struggle
In February 2002, Ravalomanana was declared president
with the help of a judge who had taken a stand for him.
He appointed ministers and these could enter the
government offices because a large part of the police
and army no longer obeyed orders from the official
Ravalomanana had compact support in the capital, but
in the countryside, Ratsiraka's position was strong.
Five of the six provincial governors joined Ratsiraka
and declared the port city of Toamasina the "capital" of
the official government. Arema's supporters blocked the
road between Toamasina and Antananarivo to starve the
capital, where there was soon a serious shortage of
In March of the same year, the demonstrations for or
against Ravalomanana began to become more violent and
several fatalities occurred. Not least in Toamasina, the
power struggle gained an ethnic character, when local
côtiers loyal to Ratsiraka attacked people with a merina
background from the highlands, who were associated with
Ravalomanana. Madagascar seemed to be able to go to
In April 2002, the Supreme Court overturned
Ratsiraka's decision to substitute the Constitutional
Court. Thus, the Constitutional Court's decision on the
election result was also invalidated. Then the
re-elected judges announced that a recalculation of the
votes showed that Ravalomanana had received 51 percent
and Ratsiraka 36 percent. Although Ratsiraka had
previously agreed to the recalculation, he refused to
accept the result. When Ravalomanana formally took
office in May, four of the six provinces were still on
Ravalomanana wins in the power struggle
The situation in the blocked capital was getting
worse, among other things, food and fuel began to fall.
Ravalomanana decided to break the blockade with the
military's help and fighting broke out. At the end of
June, Ravalomanana's forces gained control of all but
two provinces. On July 5, Ratsiraka finally gave up and
fled to France. At the same time, the government-loyal
army entered Toamasina, whose local commander gave up
the resistance a few days later.
Following pressure from donors, Ravalomanana
announced that a new election to Parliament would be
held in December 2002. The election became a landslide
victory for his party I Love Madagascar (TIM), which got
its own majority in the National Assembly.
Ratsiraka was sentenced in August 2003 in his absence
to ten years of criminal work for misappropriation of
public funds. He was accused of withdrawing the
equivalent of SEK 70 million from the central bank
before he fled.
In 2003, Ravalomanana was able to get serious about
its efforts to boost the economy through market economy
reforms. The President did not neglect an opportunity to
try to attract foreign investors to the country.
Repeated political unrest did occasionally contribute to
scare off both investors and tourists, but in the
following years some stability was nevertheless created.
For example, Ravalomanana pushed through the
privatization of state-owned enterprises, which gave
money to the Treasury. The economy gradually improved
and the government's confidence in the outside world and
among donors was strengthened.
Rajoelina grabbed power
President Ravalomanana was re-elected in December
2006 but had now begun to receive criticism for not
fighting vigorously enough for poverty and for greatly
promoting his own business interests. In the
parliamentary elections in September 2007, a breakdown
was noticed in the government circle. Several members of
the presidential party TIM resigned, and it was mostly
the division within the opposition that allowed TIM to
retain the majority.
In December 2008, authorities closed the
government-critical private television channel Viva,
which was owned by then 34-year-old Mayor of
Antananarivo, Andry Rajoelina. From this moment he
launched a fierce campaign against the government. He
urged the president to step down and demanded that he
himself be allowed to lead a transitional government
until the next presidential election.
At the end of January 2009, chaos erupted in
Antananarivo with looting and arson, since Rajoelina
called for strikes. On January 31, he proclaimed himself
the country's leader. Rajoelina's popular support
increased as the military killed about 30 of his
supporters who marched toward the presidential palace.
During a few chaotic weeks, parts of the army and key
personnel in the state apparatus went over to
Rajoelina's side. Soldiers forced the army chief to
resign and on March 17, Ravalomanana was pressured to
surrender power to the army, which immediately handed it
over to Rajoelina.
Transitional regime under Rajoelina
On the following day, the Constitutional Court
approved Rajoelina's takeover of power, and on March 21
he formally took office. Because he was too young to be
head of state - the constitution prescribed a minimum
age of 40 - he called himself "president of the High
Transitional Authority". Both the United States and
France described the change of power as a coup, and the
AU excluded Madagascar until further notice.
Ravalomanana went after the coup in the country. He
was sentenced in June 2009 in his absence to four years
in prison and fines for misuse of public funds.
Rajoelina had believed that the outside world would
recognize him as president. Instead, the economic base
for the country was eroded as investors, tourists and
donors withdrew. The setbacks caused him to enter into a
transition regime agreement with the three previous
presidents Ravalomanana, Ratsiraka and Zafy. The
agreement was signed in August 2009 in Maputo,
Mozambique with the help of international mediators. It
would apply until the next presidential and
parliamentary elections, to be held by the end of 2010.
Impunity was issued for Ravalomanana and Ratsiraka - and
indirectly also for Rajoelina - for any crimes committed
during the political turmoil.
But since the four parties had failed in the
distribution of the key ministerial posts, Rajoelina
presented in September instead his own government which
consisted almost entirely of people loyal to him.
