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News Analysis: Why did Madagascan president lose support?
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16:44, March 18, 2009

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Madagascar's political chaos continued Tuesday as the country's top generals, ignoring President Marc Ravalomanana's order to transfer power to a military directorate, gave control to the opposition leader.

The generals' installation of opposition leader Andry Rajoelinaas as president of a transition government came just hours after Ravalomanana resigned, which seemed to end the months-long power struggle.

But why has the Indian Ocean island nation been trapped in such unrest? And why did Ravalomanana lose support?


Madagascar is one of the world's poorest countries. According to a 2007 UN report, about 70 percent of the 20 million Madagascans live with less than one dollar each.

When Ravalomanana first campaigned for the presidency in 2001, he promised to bring about fast and sustainable economic development for the country, which won him enormous support from voters.

But such promises failed to materialize after he took office in 2002, and the country remains one of the world's poorest.

When Ravalomanana was re-elected in 2007, he set some unrealistic targets for economic growth and forced government departments to implement related measures, a move that aroused strong dissatisfaction.


Top generals' support for Rajoelina was partially the result of a series of personnel changes Ravalomanana made, which escalated the inter-military conflict.

In October 2007, Ravalomanana appointed his close ally Cecile Marie-Ange Manorohanta defense minister. As she enjoyed little prestige and support in the army, her appointment became a source of military discontent.

The president in early February named Edmond Rasolomahandry chief of staff of the military. But the army refused to accept the appointment and supported Andre Ndriarijaona as the new army chief.


Rajoelina contested municipal elections in 2007 as an independent, running against Ravalomanana's party. As mayor of the capital, he became one of the most ardent critics of the government. But he was fired on Feb. 3.

In January, the parliament, dominated by the ruling party, adopted measures that that made almost all opposition parties illegal and in essence disqualified Rajoelina's candidacy in any election.

The measures, however, effectively facilitated Rajoelina's efforts to gain support from the majority of the opposition.


Though Ravalomanana has resigned, Madagascar is likely to spend more time restoring stability.

Under the constitution, the head of parliament's upper house should have taken over the presidency and elections should be held within two months.

But, instead, Rajoelina, just 34, six years too young to be president according to the constitution, now heads a transitional government that has pledged to hold a presidential election within two years.

Thus a question remains: should the opposition, which has given concerted support to Rajoelina, continue to take a concerted stand?


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