Publié le 23/02/2009


Summary: The scale of the violence which has hit Madagascar has taken many commentators by surprise. However, early warning signs were visible over the last few months. The origin of this crisis can be linked to President Ravalomanana's management of political, economic and social issues coming into disrepute. There are numerous similarities with the 2002 political crisis even if strong nuances are also present. Mathieu Pellerin, journalist and consultant, details the political, social and economic divisions which have ripped Madagascan society apart and personal rivalries between Madagascar's president and Antananarivo's mayor. Text in English will be available very soon.

Sylvain Touati: What is the situation today in Madagascar?

Mathieu Pellerin: Andry Rajoelina [1] and Marc Ravalomanana [2] finally met on Saturday 21 February, thanks to a mediation led by the FFKM [3] (Malagasy Council of Christian Churches). The two sides reached a consensus on the pre-conditions for opening negotiations: the halting of any incitement to violence, the ceasing of provocations and vilifications through the media, demonstrations and public disorder, prosecutions, and politically motivated arrests.

Up to now, these prerequisites have been respected, and the two sides met again on Monday 23 February. These pre-conditions being met, the next step is to establish the necessary conditions in order to find a solution to the crisis.

The solution currently under discussion would entail a transitional government, whose composition remains unclear but which would include members of civil society. However, this would mean that President Ravalomanana accepts the conditions laid down by several civil society organizations, such as SEFAFI (Observatory of Public Life in Antananarivo) or CONECS (Economic and Social Council) [4]. Their demands are essentially focused on addressing the issue of excessive control of the country by the President, whether from an economic standpoint - due to private interests linked to his company, Tiko - or from a political standpoint - due to his rigging of the political system. On these points, it does not appear that the President will make any concessions. Andry Rajoelina appeared very dissatisfied with his initial meetings with the President, and appears to have felt that President Ravalomanana did not listen to his conditions, and has just called this Tuesday for a demonstration to be held by the end of the week. The lull thus remains very fragile.

Moreover, it is not certain that the calls for calm made by 'Andry TGV' [5] will be respected by the most determined of his supporters. In fact, his acceptance of a meeting with President Ravalomanana is likely to have been unwelcome news for some of them. However, with this meeting, the Mayor is de facto placed on an equal footing with the President, whereas the latter had until now always denigrated him.

These discussions take place in a context which remains tense. On the night of February 19, four ministries were taken by 'Andry TGV's' supporters, and four new ministers held power until the army removed them on the following night.

ST: Has the situation taken on a new character since the shootings of Saturday, February 7 [6]?

MP: Undeniably. The shootings marked a watershed in more ways than one. They represent first of all a point of no return for a population that has aspired to change during the last two years without ever having been heard by the regime. History is there to remind us that in 1991, the regime of Didier Ratsiraka began to seriously falter after the Red Admiral ordered the Presidential Guard to fire on the crowd. The process of delegitimization of President Ravalomanana, already initiated before the events of January 26, has been accelerated by these events. It should be recalled that in 2002, during the country's political crisis, Marc Ravalomanana, then mayor of Antananarivo, had removed the 'red zones' in the capital. After he became President, he reintroduced them, and now claims their existence to justify the firing from the presidential guard.

The shootings are also a turning point because President Ravalomanana has finally mobilized several international mediators to request their good offices. However, they have acted in an incoherent manner and their actions have not been successful. The UN representative, Xavier Leus, has apparently been more effective by taking particular care in articulating his actions with the FFKM, the only national institution legitimate enough to serve as a mediator.

The main hope for a successful mediation lies in the ability of the FFKM to impose its moral authority on both protagonists. However, despite the progress mentioned above, the FFKM remains torn by internal divisions, since the President of the Republic is the secular Vice-President of the Reformed Church, and the Catholic Church no longer hides its differences with the President. Some bishops even support opposition movements, such as Alain Ramaroson's FCD. If the two main churches of the FFKM cannot settle on a compromise, the entire legitimacy of the FFKM, and the moral authority at its disposal, risks being put into question.

ST: Can you tell us more about the FFKM and its political role on the island?

