Madagascar Democracy and Rights

Democracy and rights

Abbreviated as MDG by Abbreviationfinder, Madagascar is formally a parliamentary democracy with multi-party systems, but real democracy has had a hard time gaining ground in the country. Corruption is widespread and the judiciary suffers from a lack of resources, among other things, there is a shortage of trained lawyers.

Almost all the shifts in power have been more or less coup d’etat. Each president has tried to strengthen his own position by changing the constitution. Freedom House describes Madagascar as a “partly free” country.

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Political parties can be formed freely and there are many parties in the country. Violent clashes between different political camps were common in the 2000s and 2010s (see Modern History).

Corruption occurs to a large extent and the political authorities exert some influence over, for example, the courts. Corruption in society has increased in recent years according to Transparency International, which in 2019 ranked Madagascar as 158th country out of 180 in terms of corruption in the world (see the full list here). This was a deterioration with six investments compared to the previous year.

Freedom of expression and media

The constitution guarantees freedom of press and expression. The media has usually been able to work freely and the press has often been critical of the authorities. But during the 2000s and 2010s, the state’s intervention against the media has increased, among other things several radio stations have been shut down by the authorities.

According to Reporters Without Borders, media freedom was significantly restricted after political riots broke out in 2009. The media was in many cases turned into propaganda instruments for various political camps, and journalists were forced into self-censorship so as not to hurt.

In recent years, journalists have been abused by supporters of rival political camps. As in many other countries, political activists have increasingly begun to use the Internet as a discussion forum. However, Internet users in Madagascar are few.

When Hery Rajaonarimampianina was elected president in 2014, hopes were raised that media freedom would be strengthened. By 2020, Madagascar was ranked 54th in Reporters Without Borders Index on Press Freedom in 180 Countries (see full list here). This means that freedom of the press has gradually strengthened somewhat since the change of power.

Judicial system and legal security

The courts’ work is hampered by a lack of financial resources and difficulties in recruiting trained staff. Judges have long demanded a reform of the judiciary.

Conditions for interns in the country’s prisons are said to be difficult, among other things, malnutrition is common. The death penalty was abolished in 2014.

In addition to the formal judicial system, there are village courts which, without the support of the law, impose penalties for persons who have violated the village rules. There is information that village courts must have sentenced and executed the death penalty.

The police also suffer from a lack of resources. Many police officers are poorly educated and the corruption in the corps is widespread.



Rajaonarimampianina wins second round

Concerns about unrest are not being met and the presidential election will end in calm conditions on December 20, when parliamentary elections are being held at the same time. International observer groups say that the election was, on the whole, well-organized. Both presidential candidates claim to have won by a large margin, even when only one percent of the votes have been counted, and they accuse each other of gross cheating. When most of the votes have been counted just before the turn of the year, the Rajaonarimampianina has a seemingly inaccessible lead of over 53 percent. Opponent Robinson appealed the result before it was even published, demanding that the election be annulled.


Military intervention is feared

Rajoelina dismisses the civilian leaders for eight of the country’s 22 regions and replaces them with high-ranking military. The opposition and several media fears that Rajoelina is preparing for military intervention before the decisive round of the December presidential election.

Plans for a second round of elections

After two weeks, it is clear that there will be a second and decisive election round on December 20 between Jean-Louis Robinson, openly supported by Ravalomanana, and Hery Rajaonarimampianina, supported by Rajoelina. They receive 21.2 and 15.9 percent of the votes, respectively. Diplomats see the election campaign as a continuing battle through agents between the two rivals Ravalomanana and Rajoelina and warn of continued risk that the military may interfere in the process. European observers say that the election so far has been reasonably well done, but that there were shortcomings in voting lengths and that there was a lack of transparency in campaign funding.


The presidential election is conducted

On October 25, presidential elections will be held in relatively organized forms. Some violence is reported with, among other things, a murder, a kidnapping and a polling booth that burns down. About 7.8 million eligible voters have 33 candidates to choose from. Observers from the SADC and the EU say that the election was generally conducted in a free and credible manner, even though there were organizational shortcomings, including gaps in voting lengths.

Riot after suspected murder

At least 26 people are arrested and curfews are being imposed on the tourist island of Nosy Bé after a crowd of two European tourists and one man from the area killed their bodies on a beach. The men were suspected of having murdered and mutilated a little boy.


Rajoelina is not a candidate

Rajoelina announces that he is withdrawing his candidacy in the presidential election “so that the political crisis can be resolved”.

The AU revokes sanctions

The AU repeals the sanctions against Rajoelina and 108 other people in his circle in recognition of Madagascar being “on the right track” since the presidential election was announced. The country remains suspended from the AU for the time being but is promised re-entry as soon as a new, legally elected president has been installed.


Presidential candidates are rejected

A special electoral court rejects the three controversial electoral candidates. Rajoelina must have filed her application too late and the other two did not meet the requirement to have lived in Madagascar continuously for the past six months. The message is welcomed by the AU. A new election date is set for October 25. Any other round of elections, if no one gets 50 percent of the vote, will take place on December 20 when parliamentary elections are also held.


Sanctions against the presidential candidates

The international mediator in the political conflict in Madagascar, Mozambique’s former President Joaquim Chissano, says that if the three controversial presidential candidates do not withdraw, the UN Security Council will be called upon to issue sanctions against them. In this case, they are allowed a travel ban and their bank accounts are blocked, as are the accounts of family members, employees and business partners.


The choice is postponed

The government decides to postpone the presidential election until August 23.


The UN calls for a new start

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon also calls on the three controversial presidential candidates to withdraw. Rajoelina refuses to step down and instead suggests that the election may be canceled. He blames the fact that the aid countries have withdrawn their financial support for the electoral events.

Rajoelina will not be recognized

The AU Peace and Security Council says it will not recognize Rajoelina as president if he wins the election. After that, France and the EU announce that they will withdraw their financial support for the presidential election.

Ex-Presidents intend to run for office

Despite a previous promise to withdraw, Rajoelina announces that he is running for presidential election, which has now been postponed until July. 41 candidates have been approved, in addition to Rajoelina also Ratsiraka and Lalao Ravalomanana, wife of Marc Ravalomanana. Both SADC and South Africa’s and Tanzania’s presidents personally appeal to all three to withdraw their candidacies to give the country a chance to restart.


The president returns

Former President Ratsiraka returns after eleven years in exile. He is to attend a national reconciliation conference but does not want to say whether he will be running for the summer elections. His successor Ravalomanana is still prevented from returning. He has lived in exile since he was deposed in the 2009 coup.


Chance to be recognized government

Rajoelina announces that he will not run in the May 8 presidential election. Nor does Ravalomanana intend to be a candidate. Thus, there is the possibility that the election could bring about a fresh start for the country and give it an internationally recognized government.