Madagascar country brief - States in Transition - IDASA


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Madagascar country brief - States in Transition - IDASA

  1. 1. SITO States In Transition Observatory Country Brief | Madagascar November 2011 Madagascar was declared an autonomous state within the French community in 1958 and gained full independence in 1960. A history of successive government takeovers and sporadic violence has resulted in a fragile political and economic environment. In March 2009, Andry Rajoelina, the mayor of Antananarivo, declared himself President of the High Transitional Authority of Madagascar (HAT), with the support of the military. The ousted President, Marc Ravalomanana, resigned on 17 March 2009, and is living in exile in South Africa. SADC-mediated negotiations between the HAT and opposition parties ended with an accord being signed on 17 September 2011. The Road Map allows President Ravalomanana to return to Madagascar, and sets a timeline for new elections. An interim power-sharing agreement was established, whereby Rajoelina will remain president until elections are held in March 2012, and a new transitional govern- ment will be selected. This agreement has heightened hope for the future of democracy in Madagascar, but has already met with obstacles. On 28 October 2011, Rajoelina named Omer Beriziky as the new prime minister, without the consent of opposition par- ties as required by the Road Map. Ravalomanana’s party has stated that it may with- draw from negotiations due to Beriziky’s un-consensual appointment. On 21 November 2011, Rajoelina named a new government, which the opposition immediately rejected as illegal. It remains to be seen how, and if, elections will be held in March 2012. Political Environment The political environment in Madagascar has been marked by a struggle for control. Politi- cal transitions have been associated with popular protests, disputed elections, two military coups and an assassination. In 1975, Didier Ratsiraka came to power in a military coup and, barring a short period in the early 1990s, ruled until 2001. In the 2001 presidential elections both he and Marc Ravalomanana claimed victory. Following eight months of spo- radic violence and economic disruption, the High Constitutional Court undertook a recount in April 2002 and named Ravalomanana president. Although Ravalomanana’s re-election in 2006 was met with concern over the worsening standard of living, he and his party Tiako I Madagasikara (TIM) dominated the political environment between 2002 and 2009. Politics in Madagascar have also been marred by ethnic divisions. Ethnic tensions between the coastal Betsimisaraka tribe of former President Didier Ratsiraka, and the highland Me- rina tribe of recently deposed President Ravalomanana, have often polarised debates, fuel- ling violent anti-government demonstrations that paralyzed state institutions. In early 2009, Andry Rajoelina, former mayor of Antananarivo, led a series of protests against the then-President Marc Ravalomanana on the basis of his autocratic style of gov- ernment. Having come under immense pressure and losing the support of the military; President Ravalomanana resigned in March 2009 and assigned his powers to a military council. The military then conferred the presidency on Rajoelina for a “maximum period of 24 months”. International and local stakeholders viewed this as unconstutional and saw the change in power as a coup d’état. The EU froze donor aid to the country, and Madagascar was suspended from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU)
  2. 2. As the self-appointed President of the High Transitional Authority (HAT), Rajoelina pledgedthat presidential elections would be held by October 2010, following a constitutional ref-erendum and revision of the electoral code. This pledge was not fulfilled, however, and noelections have been held since the HAT seized power.Major Political PartiesWhile there are 160 political parties in Madagascar, three major political parties receive thesupport of more than 80% of the population. These parties, I Love Madagascar (TIM), As-sociation for the Rebirth of Madagascar (AREMA) and National Union for Development andDemocracy (UNDD), are led by ousted President Ravalomanana, former President Ratsiraka,and former President Zafy, respectively. In addition, Rajoelina’s Young Malagasy Determined(TGV) party has played an important role in the political arena since the coup in 2009.Other Key Political StakeholdersInternational and regional stakeholders in Madagascar include the UN, the AU, SADC, theInternational Organisation of the Francophonie (IOF), and the Indian Ocean Commission(IOC). Envoys from these organisations are committed to ongoing negotiation around theadoption of a Road Map towards elections. SADC in particular has played an important rolein the Road Map negotiation process, and has been involved in attempts to restore democ-racy in Madagascar since the 2009 coup. The Council of Christian Churches is involvedin mediation attempts between Rajoelina