MP: The FFKM is composed of the Catholic Church (EKAR), the Reformed Church (FJKM), the Lutheran Church, and the Anglican Church. It is essential that the four churches give their approval for the publishing of a press release by the FFKM. This explains its problems today, with regard to the divisions described above. During the crisis, the EKAR attempted to issue a very critical statement of the regime, which the FJKM strongly opposed.

The legitimacy of the FFKM derives from the fact that the Malagasy are usually very pious, and that the FFKM has been historically composed of Raiamandreny [7]; that is, moral authorities given to possess great wisdom. It is the guarantor of fihavanana [8] within the Malagasy society, and has played a role of social mediator since the mid-1970s, when it challenged the excesses of the regime of Didier Ratsiraka. In the history of Madagascar, the FFKM has sometimes taken on a more political role, gradually built as national political crises unfolded. In 1991, the EKAR (Catholic Church) was able to maintain its neutrality as it managed the transition to democracy from 1991 to 1993, and was responsible for drafting the Constitution [9]. However, this was not the case in 2002, when the FFKM abandoned its historical neutrality by siding with Marc Ravalomanana. Nevertheless, the commitment of the EKAR derived from close personal relationships between Cardinal Gaétan Razafindratandra and President Marc Ravalomanana. Since the departure of the cardinal, the EKAR has returned to its mediating position, but at times tends to take a stand against the regime. This is due to several factors: the exclusion of the French priest Sylvain Urfer, the referendum abolishing secularism in the Constitution in the spring of 2007, and the national education reform launched in 2008, which could jeopardize freedom of teaching in private schools.

ST: How do you explain the current crisis?

MP: Three main factors can account for the outbreak of the crisis today.

First o all, the Daewoo case created a huge controversy at the end of November. The revelation of a possible concession of 1.3 million hectares of land to the Daewoo company to ensure food security in South Korea has outraged a population committed to Tanindrazana - ownership of the land by ancestors. At the same time, when Madagascar began to experience the first effects of the global recession, the President announced that he had purchased a Boeing 737 valued at $60 million to replace his previous Boeing bought in 2002. Finally, the spark that lit the fire was the closure of the Viva television channel, which belonged to the Mayor of Antananarivo. At this point, the Mayor called on the population to mobilize until the night of January 25 to 26, during which the closure of Radio Viva triggered the events of 'Black Monday' on 26 January.

However, this crisis is not a surprise to anyone interested in the country. This is evidenced by the many warning signs seen in the last two years. The presidential election of 2006 had a record abstention rate, just like the referendum of April 2007. That same month, students launched a strong protest movement against the government in most major coastal cities, with the exception of Antananarivo [10]. The movement took on an unprecedented scale from 2002 and began to directly attack the private interests of the President (Magro, Blueprint, MBS). In March 2008, at the end of a football match at the Mahamasina Antananarivo stadium, thousands of supporters engaged in looting in a rare display of violence. A few months later, a longtime opponent , Henri Lecacheur, tried to lead the revolt. It was a failed attempt; however, the Mayor of Antananarivo later succeeded in January 2009, thanks to the aforementioned three factors.

These combined causes, in addition to a number of structural factors, have eroded the foundation of legitimacy on which the Ravalomanana regime had been built. In 2002, his legitimacy was built on the image of a businessman committed to free enterprise, with a strong backing at home conferred by a national success story. Seven years later, the intervention of the Head of State to promote his company, Tiko, and the mass opening of the country to foreign investors in sensitive sectors such as mining, oil, and agribusiness have dented this legitimacy.

The presumed authoritarianism of the President has also been denounced inside Madagascar. Observers have noted in particular the 'lock-up' of the Electoral Code which he had promised to reform in 2002, and the excessive concentration of power. The President has, for example, implemented a hybrid neologism, the 'déconcentralisation' (combining the terms deconcentration and decentralisation), creating a territorial architecture, by which, from the Fokontany [11] to the regions, officials are appointed by the executive. At the municipal elections of December 2007, alleging fraud in some polling stations, he cancelled the elections, and appointed, in lieu of the Mayors, Chairmen of Special Delegation (PDS) especially at Nosy Be, Fort Dauphin, Sainte-Marie, and Toamasina.

