| Democratic Process
This section has been updated
by Mr Boubacar Issa Abdourhamane,
a doctorate student at the CEAN, IEP Montesquieu University of Bordeaux
The Constitution of 1998 that
established the Fourth Republic is largely based on that of 1992, but it put an end to the
so-called Assembly regime and essentially restored the prerogatives that the President had
had under the Second Republic: the right to dissolve the assembly, the use of universal
suffrage and the obstacles placed in the way of impeachment. Executive power is shared,
however, between the President and the Prime Minister. The President is elected by direct
universal suffrage for five years. He may be re-elected twice (Article 45). He appoints
the Prime Minister from the ranks of the majority in Parliament, has the right to dismiss
him from office for any decisive reason and may dissolve the national Assembly
(Art. 58 and Art. 95). He sets and defines, in cabinet meetings, the general policy of the
State that is implemented by the government which is responsible to the Assembly. The
Prime Minister has the initiative of proposing laws and ensures their application and that
of decisions of justice (Art. 63). In government meetings, he defines draft laws,
exercises regulatory power under the direct control of the President of the Republic and
negotiates and signs international agreements that are not subject to ratification.
The Parliament of Madagascar has two chambers, the National Assembly and the Senate. Since 1992, the Senate, in which the weight of the provinces and the members designated by the President of the Republic is preponderant, has never been set up. However, in January 2001, the government decided that Senate elections would be held in March 2001. Out of the 100 Senators, 30 are to be nominated and the other 70 elected by the Provincial Councillors and Mayors. It is the President of the Senate who replaces the President of the Republic if the position is left vacant. The National Assembly is currently composed of 150 members (previously 138) elected for five years (previously four) by direct universal suffrage. They are elected on a first-past-the-post basis in a single-round election in the constituencies in which there is only one seat to be filled and by proportional representation from lists in constituencies with several seats to fill (Art. 66). They benefit prom parliamentary immunity (Art. 69). The government may engage its responsibility and demand that the Assembly give its decision by a single vote on all or part of the provisions in the texts being discussed (Art 87). The Parliament examines the projected Budget transmitted by the Government; if the proposed text is not adopted in time, the government may proceed by decree (Art. 88).
In recent years, the Constitutional High Court has played an exceptional role in safeguarding democracy and, for this reason, it enjoys a prestigious reputation among the public. It is composed of nine members appointed for a term of seven years. It is this Court that proclaims the official results of elections and referendums and takes decisions in related disputes. Notably, it was the Constitutional High Court that enabled the smooth transition between the former and the new regime by extending the term of the members of the Assembly, which was theoretically to come to an end on 3 August 1997, until the general elections of 17 May 1998. This authority also took its responsibilities on the occasion of the impeachment pronounced against President Zafy and of the validation of the presidential elections won by Didier Ratsiraka with less than 51% of the votes.
Unlike many other African
countries, Madagascar has a certain pluralist political tradition, even though this has
always been limited and controlled by the government. From 1960 to 1975, the President was
Philibert Tsiranana. This period was characterised by elections that were open to the
opposition despite the overwhelming domination of the party in power that easily won all
the general elections and with the President receiving a plebiscite each time he stood for
From 1975 to 1989, Madagascar was governed by the self-declared Marxist regime of Didier Ratsiraka. The Front National pour la Défense de la Révolution (FNDR) grouped together all the so-called progressive organisations, while dissidents were deprived of any legal form of existence. This regime was characterised by semi-competitive elections, open to the different tendencies that composed the FNDR. In 1982, Didier Ratsiraka was elected (80%) in elections open to other candidates. In 1989, he won with only 62%. Dissidents began to leave the FNDR as of the general elections of May 1989. In December, the Constitution was revised to strengthen the powers of the President of the Republic.
The economic crisis that had been latent since the middle of the 1980s was by now provoking increasing discontent in society, especially as it was set against the backdrop of upheaval elsewhere in the world, and notably the transformation of the communist countries. The domestic opposition began to mobilise itself more and more and, in June 1991, 16 parties and trades union groups created a Comité des Forces Vives (CFV) to demand a change of regime. The CFV organised street demonstrations attracting hundreds of thousands of people. It also nominated a President of the Republic, a Prime Minister, Albert Zafy, and a parallel government. The government decreed a state of emergency and the army fired on the crowds of demonstrators, killing dozens of them on several occasions.
Although he had dissolved the government on 28 July 1991 to prepare the way for discussions with the opposition, President Ratsiraka nonetheless continued with the repression of the protest movements. On 31 October, the two sides finally came to an agreement, deciding on a transition period of 18 months. The former revolutionary institutions were dissolved, a Prime Minister was appointed for the transition period and the President of Republic was maintained in his place with honorary powers.
