Since gaining independence from France, the President of Madagascar has acted as the country's Head of State. In 1958, Madagascar’s citizens voted to become an autonomous republic in the new French Republic. The country adopted a constitution in the same year that was amended in 1960, giving the country a presidential type of government. The first President of Madagascar was Philibert Tsiranana who headed the provincial government until 1972, when he, faced with protests and riots, handed over power to General Gabriel Ramananstoa. Since then, Madagascar has adopted three new constitutions, in 1975, 1992, and more recently in 2010. Madagascar’s President is Chief of the armed forces and enforces foreign policies. Elected by universal suffrage for a five-year term, the president can dissolve the National Assembly devoid of prior consultation.
Presidents of Madagascar
Tsiranana was born on October 18, 1912, at Ambarikorano, in the Sofia Region of Madagascar. After completing studies in regional schools, Tsiranana started teaching in his hometown and obtained a scholarship to France, working as a teaching assistant in the École Normale d’instituteurs in Montpellier, France. Tsiranana was consciously aware of the economic and social inequities between the coastal people and people from the highlands in his country. Upon his return to Madagascar, he taught at the École Industrielle in Tananarive. His political career began with his election to represent his province in the Provincial Assembly, after which he was elected to the Representative Assembly of Madagascar and eventually to the French National Assembly.
Succeeding Tsiranana, Gabriel Ramanantsoa served as Madagascar’s President and Prime Minister from 1972 until 1975. A Merina by ethnicity, Gabriel was born on April 13, 1906, in Antananarivo, Madagascar and served in the French Army as a career officer. He served in the Madagascar military after the country’s independence, rising through the ranks to become a Major General. His political career began with his appointment as Prime Minister in 1972, and he would end up assuming the President position on October 11th of the same year.
Gilles Andriamahazo succeeded the third president of Madagascar, Richard Ratsmimandrava, following his assassination after only six days in office. Gilles was born on May 13, 1919, in Fort Dauphin, Anosy Region. He mainly pursued a military career, serving in the French Army through World War II and the French military campaign against Algerian nationalists during the 1950s. Before his taking office, Gilles served as the military president of Madagascar. Although his time in office was limited, his input was significant in preventing civil war after President Richard’s assassination. He resigned from his position for Didier Ratsiraka and served from February 12 to June 15, 1975.
Didier Ratsiraka was born on November 4, 1933, in Vatomandry in the Atsinanana Region of Madagascar. Didier pursued a military career, achieving a government scholarship to study at the Naval Academy in Brest in western France. He served as minister of foreign affairs after his return to Madagascar, gaining popularity after he led negotiations to reestablish Madagascar as a French Protectorate. Military leadership established him as head of state in 1975, after which he implemented a Malagasy socialist system to address economic shortcomings. After his socialist policies failed, he resorted to implementing economic plans by the International Monetary Fund. Didier was reelected in 1982 and 1989, but by 1991 his regime faced intense opposition. He was voted out of office in 1993 and reelected again in 1997 after a self-imposed exile. Didier lost the election in 2002 to Marc Ravalomanana.
Other Presidents of Madagascar
Madagascar’s other presidents include Richard Ratsimandrava who served in February of 1975, Albert Zafy (1993-1996), Norbert Ratsirahonana (1996-1997), Marc Ravalomanana (2002-2009), Andry Rajoelina (2009-2014), and Hery Rajaonarimampianina (2014-present). The political landscape in Madagascar has had its fair share of upheavals. Throughout history, Madagascar’s presidents have faced similar challenges, from poor socioeconomic situations, opposition and attempted coups and impeachment.