This enhancement of power has gradually estranged him from a number of sectors of the Malagasy people: - entrepreneurs, too often injured by the 'Tiko-State'; - Catholics, who have been neglected by the President; - a part of Antananarivo's upper-class, and its large families, who have seen their privileges challenged; - and also inhabitants of the coastal provinces, who criticize the regime for favoring the Merinas over other ethnic groups [12].

ST: Could the country's economic situation on the eve of the crisis also explain it?

MP: The country was undeniably on the path to economic development. The President's economic record is reasonably good. Under pressure from international financial institutions (IFIs), the liberalization process has allowed large projects to multiply, whether these are in mining (Sherritt, QMM, Soalala, Sakoa) or oil (Total). Privatization has also been favorable to economic growth, especially in the ICT sector after the privatization of Telma [13]. This liberalization of the market has undoubtedly contributed to the improvement of the business environment in Madagascar, something that was evidenced by a 7% growth rate, rising FDIs, and a surge of freshly opened businesses. The regime has also invested in building new infrastructure, especially roads. Tourism was also about to return to the record levels attained before the 2001 crisis, even raising concerns from competitors in neighboring Mauritius.

Unfortunately, this growth has not been followed by a redistribution of wealth, and the population has thus been denied the benefits of Madagascar's growth, which the president had promised to be 'rapid and sustainable" [14]. Without poverty reduction, the management of the country's natural resources is even less popular. In particular, the sale of land and mineral resources to foreigners is interpreted as a relegation of Malagasy citizens to a second-class status; the Mayor of Antananarivo spoke of 'treason to the fatherland.' In addition, with regard to mining projects, civil society and opposition forces have become more critical of the opacity of the contracts, rather than of the businesses themselves. This is why civil society, including the SeFaFi [15], has called for the government to temporarily suspend the Soalala project, in order to renegotiate contracts between mining and oil companies and state authorities.

ST: In the event of regime change, are these projects likely to be renegotiated?

MP: Andry Rajoelina has not explicitly called for this, but he did state in a speech that 'some investors behaved as if they were at home.' I think that his statements reflected more a form of populism in times of social unrest than a firm resolve to renegotiate the existing contracts.This is because Andry Rajoelina is a businessman who is also committed to free trade, and he strongly supports the participation of foreign investors. Moreover, there is now a regulatory framework which makes the mining and oil bylaws quite binding. The National Office of the Environment (Office National de l'Environnement, ONE) also plays an important regulatory role; however, it would benefit from reforms, particularly because the ONE has few resources, and is often accused of acting at the whim of the executive. There is therefore no reason to expect dramatic change on this front, especially in a sluggish international economic environment in which states have to shore up their credibility to preserve the projects that are undertaken.

However, the Daewoo issue is quite different. The South Korean company has already announced that it will 'reconsider its investment." Indeed, Andry Rajoelina's denunciation of this project has been a central element of his political mobilization, and therefore the future of this project remains very uncertain.

ST : Could the army prove to be decisive in the outcome of this crisis?

MP: On 26 January, a date now referred to as 'Black Monday' [16], a commander of the EMMONAT [17] publicly declared that the idea of a Military Directory was outdated, and that the army in Madagascar had nothing to do with the armies found elsewhere in Africa.

Behind this desire to emphasize differences with a continent to which a portion of the Malagasy population refuses to acknowledge belonging [18], there lie critical facts. The Malagasy army has a legalistic tradition. Even between 1972 and 1975, when the country relied on the army to stabilize the country, there was no coup [19]. In 1991 and 2002, it never exceeded the limits circumscribed by the rule of law. During the crisis of 1991, gunshots were fired into the crowd, but these emanated from the presidential guard. There were also several uprisings, for instance in Diego-Suarez.

This does not mean that the military plays no role in political affairs - quite the contrary, actually. I would call it a force of deterrence; each side knows that they must submit to its whims. In 2002, the siding of reservist forces with Marc Ravalomanana had a decisive impact on the outcome of the power struggle. In the current crisis, the military has maintained a neutral position, but this may not last. The army is facing deep divisions and has issued a series of conflicting statements. While some commanders have recently expressed the sentiment that the army should 'assume its responsibilities' by imposing a transitional regime, other commanders have reaffirmed the army's commitment to constitutional legality. In any case, calls for radical change from Andry Rajoelina have not as of yet received a response from within the army.