and Ravalomanana, as well as providing socialservices to Malagasy citizens.France’s role is also worth considering given that strong Franco-Malagasy ties that were es-tablished post-independence. This relationship was strained by France’s unhurried recogni-tion of Ravalomanana’s government in 2002. This mutual distrust deepened with France’scontinuous involvement in Madagascar’s affairs, and criticism by French economic playersbased in Madagascar of Ravalomanana as an entrepreneur-president. Although France neverofficially endorsed the HAT, it was reluctant to condemn the 2009 coup. French PresidentNicolas Sarkozy has been quoted as saying that Ravalomanana bore some responsibility forthe coup. France has been widely criticised by the US State Department, European govern-ments and the AU for its involvement in Malagasy politics.DemocracySeparation of PowersThe Malagasy constitution is modelled on the French presidential system, and there areconcerns regarding the lack of checks and balances to the centralised and personal powerof the President and the executive branch. In 2009, for example, Rajoelina issued a decreeproclaiming a state of emergency in Madagascar, and simultaneously suspended the Senateand National Assembly. The legislative branch is relatively weak. The bicameral Parliamenthas limited oversight functions, and is unable to initiate legislation. With power consolidatedin the executive branch, the legislature remains an ineffectual mechanism for tempering thepower of the presidency.There are serious constraints to the independence of the judiciary. The Minister of Justice isboth the supreme administrative and disciplinary head of the judges, and judges are seen asbeing members of the established middle class who block changes and tend to preserve theneo-patrimonial privileges of their class or group.The High Constitutional Court has made several judgements that seem heavily influencedby the executive. For example, when Ravalomanana signed an order dissolving governmentand granting full powers to a military directorate, the directorate was mandated with host-ing a national conference to discuss and draft possible amendments to the constitution, toreview the electoral code, and to organise elections within two years. The military directorateimmediately passed these powers to Rajoelina, who asked the High Constitutional Court
  3. 3. to determine the validity of Ravalomanana’s initial decree, and the military’s subsequentdivestment of its mandate to Rajoelina. The High Constitutional Court endorsed both ordersand declared Rajoelina the President, despite outcry from legal scholars, civil society, andregional and international stakeholders, who saw the situation as an unconstitutional coup.The HAT authorities have subsequently regularly interfered with the functioning of the Mala-gasy judiciary. For example, they ordered the release of detainees already condemned for se-rious human rights violations and set up institutions to carry out arrests and conduct investi-gations in lieu of the police and office of the prosecutor. On 28 August 2011, Ravalomananaand eight other people were sentenced in abstentia to life imprisonment and hard labour fortheir alleged involvement in the unlawful killings of supporters of Rajoelina. This judgementwas criticized by members of the Malagasy Bar Association as being politically-motivated.Civic ParticipationThe Constitution guarantees civil rights, including the freedom of association and the free-dom of expression. While the Constitution guarantees freedom of assembly, it requires priorinformation be provided to the competent administrative authority before a demonstrationtakes place. In practice, the authorities interpret this provision as a requirement of priorauthorisation and consistently oppose the demonstrations which express opinions contraryto those of the state.Freedom of expression, while enshrined in the Constitution, is frequently usurped by thesecurity sector. Moreover, radio and TV broadcasting remain under state control, and journal-ists and editors tend to self-censor since the state has repeatedly threatened those consid-ered to be too critical.Further concern has been raised over the lack of civic engagement in Madagascar. This hasbeen attributed to poverty, a shrinking middle class, and the secular disenfranchisement ofactive civic participation work.Economic SituationMadagascar was once considered one of the more prosperous African nations, but eco-nomic mismanagement and recurrent crises in the past few decades have meant that annualgrowth averaged only 0.5 percent recently, compared with a population growth of about 2.8percent.Over 70% of the Malagasy population lives below the poverty line. The economy is basedlargely on agriculture, particularly the export of coffee, vanilla, cloves and, with the help ofFrench investments, sugar. In addition to agriculture, mining plays an integral role in theeconomy. Chromate, graphite, and mica are exported, along with various gems. Privatemining interests have been invited to develop Madagascar’s