In February and April 1992, regional forums and then a national forum with 1,400 representatives of the different political forces and civil society drew up a new Constitution. This was adopted by referendum in August and promulgated on 18 September. The first round of the presidential elections was held on 25 November and left just Albert Zafy and Didier Ratsiraka to face each other in the second round. The second round was finally only organised on 10 February 1993. Professor Zafy won with 66.47% of the votes and with the support of a large part of the opposition keen to be rid of his adversary. In the general elections in June, there were more than 121 lists of candidates standing, leading to the seats being scattered between a large number of parties. A majority coalition did emerge, however, to support President Zafy, who won approval from Parliament for Francisque Ravony as his Prime Minister in August.
By 1994, however, there was increasing conflict between the Prime Minister and the President of the Republic. According to the terms of the Constitution, the Chief of State cannot take the initiative of revoking the Prime Minister. To get around this obstacle, President Zafy submitted a revision of the Constitution for referendum and it was adopted in September 1995. He then appointed a new Prime Minister in November. From February 1996 onwards, an opposition coalition began to be put together to seek the departure of President Zafy. They found support in parliament and the government was overturned by a no-confidence vote in May. The Chief of State accepted to appoint the Prime Minister nominated by Parliament, but sought to place his supporters in the cabinet. This confrontation led the opposition to adopt a resolution pronouncing the impeachment of President Zafy on 26 July, and he was deposed on 5 September.
The interim government organised new presidential elections on 3 November and 29 December 1996. As in 1993, A. Zafy and D. Ratsiraka came face to face in the second round. It was the latter who won this time, thus returning to power despite his Marxist past. A constitutional referendum was organised on 15 March 1998 to modify the former Constitution, and Order 98-001 of 9 April 1998 was adopted. This served as an organic law setting the terms and conditions of the general elections. General elections were held on 17 May 1998. The Avant-Garde of the Renewal of Madagascar (Avant-Garde du Renouveau de Madagascar - AREMA), the party of President Ratsiraka, won 63 of the 150 seats in an Assembly that remained divided between many parties. A majority coalition was nevertheless built around the AREMA, which was thus able to govern. As several ministers had been elected to Parliament, the government of Pascal Rakotomavo handed in its resignation. On 23 July 1998, President Ratsiraka appointed the former Finance Minister Andrianarivo Tantély Gabrio to the post of Prime Minister.
Fears of a return to the former authoritarian Ratsikara regime vanished, despite the return to power of certain old elites. The opposition has given the impression of being rather scattered between parties that often join the government and is no longer channelled by a large popular movement as it was in 1991-1993. The major Christian Churches which inspired this movement have rallied around the new regime, at least de facto if not by conviction, although they did express their disapproval of the project to revise the constitution and condemned the referendum. The Constitution of 1992 had in fact been written up by a Commission set up directly by the Federation of Christian Churches of Madagascar and they therefore did not see the need of proceeding to carry out a fundamental modification by referendum. The next Presidential election is scheduled for the end of 2001.
According to the terms of the
Constitution and the law, judicial power is in the hands of the Constitutional High Court,
the Supreme Court (comprising the Court of Cassation, the Council of State and the Court
of Auditors), the Appeal Courts, the Tribunals and the High Court of Justice (Art. 97).
The President of the Republic appoints and revokes the magistrates by decree (Art. 98.1).
The magistrates act independently (Art. 99).
The legal system is based on two levels of jurisdiction, the independence of the judge and the authority of the judgement. Since independence, legislative unification has been underway with the codification of modern law and new judicial organisation. Since the end of the First Republic, however, this work on codification seems to have been suspended. Jurisprudence remains inaccessible for lack of resources to publish it. The legal system is handicapped by the slowness of procedures, the interference of different authorities, competent or not, in the course of penal procedures and the lack of information about legal affairs and jurisprudence, not to mention rumours of corruption.
Decentralisation and Devolution
The Constitution establishes
the principle of a certain autonomy of the six provinces within the State of Madagascar.
Originally, federalism was a demand of those living on the coasts to protect themselves
against the hegemony of the capital. Today, the central province, Imerina, has caught onto
the idea of greater freedom of political and economic action in relation to provinces that
are less productive or less favoured by the climate.
The Constitution of 15 March 1998 includes a Section IV that is quite new and is devoted to the autonomous provinces. However, it sticks to the essentials of Section VII of the Constitution of 1992 on decentralised local authorities. The autonomous provinces are public authorities that benefit from the status of legal entities and from financial and administrative autonomy (Art. 126). The autonomy of the provinces excludes the right to secede or to attempt to secede (Art. 129).
The autonomous provinces, each with their own statutes, are: Antananarivo, Antsiranana, Fianarantsoa, Mahajanga, Toamasina and Toliara. Each province has Governing Council composed of a Governor and General Commissioners (Art. 131). The Governor is elected by the Provincial Council for a renewable term of five years. The composition, the organisation and the workings of the Provincial councils are fixed by the statutes of each province. The State of Madagascar has given itself 30 months as of the promulgation of the related organic laws to set up the institutions stipulated by the new Constitution. The administrative divisions comprise 28 regions, 158 departments and 1,392 communes. The capital has a particular status. The Madagascan government has a Vice Prime Minister in charge of the budget and of the autonomous provinces.