These divisions have arisen as a consequence of the policies pursued by President Ravalomanana. He has always been wary of the army, and even alienated himself from some sectors of the armed forces through the reforms he initiated. He considers Madagascar's insularity to be sufficient protection from external interference, and therefore wishes to confine military activities to humanitarian interventions and the securing of rural areas. His ambition is to eventually transfer the traditional missions of the army to the police. He has therefore put a whole sector of the army against him, which is partly why, I think, he appointed Charles Rabemananjara [20] as Prime Minister in January 2007. Although not a decisive influence over the military, he is a General who enjoys considerable support from the armed forces.

During the first week of unrest, the President replaced the Chief of the Police Force after the latter publicly criticized 'politicians' who did not assume their responsibilities. For his part, Andry Rajoelina attempted to exploit this vulnerability by winning over part of the army. To do so, in January he named Rasolo Dollin, a retired general close to Ratsiraka accrording to some sources, his chief of staff. Actually, he had been promoted by Albert Zafy [21] and Didier Ratsiraka ultimately had replaced him.

ST: Will this crisis reach the same proportions as the one that erupted in 2002?

MP: I do not think it will, for several reasons. First, in 2002, the situation in Madagascar was akin to a federal system of sorts, under which the autonomous provinces [22] were divided between those that were loyal to the President, in line with constitutional legality [23], and those that supported then Mayor of Antananarivo Marc Ravalomanana, who enjoyed popular legitimacy. The latter led the insurgency from Antananarivo, while the former resisted as much as he could from his stronghold, the province of Toamasina. For several months, the capital was physically cut off by roadblocks, which prevented supplies from arriving. Gradually, the provinces joined the Mayor of the capital and Didier Ratsiraka was forced from office.

We are very far from such a situation in the present crisis; first, because the country is not divided and all regions are currently hostile to the President. The recent municipal elections have strongly confirmed this. However, if the movement in the provinces remains rudimentary, this is largely because, in the wake of the municipal elections of December 2007, the President's appointment of a number of PDSs (Présidents de Délégation Spéciale, Chairmen of Special Delegation) to replace the mayors of several coastal municipalities has enabled him to keep these municipalities on his side [24]. The PDSs thus control several municipalities; the rest are run by elected TIM mayors [25], or by an opposition mayor whose powers have been curtailed by Heads of Region appointed by the President (also for a transitional period, or so he promised).

Nevertheless, this administrative control remains very precarious for the President. Sporadic uprisings in the provinces have fuelled fears of greater upheaval. In Mahajanga, demonstrators attempted to overthrow the TIM elected mayor, but abandoned the effort because of the presence of the army in the town hall. Similarly, in Manakara, in the Southeast, the Minister of the Economy had to hastily flee after his plane was burned by the local people. At Nosy Be, the President, who was visiting, had to leave in a police car. At Tamatave Mahajanga, Fianarantsoa, and Toliara, roadblocks were established and demonstrations were organized. If the provinces were to stand behind the mayor, I do not see how the President could stay in power.

Also, the crisis in 2002 gained an ethnic dimension after the Merina Mayor and the coastal President fanned the embers of ethnic tensions. In contrast, the current crisis initially amused coastal populations during the first days, since it involved two Merinas. But the coastal/highlands cleavage could be revived if the current mediation ignores the coastal populations. It is, however, unlikely that these two Merina will be left alone to preside over the destiny of the nation.

The final difference, which is in my opinion significant, is that Andry Rajoelina cannot claim the same legitimacy that Marc Ravalomanana had in 2002. The latter had the lead after the first round of polling with 46% of the vote, and had accused President Ratsiraka of stealing his victory in the first round. He therefore undoubtedly had popular legitimacy when he called on the people to rally behind him. In addition, Ratsiraka had been in power since 1975 and the process of delegitimization was already well under way. Andry Rajoelina, conversely, has no claim to democratic legitimacy, which is why he is accused by some of reproducing precisely what he criticizes in President Ravalomanana: non-compliance with the Constitution. Moreover, Ravalomanana was over 40 and could therefore lay claim to the Presidency, which is not the case for Andry Rajoelina, who is only 34 years old. This has cut him off from a portion of the population. Furthermore, if President Ravalomanana has lost the confidence of much of the population, he still undeniably has some support and an economic legacy which some would say is decent. We saw proof of this on Wednesday 11 February, when the President was able to mobilize more than 30,000 people at Mahamasina stadium.