Internationally, the new government received a chilly
reception. Faced with the threat that Madagascar would
lose nearly a billion dollars in aid, the four agreed in
November on a new power-sharing agreement, but a month
later no transitional government had been formed. When
Rajoelina failed to attend a new meeting in Maputo in
December, the three presidents made a "fair"
distribution of ministerial posts but were then accused
by Rajoelina of coup attempt and high treason.
In the following months, Rajoelina stepped back step
by step from the agreements and finally took open
distance from the co-government.
On March 17, 2010 - the day a year after the coup -
the AU imposed new sanctions on Rajoelina and about 100
of his supporters. The penalties included travel bans
and frozen assets in foreign banks.
Pressured even by its own military leadership,
Rajoelina made new contact with Ravalomanana in April
2010 and in May presented a timetable for a return to
democratic rule. Before any of this was accomplished,
Ravalomanana was sentenced in his absence to life
imprisonment and sentencing for the shooting deaths in
In November 2010, a referendum was held on a new
constitution, despite protests from the outside world
and despite the larger opposition parties calling for a
boycott. The most important change was that the age to
be elected president was lowered. The critics felt that
the sole purpose of the new constitution was to secure
Rajoelina's continued power holdings. 99 percent of the
slightly over 50 percent of voters who participated in
the referendum said yes to the proposed changes.
New elections are announced
In early 2011, Rajoelina signed an agreement with
eight opposition parties on a "roadmap for democracy". A
transitional government was formed and new promises of
general elections were made, and in September of the
same year, Ravalomanana's and Zafy's groupings also
signed the agreement, which would pave the way for
elections within a year. This was followed by the
transitional government being replaced in November with
a unifying government in which the parties of the two
presidents decided, after some doubt, to participate.
The third president, Ratsiraka, returned in the same
vein to his home country after nine years in exile. But
in spite of the agreement, in January 2012, Ravalomanana
refused to return from his exodus in South Africa. His
party then decided to interrupt government cooperation.
Without a solution to the domestic political crisis,
in August 2012, the Election Commission announced
presidential and parliamentary elections in the spring
and summer of 2013. The election was postponed several
times, but finally the presidential election was held in
two rounds in October and December.
The fears that arose about the unrest in the
elections were not true. It could be carried out under
Rajoelina's favorite wins
A special electoral court had banned Rajoelina,
Ravalomanana and Ratsiraka from participating, and the
final battle for the presidential post was instead
between candidates that Rajoelina and Ravalomanana
supported. Winner was former Finance Minister Hery
Rajaonarimampianina, Rajoelina's favorite. Jean-Louis
Robinson, supported by Ravalomanana, came in second.
In the parliamentary elections, which were also held
in December, Rajoelina's newly formed support party got
the most mandate with President Andry Rajoelina, but not
his own majority. The second largest party was the
Ravalomanana movement, which was made up of supporters
of the president. Three came the newly formed party
Madagasker, which starts again together.
International observatories approved the election and
described it as well-organized.
When Rajaonarimampianina took office as president in
January 2014, the change of power from coup leader to
popular president meant that Madagascar could begin a
political and economic recovery after the crisis years.
International lenders such as the IMF and the World Bank
resumed cooperation with the country through renewed
direct budget support. At the same time, Madagascar was
welcomed back as a member of the AU.
New political unrest
In April of that year, physician Roger Kolo was
appointed new prime minister for a government consisting
of mostly professional experts or relatively unknown
politicians. Only two representatives of Rajoelina's
party Mapar were included in the government. But already
in January 2015, the government resigned due to growing
popular dissatisfaction with the election promises of a
better standard of living for residents not being
fulfilled. The new Prime Minister was appointed Flight
Officer Jean Ravelonarivo.
Political unrest erupted again in October 2014 when
President Ravalomanana was arrested and placed under
house arrest when he returned to his home country for
the first time since he was deposed in the coup in 2009.
Prior to his arrest, Ravalomanana had hinted that he
still had political ambitions. Kravall police fired tear
gas at a demonstration in support of Ravalomanana. In
May 2015, however, Ravalomanana was released from house
arrest after recognizing the legitimacy of the current
In May 2015, Parliament unexpectedly voted to dismiss
President Rajaonarimampianina by bringing him before the
national court. It was unclear whether the process was
compatible with the Constitution, which it was for the
Constitutional Court to decide.
The president is weakening
One month later, the Constitutional Court annulled
Parliament's decision to bring Rajaonarimampianina to
court. The decision lacked legal basis and the president
had not acted in violation of the Constitution according
to the court.
In April 2016, it was clear that Prime Minister
Ravelonarivo had left the post and that Interior
Minister Olivier Solonandrasana replaced him. The reason
Ravelonarivo was forced to leave was stated to be a
long-standing conflict with the president.
In May 2017, Ravalomanana's party TIM withdrew its
support for the government after a TIM minister had been
dismissed. The President thus led a minority government
with limited opportunities to enforce important laws in