Ex-Madagascar President Didier Ratsiraka Dies At 84

This file photo taken on February 28, 2002 in Antananarivo shows then Madagascar president Didier Ratsiraka talking to journalists. Ratsiraka died aged 84 on March 28, 2021.
Pedro UGARTE / AFP

 

Madagascar’s longtime former leader Didier Ratsiraka, a naval officer and instigator of a socialist revolution on the Indian Ocean island, died Sunday morning aged 84, president Andry Rajoelina announced.

“The Malagasy have lost an illustrious patriot,” Rajoelina posted on Twitter.

The cause of the death was not immediately disclosed.

Ratsiraka was in power from 1975 until 1991 and returned for another stint from 1997 to 2002.

When he first came to power, he practised a form of Marxism and had close ties to North Korea’s Kim Il Sung, Cuba’s Fidel Castro and the Kremlin.

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In January 2002, Ratsiraka’s rival, Antananarivo mayor and entrepreneur Marc Ravalomanana, sent his supporters into the streets claiming victory in the first round of presidential elections held in December 2001.

Ravalomanana refused to organise a second round of voting, while Ratsiraka declined to concede defeat, plunging the country into seven months of violence and chaos.

In this file photo taken on September 12, 2013 former Madagascar president Didier Ratsiraka makes his first appearance since his exclusion from the presidential election candidates list, answering answers questions from national and foreign press on a private TV station in Antananarivo.  BILAL TARABEY / AFP

 

The impasse split the nation in two — with two capitals, two governments, and a divided army — until Ravalomanana was officially proclaimed president in April 2002 and sworn in on May 6, with Ratsiraka still disputing the result.

The following July, Ratsiraka fled into exile in France where he remained for 11 years, returning home in 2013.

In 2003, Ratsiraka was sentenced in absentia to hard labour, five years in jail for threatening state security and 10 years for embezzling public funds.

AFP

Madagascar Hopes Run-Off Election Ends Five-Year Crisis

Candidates in Madagascar’s run-off presidential election face off on Friday, December 20 for the final round in what voters hope will mark the end of five years of political and economic uncertainty in the Indian Ocean Island nation.

Both candidates failed to score a commanding victory in October’s first round, and voters may not deliver a clear mandate to either Hery Rajaonarimampianina, a former finance minister backed by outgoing President Andry Rajoelina, or Jean Louis Robinson, an ally of Marc Ravalomanana, who was deposed by Rajoelina with the army’s help in 2009.

However, old rifts may persist, extending a crisis begun by the 2009 coup that deterred investors and donors of aid to one of Africa’s poorest nations.

Parliamentary polls also taking place on Friday could lead to one camp holding the presidency and the other controlling the legislature, perhaps forcing them into a power-sharing deal.

Smooth elections could help restore the confidence of mining and other investors, revive the battered tourist industry and re-open the aid taps to a country of 22 million people, of whom 9 out of 10 live on less than 2 US dollars a day.

Candidates took part in a televised debate on Wednesday, December 18, and while many voters say it was informative, they also said that it did not change their decision on who to back come Friday.

“There was already a debate such as this one during the time of Presidents Zafy and Didier Ratsiraka, but this time all the aspects have been addressed,” said Lanto Rakotoarisoa, an Antananarivo resident.

“The leaders say they want national reconciliation but they can’t even agree on just one debate,” said Dizo Henri, another resident of the capital.

Political analyst, Gilbert Raharizatovo, said that none of the candidates have the experience to lead the country out of crisis.

“What Madagascar is looking for now is a man who’s able to organise (things), who has a vision, so that’s called a statesman. In Madagascar, it doesn’t really exist. Why? Simply because, in my opinion, a statesman is a man who’s been trained for long years to recognise what are the ethics of governance, the deontology of governance or the deontology of politics,” he said.

Much hangs on how the loser reacts and whether the army, which had backed Rajoelina, stays in its barracks this time.

In the first round Robinson secured 21 percent of the vote, while Rajaonarimampianina won 16 percent, both far short of the 50 percent plus needed for outright victory.