The situation is very different from 2002. However, in my view, even though the evolution of the present crisis will differ from the 2002 crisis, the origins of both crises are very similar in many respects.

ST: What are the similarities?

MP: Some of them have already been mentioned. The most obvious one is that, in 2002, Marc Ravalomanana was in the position of Andry Rajoelina, since he was Mayor of Antananarivo when he opposed the President, Didier Ratsiraka. History is thus repeating itself, but this time President Ravalomanana is on the receiving end. But the resemblance goes further. Many of the qualities that one might have attributed to Marc Ravalomanana can be attributed to Andry Rajoelina today: young, dynamic, possessing an entrepreneurial spirit, constantly invoking religion in his political sermons, and introducing his speeches with a mass. These similarities are usually too quickly explained away; it has been said, for instance, that both Ravalomanana and Rajoelina were influenced by a Protestant ethic and a taste for the American model, when Rajoelina is actually a Catholic (even if he was educated as a Protestant) and has no particular inclination towards American values.

Last but not least, there is a critical similarity in how the pro-Ravalomanana movement formed in 2002 and how the pro-Rajoelina movement formed more recently. A few months before the presidential election of December 2001, nobody saw Ravalomanana as a serious candidate. But when he clearly displayed his ambitions and garnered some support, he embodied a hope for change.

Even so, this election has been frequently summarized by the following statement: the Malagasy did not elect Ravalomanana, they voted against Ratsiraka. We see the same pattern today. The movement led by Rajoelina is syncretic, consisting of people disappointed in the Ravalomanana regime, business competitors of Tiko, and a series of historical opposition parties who lack sufficient legitimacy. These different groups saw in Andry Rajoelina a door of opportunity through which they could step into power.

To reuse the previous formula, I would summarize the current situation in these terms: the Malagasy do not support Rajoelina, but they oppose President Ravalomanana. At the end of the day, nobody knows much about Rajoelina. Therefore, without this knowledge, we really do not know if Rajoelina is not merely a politician with an apparently clean record who actually is just another Ravalomanana in disguise. The first decision taken by Andry Rajoelina when he arrived at the town hall of Antananarivo was to suspend authorizations needed for companies to install advertising billboards, replacing these signs with other billboards advertising his own company, Injet. This is pure Ravalomanana, even if that particular decision was justified by the prohibition of billboards by the previous mayor of Antananarivo in 2003.

The uncertainty hovering around the skills and personality of Rajoelina partly explains the relative decline of his movement. Do these uncertainties about Rajoelina foreshadow future disillusionment? It is urgent for Madagascar to choose a man of stature rather than continue to put its hopes in the first person who appears to be a miracle worker.

ST: Can you tell us more about the entourage of Andry Rajoelina?

MP: It is interesting to note that since he proclaimed himself President of the High Authority of Transition, he has appointed a transitional government composed entirely of second rate personnel, but whose loyalty is not in doubt. He named Monja Roindefo [26] as Prime Minister and Michèle Ratsivalaka [27] as the Mayor of Antananarivo, after being dismissed from the post himself. Benja Razafimahaleo was named Minister of Finance [28], and Ny Hasina Andriamanjato was named Minister of Foreign Affairs [29]. This is the first circle, to which should be added some other members of his entourage, such as Elya Ravelomanantsoa [30] and Alain Ramaroson [31], who were both cheated by Tiko in business deals.

In addition, it must be remembered that President Ravalomanana is also Honorary Chairman of Tiko, a food company founded in the mid-1970s, which he has transformed into a true conglomerate through his position as head of State. Many other companies have been injured by the Tiko Empire.

The Mayor of Antananarivo has therefore preferred to surround himself with people who are not likely to override him. And that is precisely why his immediate circle does not include any of President Ravalomanana's historical opponents, who supported Andry Rajoelina in December 2008, including Roland Ratsiraka [32], nephew of former President Didier Ratsiraka, Jean Lahiniriko [33], or Pascal Rakotomavo [34].

