Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Present and Past in Madagascar

To understand the recent political crisis in Madagascar, it is important to look back through its history. In March of 2009, President Marc Ravalomanana resigned after months of protest of his rule. Ravalomanana had been democratically elected in 2002 and reelected in 2006. The mayor of the capital, Antananarivo, was Andry Rajoelina, a 3o-something former entertainer, who instigated the protests. Rajoelina was granted power after Ravalomanana's resignation.

Madagascar gained independence in 1960. But it remained a neo-colony of France under President Philibert Tsiranana. France made the major decisions and even a number of French officials remained in positions of power. Perhaps this contributes to the questionable belief among some Malagasy that Rajoelina is a puppet of the French, who are hoping to reassert its authority.

A combination of student protests and Tsiranana's declining health uprooted his administration. General Gabriel Ramanantsoa then assumed authority. Ramanantsoa's rule signaled Madagascar's real independence. His cabinet contained three future presidents. He resigned in 1975 as he never held an true political ambition. In his place was Richard Ratsimandrava, who was quickly assassinated.

Ratsimandrava's rival, Didier Ratsiraka, soon became president. Ratsiraka was rumored to have partaken in the conspiracy to kill Ratsimandrava. Rumors of conspiracy have remained a participant in Malagasy politics. Ratsiraka ruled for the next eighteen years. He sat on a declining economy during that period.

The 1990s saw agitation and violence which eventually led to contentious multi-party democratic elections. Albert Zafy became president in 1993, but was ineffective in changing the course of the fledgling economy. As a result, Ratiraka won the next election in 1997.

It was Ravalomanana who won the next election, which was also contentious and violent. Ravalomanana, a successful businessman, managed to decrease poverty and encourage foreign investment. But his business cronies also gained much of the land. In late 2009, Rajoelina tapped into the belief that not enough had been done to improve the condition of the poor.

Rajoelina has set out a timetable for elections to restore democracy to conclude this fall. But he has backed out on proposed elections during his year in power already. He currently controls precious little of the island nation. It should be noted that no one ever controlled the entire island until the French consolidated their power during the early part of the twentieth century. As for now, smugglers reign as the state has little authority to stop them. (The HQT- IE)

No comments: