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MADAGASCAR: Year-ender 2002 - From crisis to resolution

JOHANNESBURG, 20 January 2003 (IRIN) - The Indian Ocean island of Madagascar sank into political crisis in 2002 after a disputed presidential election in December 2001. While officially no candidate won an absolute majority, opposition candidate and businessman Marc Ravalomanana claimed the poll was rigged and refused to take part in a run-off against long-serving President Didier Ratsiraka.

Over the course of the year, Madagascar struggled with the fallout of the dispute, but emerged at the end of 2002 with a new government and pledges of financial support from donors to rebuild the country.

7 January - Daily protests begin to pressure the Ratsiraka government for a recount.

25 January - The result is announced and a run-off ordered. Results from the Interior Ministry give Ravalomanana 46 percent against 40 percent for Ratsiraka - short of an absolute majority needed to avoid a second round of voting. Ravalomanana says he won 53 percent and so should be sworn in straight away. The High Court orders a second round of elections.

28 January - An opposition strike begins in protest over the High Court ruling. The strike is widely observed, resulting in the suspension of international and domestic flights. Employees of the state electricity and water company also take part in the demonstration and many shops are closed.

22 February - Ravalomanana declares himself president. The prime minister announces a state of emergency. The emergency measures ban demonstrations and allow the government to requisition all public services and take total control of the media.

27 February - The first violent clashes in the capital, Antananarivo, occur after several weeks of demonstrations by opposition supporters. Two are reported injured.

28 February - Ratsiraka declares martial law in the capital. The police and military had already been given sweeping new powers after Ravalomanana declared himself president, but the new powers had not been used so far in Antananarivo.

1 March - Ravalomanana forms a rival government, a day after martial law comes into force.

12 March - The Organisation of African Unity (OAU) calls for a "national reconciliation" government to be set up until a new ballot is held to resolve the deepening political crisis.

14 March - Ravalomanana replaces the top military officials in the capital.

16 March - Jacques Sylla, head of the self-declared opposition government, enters the office of the prime minister after a tense stand-off with troops loyal to Ratsiraka.

17 March - Ratsiraka rejects a proposal by the OAU to form a "reconciliation government".

22 March - Ratsiraka sets a new date for the second round of presidential elections. Ravalomanana snubs the new poll date.

26 March - The rival opposition government unveils its political platform, including a commitment to free trade and maintaining ties with France, the former colonial power.

April - The mostly peaceful election stand-off takes a violent turn as large crowds of opposition supporters loot homes of several government loyalists.

17 April - In an unprecedented move, the High Constitutional Court (HCC) annuls the disputed results of the 16 December presidential poll and calls for a recount. Ravalomanana and Ratsiraka agree to a recount.

29 April - The HCC declares Ravalomanana the outright election winner. It rules that Ravalomanana had won 51 percent of the vote to Ratsiraka's 36 percent. Ratsiraka warns that he would reject the HCC's verdict.

30 April - The OAU calls for a referendum to chose between the island's political rivals, despite the HCC ruling. Four of the six provinces threaten to secede after rejecting the HCC verdict.

6 May - Ravalomanana formally assumes the presidency, however, the international community remains cautious in their show of support.

13 May - Analysts predict a worsening of the crisis as sporadic clashes flare between the country's two main ethnic groups.

21 May - Aid agencies say the lack of fuel in the capital is critical, forcing them to buy on the parallel market. The price of fuel rocketed after Ratsiraka supporters cut supplies to the capital in February, starving Antananarivo of fuel and other vital commodities.

10 June - Peace talks in Dakar, Senegal, under the auspices of the OAU, end without agreement.

13 June - Ravalomanana seizes a third province from his rival.

14 June - Ratsiraka leaves for France. His departure comes as military forces loyal to Ravalomanana take control of the northwestern port town of Mahajanga, a Ratsiraka stronghold.

23 June - On his return from France, Ratsiraka calls for fresh talks but Ravalomanana rejects his plea.

26 June - The United States recognises Ravalomanana as the legitimate leader of Madagascar.

2 July - Ravalomanana receives French endorsement.

4 July - Senegal breaks ranks with the African Union (AU) and endorses Ravalomanana. The AU maintains that Ravalomanana's win had not been "legally constituted" and calls for fresh elections.

7 July - Ratsiraka seeks exile in France, marking the end of the seven-month political crisis. Ravalomanana's ministers threaten to pursue Ratsiraka into exile and hold him to account for corruption, killings and the creation of armed militia.

14 July - In a show of support for the country's new administration, donors pledge US $2.3 billion in aid.

17 October - Parliament is dissolved ahead of parliamentary elections set for 15 December, Ravalomanana supporters tipped to win.

11 December - Amnesty International calls for impartial and independent investigations into all reports of human rights violations and abuses unleashed during the political unrest following the 2001 elections.

15 December - Ravalomanana's party, I Love Madagascar, wins 102 of the 160 seats in parliament in key elections which are seen as a test of popular support for the president.

Themes: (IRIN) Economy, (IRIN) Governance


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