The second feature of his government is that it is representative of the geographic diversity of Madagascar. Rajoelina has taken care to name Ministers from coastal regions, to show the provinces that they have not been forgotten by his government. Thus, the Minister of Education, Julien Razafimanjato, originates from the Diana Region; the Minister of Trade, J.-C. Rakotonirina, from the Vatovavy Fitovianany Region; and Monja Roindefo is a respected and well-known figure of the south, particularly Toliara. The coastal/highland divide is always likely to resurface in times of instability, so this precaution taken by the Mayor of Antananarivo is important. In this respect, he differs from Marc Ravalomanana, who was accused by the provinces of "merenising" [35] Malagasy power, especially since he appointed a Protestant Merina, Charles Rabemananjara, to the Prime Ministership, instead of a coastal Catholic [36], Jacques Sylla [37]. By doing so, he broke the unwritten pact by which a coastal President always appointed a Merina Prime Minister and vice-versa.

Finally, Andry Rajoelina has surrounded himself with military men, including retired general Dollin Rosoloa, who was his chief of staff in Antananarivo, as well as Generals Blake and Organes, who served under Marc Ravalomanana. They may therefore have an impact on some sectors of the Malagasy army.

ST: What has been the role of France during this crisis? In 2002, it had supported Didier Ratsiraka.

MP: Yes, and I can assure you that was a mistake which France now bitterly regrets. It has certainly learned its lesson and has adopted not only a very low-profile - refraining from all external interference - but it has also assumed full neutrality in its existing operations. It is interesting to note in this regard that the French Minister for Cooperation, Alain Joyandet, has initiated a mediation under the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC), and not on a bilateral basis. During the first week of the crisis, both the Mayor of Antananarivo and the President of the Republic increased their output of statements claiming that they had France's support. President Ravalomanana, for example, said that France would intervene to support him, and that it was at the request of French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner that President Ravalomanana had issued warrants of arrest against Roland Ratsiraka and Dolin Rasolo. All this has been categorically denied by the French Embassy.

The paradox is that, until now, President Ravalomanana had never ceased to criticize France, holding it responsible for the ills of the country and feeding Malagasy nationalist sentiment. Such a reversal is very surprising, but we must not overstate the importance of France's role in this crisis.

ST: But the President has been critical of France.

MP: Yes, this is true. There was, for instance, a spring ritual of sorts, performed every year since 2005. In 2005, Olivier Peguy, an RFI (Radio France International, French radio channel) correspondent, was expelled. In 2006, Christian Chadefaux, a correspondent for Libération (French newspaper), was expelled. In 2007, a Jesuit priest, Sylvain Urfer, who had been in Madagascar for 33 years and was a real figure of Malagasy society, was expelled. In 2008 - this time one month after the end of spring - it was French Ambassador Gildas Le Lidec who announced his departure after the President of Madagascar signalled to the French President his refusal of Lidec's appointment [38].

The real reasons for this aversion to France can be traced in part to the President's education (a Protestant who studied in Norway and Germany), which completely alienated him from the former colonial power. For example, he has repeatedly noted that he was not yet born in 1947, and that he felt totally alien to the bloody repression that affected the people of Madagascar that year [39]. Finally, Ravalomanana is a Merina and is part of the nationalist fringe of the Merina. It must be remembered that the monarchy was abolished in 1895 after France put an end to the regime of Ranavalona III. A movement like Valin-Kitsaka [40], a cult dedicated to Ranavalona I - who is symbolic of Merina monarchy in the nineteenth century - and composed of Merina nationalists, calls for a new decolonization which would expel not only foreigners, but also coastal settlers, who are seen as accomplices of the colonizers. The Malagasy President is not part of this movement, but is close to it in some respects. One only has to read the chronicles of "Gérard C' in Le Quotidien [41], the newspaper belonging to the Malagasy President's MBS group, to be convinced. Last of all, we must not forget that France waited for several months to recognize Ravalomanana in 2002, after both the United States and Germany. This most recent betrayal has only increased his resentment of France.

Finally, there is a quite legitimate reason for his aversion to France, which is simply his desire to open his country to foreign trade. He has often been presented as having an inclination towards the US, but this reflects a more general concern with integrating Madagascar into the global community and therefore opening it to the English language. Nowadays, the eyes of the Malagasy President are pointed towards Asia, especially China, but also Thailand, Singapore, and Malaysia.