gold deposits. There has alsobeen renewed interest in Madagascar’s oil potential since large amounts were discovered in2005.Madagascar’s rich biodiversity has been seen as an opportunity for potential developmentand the government has invested in establishing an ecotourism sector. Nevertheless, govern-ment efforts to strengthen the market economy have been erratic and corruption and politicalinstability continue to constrain growth.In the mid-1990s, Madagascar abandoned its socialist economic policies in favour of theWorld Bank and IMF-led policies of privatisation and liberalisation which were intended toplace the country on a slow and steady growth path. The stagnation which occurred duringthe 1991-1996 period was followed by five years of solid economic growth until the politi-cal crisis of December 2001 brought economic activity across most of the country to a halt.Following the 2002 political crisis, the government, with the support of international finan-cial institutions and the donor community, worked to develop a new policy course and gainbusiness confidence. The Malagasy government presented its ambitious recovery plan atthe World Bank’s “Friends of Madagascar” conference in Paris. Donor countries displayed
  4. 4. their confidence by undertaking to provide $1 billion of financial assistance over a period offive years, and between 2002 and 2008 measured improvements to social, economic andgovernance indicators were noted.The political crisis that erupted in early 2009, however, continues to have significant impli-cations for the economic situation. It has led to increased fragility, poverty and social dis-tress. Due to the unconstitutionality of the coup, a large portion of international aid, whichrepresents 40% of the budget and 75% of the public investment programme, has been with-drawn. Madagascar’s economic recovery is closely linked to foreign aid, and until the politi-cal crisis has been resolved, it is likely that Malagasy economic growth with remain stunted.Malagasy Road Map to ElectionsSADC has been instrumental in facilitating the drafting of a Road Map to re-establish de-mocracy in Madagascar. In mid-2009, international mediators brokered a power-sharingagreement between rival camps, but the deal failed to materialise and Rajoelina later for-mally abandoned it. A new Constitution was endorsed following a referendum in November2010, but elections have not yet been held – they were initially scheduled for late 2010,then postponed until 2011, and again postponed until March 2012.Nevertheless, progress was made on 17 September 2011 when all but one of the mainMalagasy political parties agreed to a Road Map that allows for the return of Ravalomananaand the selection of an interim cabinet in the run-up to the elections. Whilst there has beenno immediate word on the lifting of sanctions and aid suspensions imposed on Madagascar,the Road Map has been recognised by the international community. On 18 October 2011,the premier and Cabinet tendered their resignations so that a transitional government couldbe selected in November ahead of the elections. On 28 October 2011, Rajoelina namedOmer Beriziky as prime minister, without the consent of opposition parties as required bythe Road Map. Ravalomanana’s party has stated that it may now pull out of the negotiationsto restore democracy in Madagascar due to Beriziky’s unconsensual appointment. Furtherconsternation arose on 21 November 2011 when Rajoelina announced the members of thetransitional government; the opposition parties immediately issued statements claiming thathis appointments were illegal.It remains to be seen whether the Road Map will materialise into credible elections and there-establishment of stability and democracy in Madagascar.Opportunities and ThreatsThe opportunity to once again establish stability and transform Madagascar into a thrivingAfrican democracy brings with it the chance to re-energise the economy and work towardsaddressing the numerous development challenges that plague the country. Nevertheless thenegotiations have proved to be challenging and there is no guarantee that the Road Mapwill generate a successful partnership and credible results. The rejection of the new interimgovernment and of the appointment of a new prime minister by opposition leaders does notbode well for the successful implementation of the Road Map, scheduled for ratification on30 November 2011.The history of Madagascar’s political situation is a cause for concern and the success of thistransformation will depend on the active participation of both the signatories and regionalbodies. It is imperative that the focus of the next 12 months is not solely on establishingdemocracy but also on successfully sustaining it in the years to come.
  5. 5. ReferencesAmnesty International, ‘Madagascar: Urgent Need for Justice,’ (2010), available:, accessed 23 November 2011.Reuters, ‘Madagascar names new government, opposition rejects,’ (21 November 2011),available:, accessed 23 November 2011.,,menuPK:356362~pagePK:141132~piPK:141107~theSitePK:356352,00.html