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History, Ratsiraka’s Rule

Marc Ravalomanana, presidential runoff election, Ratsiraka, student strike, runoff election

After a decade of political stability, Malagasy underwent serious unrest in the early 1970s, although Tsiranana was reelected for the second time in January 1972. In the spring, however, a student strike grew into general rioting, and Tsiranana was forced to turn power over to the army chief of staff, General Gabriel Ramanantsoa. Ramanantsoa was ousted by other elements of the military in early 1975; in June, Lieutenant Commander Didier Ratsiraka was named head of state. On December 30, the country was renamed the Democratic Republic of Madagascar, and on January 4, 1976, Ratsiraka began a seven-year term as president.

Economic pressures in the late 1970s added to political unrest, to which the government responded with a series of alerts and arrests; alleged antigovernment plots were reported in 1977, 1980, and 1982. Reelected in November 1982 and March 1989, Ratsiraka suppressed another coup attempt in May 1990. After massive antigovernment demonstrations, he promised in August 1991 to institute democratic reforms; a transitional government took office in November, and a new constitution was approved by popular referendum in August 1992. Albert Zafy defeated Ratsiraka in a presidential runoff election in February 1993.

The transition to civilian rule was marked by opposition from troops loyal to Ratsiraka and by conflicts with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) regarding the exchange rate of the Malagasy franc. In September 1996 the National Assembly impeached Zafy for, among other things, failing to reach an agreement with the IMF. Zafy officially stepped down in October, and new presidential elections were held in December. Ratsiraka defeated Zafy and was proclaimed president once again in January 1997.

Ratsiraka also struggled with the IMF, and delays in obtaining IMF relief funds led to an erosion of support for his administration. In December 2001, in the first round of presidential elections, Ratsiraka finished second to Marc Ravalomanana, the popular mayor of Antananarivo. Since neither candidate received more than 50 percent of the vote, a runoff election was required by law. However, Ravalomanana declared himself the victor, and, backed by the overwhelming support of Antananarivo residents, had himself sworn in as president in February 2002. Ratsiraka refused to step down, demanding that the runoff election take place. Supported by rural and coastal provinces, Ratsiraka established a rival government at the port city of Toamasina.

Article key phrases:

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