ST: What can be done to end this crisis?

MP: In my opinion, an effective solution to this crisis must be based on the model of the Panorama convention of 1991. This convention left Didier Ratsiraka an honorable exit, essentially as a non-executive Head of State, by stripping him of most of his powers.

Betting on such a scenario is, for the time being, still a major challenge, as both protagonists seem engaged in a race to relentlessly raise the stakes. In addition, the divisions inside FFKM, as well as the private interests of Andry Rajoelina and Marc Ravalomanana, all come into play, and do not favor a search for consensus. However if the extremely divided army does intervene, or if some Ministers announce their departure, the President will probably have to retreat and make more concessions. Under these conditions, a solution to the crisis along the lines of Panorama may be more realistic.

What seems certain is that the situation cannot return to what existed before January 26th. The legitimacy of President Ravalomanana has been severely eroded, and it is likely that if he remains in power, other movements will break out until the next presidential elections in late 2011. Since Andry Rajoelina's transitional government does not include any of the historical opponents to Ravalomanana's regime [42], these movements have begun to distance themselves somewhat from "Andry TGV," particularly in the provinces. The AREMA [43], which has a very strong influence in the coastal regions, has already tried to mobilize support outside the capital, particularly in Tamatave, as has Albert Zafy. The movement could gain more strength if it extends to the provinces, although it may also lose its cohesion as a consequence. Moreover, these movements may cause Andry Rajoelina to be more forceful in his negotiations with the President to avoid being overtaken by the competing fringes of the opposition.

In the medium term, the Estates-General of Democracy and Republican Values will take place. It will be organized by the main civil society organizations, including the Malagasy SEFAFI (Observatory of Public Life in Antananarivo) and CONEC (Conseil Economique et Social). This Estates-General, originally due to be held in late February, and later rescheduled, due to the crisis, to the 26, 27, and 28 of March 2009, aims to publish a Republican Convention with proposals for a new orientation for the country.


1. Andry Rajoelina was elected mayor of Antananarivo in December 2007, at only 33 years of age. He is a businessman, owner of the VIVA group and the advertising company Injet. His wife, Mialy, manages Injet. Andry Rajoelina is a Merina and a Catholic.

2. Marc Ravalomanana has been president of the Great Island since 2002. He was previously mayor of Antananarivo. This 59 year old statesman was reelected in 2006 for a 5 year term.

3. The FFKM (Fikambanan'ny Fiangonana Kristianina Malagasy, Malagasy Council of Christian Churches) is comprised of the Reformed Protestant FJKM (Fiangonan'i Jesoa Kristy eto Madagasikara, Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar), the ECAR (Eglise Catholique Apostolique Romaine, Catholic Roman and Apostolic Church), the Lutheran Church, and the Anglican Church.

4. These organizations prepare for the Estates-General of Democracy, which is to be held on March 26, 27, and 28 2009.

5. Andry Rajoelina is nicknamed 'Andry TGV', after the French high-speed train, because of his quick-fire personality. He later created a political movement known as TGV.

6. The presidential guard fired on the crowd. According to official statistics, 28 people were killed and 212 wounded. The shooting occurred shortly after a rally on 13 May Square, where Mr. Rajoelina met his supporters, backed by a 'High Authority of transition' meant to replace those who are in power.

7. In Malagasy, Raiamandreny refers to an elder moral authority who possesses great wisdom.

8. The Fihavanana is a relationship of solidarity based on kinship.
9. See on this subject : Urfer, Sylvain, 'Quand les Eglises entrent en politique,' Politique Africaine, n°52, December 1993.

10. The Mayor and the prefect of Antananarivo at that time were relatives of the President. As a result, the movement in Antananarivo was blocked.

11. The Fokontany is the "basic administrative unit" in Madagascar. It is equivalent to the neighborhood.

12. The Merina constitute an ethnic majority in the Highlands, and are essentially based in Antananarivo. President Ravalomanana belongs to this ethnic group, and was indeed accused of favoring the Merina when making high-level appointments.

13. Telma was the state telephone company before the opening of the telecommunications market to private competition in 2004.

14. "Rapid and sustainable development" was the motto of his MAP (Madagascar Action Plan).