The first elections to choose the 336 councillors of the future autonomous provinces were marked by low turnout. The results announced on 22 November gave 41% to the AREMA of President Ratsiraka (575 seats throughout the country), 15.87% to Henry Raz Afimahaleos Leader Fanilo, 5.53% to Evariste Marsons Social Democratic Party, 3.95% to the AVI of former Prime Minister Norbert Lala Ratsirahonana (who won the capital, notably). On a date that has not yet been fixed, these provincial councillors will elect the Governors of the six future autonomous provinces of the island. The process of setting up the provincial powers, which will culminate in the formation of the Governing Councils, is well underway. President Ratsiraka has made great efforts to push for the decentralisation of power, for it was one of the central themes of his 1996 campaign.
The multi-party system was
authorised by Law 89-028 and Order 90-001 before being written into the Constitution. In
the general elections of 1998, 151 parties presented candidates. This proliferation is a
sign both of the loss of prestige of the major traditional parties and the vitality of
democracy in Madagascar. We can note the large number of independent parties, often
represented by just one local personality. We should also point out that there are some
Islamic candidates and also the rise of a few lists that define themselves as Christian
We can observe that the representation of the opposition is often very regionalised. In the general elections, the AFFA list of former President of the Republic Albert Zafy won just 4.6% of the votes nationally, but in Antsiranana, its stronghold, it won a comfortable majority with 53.4% of the votes. The party of President Ratsiraka, the AREMA, won just 24.8% in this region, but obtained the same proportion of the votes (24.74%) nationally.
The independents dominated the last elections in terms of the number of votes (26.81%), but won only 32 seats. Among the surprises of the results, we should point out the victory in Tananarive, with 8 seats out of 12, of the AVI list led by Norbert Ratsirahonana, former President of the Constitutional High Court and interim Chief of State after the impeachment of President Albert Zafy. The AVI polled 6.9% nationally and won 14 seats. This new party (AVI = Ny Asa Vita No Ifampitsarana, It is on the work done that we will be judged) put an end to the long reign of Pastor Richard Andriamanjato, former speaker of the Assembly, the founder of the AKFM and then the AKFM Renewal, who had been elected in Tananarive almost without interruption since 1958. Two other political formations got good results in the elections, the Leader Fanilo (13.32% of the votes, 17 seats) and the RPSD (4.75% and 11 seats). Among the personalities who lost, we can note, among others, Manandafy Rakotonirina, President and Founder of the MFM. The reader will find a list of the 151 Madagascan political parties with the date they were founded and the name of their Chairman or Secretary general in the Revue de lOcéan Indien (Mai 1998).
Alongside the various political forces, the unions took part in the common front to demand the democratisation of the system in the major protest campaigns of 89-91. Their action then subsided somewhat and, despite the structural adjustment programmes, privatisation and economic hardship, the unions remain without great influence.
The Constitution of 1998
solemnly confirms the respect of human rights and the protection of the fundamental
individual and collective liberties, as well as transparency in the conduct of public
affairs and the application of the rule of law. Without making any great changes from the
text of 1992, Section II states the freedom, rights and duties of the citizen in detail.
Among the sources of legislation are the International Charter of Human Rights, The
African Charter of Human and Peoples Rights and the Conventions relating to women
and children (new Preamble to the Constitution).
There is a Madagascan section of the African League of Human and Peoples Rights and a Madagascan League of Human Rights. It is significant to note that the General Discipline Regulations of the Armed Forces (Decree 97-1133 of 17 September 1997) that the respect of human rights and humanitarian law comes before the duty of all members of the military to obey orders. Madagascan participation in the international jurisdictions and, in particular, the International Penal Tribunal on Rwanda has certainly had positive results.
However, human rights organisations have pointed out that there are thousands of prisoners awaiting judgement in deplorable conditions while, in the provinces, many delinquents are set free, for lack of prison space, and commit new offences. Until now, the State has not succeeded in controlling crime and giving the population a true sense of security.
Censorship was abolished in 1989 at the beginning of the democratisation process. Distribution of the written press, however, is limited by economic difficulties and it is present essentially in the capital and the large towns. No publication has circulation of more than 20,000 copies. We should mention the dailies Midi Madagasikara, LExpress de Madagascar, Tribune, Maresaka, the weekly Lakroani Madagasikara, the only publication available in rural areas and from which a monthly selection has been published in France since April 1998 under the name Bémoi (Newsletter of the Churches of Madagascar and the Indian Ocean) and, finally, La Revue de lOcéan Indien (monthly) and the Lettre Mensuelle de JURECO. Several independent radio stations emit on FM in Antananarivo, including RVF, RTV and RLI, and the authorisation to install satellite dishes has given access to foreign television channels.