15. The Observatory of public life in Antananarivo.

16. On that day, Andry Rajoelina called for a general strike and organized a demonstration in Antananarivo that degenerated into looting. These troubles have spread to some regions of Madagascar. Businesses related to the president were particularly targeted.

17. Etat-Major Mixte Opérationnel National, Mixed National Operational Joint Staff. This body oversees the gendarmerie, the army, and the police.

18. Part of the Malagasy population, especially in the Highlands, feels that Madagascar is not an African country. The Indo-Malay origins of the population in the Highlands, particularly the Merina ethnic group, support this idea. However, opinion is mixed among the coastal peoples.

19. In 1972, General Gabriel Ramanantsoa was called to take over the government of President Philibert Tsiranana; he then entrusted power to Colonel Richard Ratsimandrava in 1975. The latter's assassination a few days later paved the way for a Military Directory who elected Didier Ratsiraka as the head of state.

20. Charles Rabemananajara is the former chief of staff of Marc Ravalomanana. He was appointed Prime Minister and Minister of Internal Affairs in January 2007.

21. Albert Zafy was President of Madagascar from 1993 to 1997. He is now the leader of an opposition group, CRN.

22. Once he became President, Marc Ravalomanana abolished the provincial administrations.

23. The High Constitutional Court declared that Marc Ravalomanana did not have an absolute majority (which would have allowed him to be elected President in the first round of the presidential elections). Didier Ratsiraka was thus still President at the end of the first round.

24. At the time, he claimed that this measure was a transitional one, until new elections were organized.

25. The TIM is the political party created by Marc Ravalomanana.

26. Monja Roindefo is a Coastal entrepreneur with a low political profile, despite his candidacy for the presidential elections of 2006. He is the son of a nationalist figure of the 1980s, and belongs to the same political movement as his father, the MONIMA.

27. Michèle Ratsikalava was Secretary General of the Urban Community of Agglomeration of Antananarivo when Andry Rajoelina was Mayor. She is a faithful political ally of Rajoelina.

28. Benja Razafimahaleo is the son of Herizo Razafimahaleo, former head of the Leader Fanilo political party and a leading opposition figure who died in 2008.

29. Ny Hasina Andriamanjato is the son of Pastor Richard Andriamanjato, leader of the AKFM.

30. Elya Ravelomanantsoa is an influential businesswoman in Antananarivo. She was a candidate in the 2006 presidential elections.

31. Alain Ramaroson is the leader of the MASTERS political party. He is the brother of André Ramaroson, Chairman of CONECS, and is close to Andry Rajoelina.

32. Roland Ratsiraka was mayor of Toamasina. He obtained 10% of the vote in the 2006 presidential elections, before being imprisoned on charges of corruption.

33. Jean Lahiniriko, leader of PSDUM, was President of the National Assembly during the first term of Marc Ravalomanana (2002-2006). He obtained 11% of the vote in the presidential elections of 2006.

34. Pascal Rakotomavo was Didier Ratsiraka's Prime Minister and has been a leading figure in the opposition to the Ravalomanana regime.

35. "Merenisation" consists in placing members of the Highlands' dominant ethnic group, that is, the Merinas, at high-level posts.

36. The coasts are predominantly Catholic and the Malagasy capital is predominantly Protestant. This dichotomy more or less follows the distinction between coastal ethnic groups and Merinas.

37. Jacques Sylla was Prime Minister from 2002 to 2007 and is now Chairman of the National Assembly.

38. Since Gildas le Lidec's departure, the French Embassy has had no Ambassador and has been headed by the charge d'affaires, Marie-Claire Gérardin.

39. The year 1947 will remain as one of the bloodiest in the history of Madagascar, after an independence movement on the island was crushed over several months.

40. See on this subject: This movement was born following the burning of the Queen's Palace, a symbol of the Merina monarchy, in 1995.


42. Jean Lahiniriko's PSDUM, Albert Zafy's CRN, Pierre Houlder's AREMA, or Harinaivo Rasamoelina's SHD.

43. The AREMA is the political party originally founded by Didier Ratsiraka, who lives in exile in France. It is directed today from Madagascar by Pierre Houlder and its Secretary General is Pierrot Rajaonarivelo, former Deputy Prime Minister of Ratsiraka.