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Madagascar - Government

From 1896 to 1960, the island was under French colonial rule, which was followed by three successive republics. The third republic has been in place since 1992, but the country continued to be unstable. After Madagascar’s independence in 1960 from France, its First Republic (1960-1972) remained closely tied to France and still maintains these ties. The Second Republic, led by President Didier Ratsiraka, during the Cold war, had strong Soviet ties, and was so-called “Scientific Socialist”. The Third Republic’s constitution was written in 1992 and revised in 1995, 1998 and 2007.

In Madagascar the constitution has been a political tool of the President not a constraint on it. Every President in the history of postcolonial Madagascar has changed the Constitution to suit his need. In 1995 President Zafy Albert changed the 1992 constitution to shift power from the prime minister to the president. In 1998, President Didier Ratsiraka changed the constitution to create autonomous provinces, effectively shifting power from the capital to his provincial powerbases. In 2004, President Marc Ravalomanana abrogated the six autonomous provinces by decree in favor of a deconcentrated system of 22 regions appointed by the central government. This limited power of elites outside of the capital region in favor of his Antananarivo powerbase. The constitution was revised in 2007 to meet the change already in place. Each rise of violence in Madagascar has led to calls for a return to constitutionality: however, that is a relative position subject to the mutability of the varying networks in place.

Weak governance in Madagascar is holding back economic stability, growth, and development. Madagascar suffers from systemic corruption, even compared to other fragile states, which hamstrings the conduct of regulatory and budgetary policies, ultimately hurting inclusive growth. To enhance governance, the authorities are addressing existing weaknesses in public financial management (PFM), supported by TA from the Fund and others, and intensifying efforts against corruption.

The "Panorama Convention" of October 31, 1991, stripped Predsident Ratsiraka of nearly all of his powers, created interim institutions, and set an 18-month timetable for completing a transition to a new form of constitutional government. The High Constitutional Court was retained as the ultimate judicial arbiter of the process. In March 1992, a widely representative National Forum organized by the Malagasy Christian Council of Churches (FFKM) drafted a new constitution, which was put to a nationwide referendum in August 1992 and approved by a wide margin, despite efforts by pro-Ratsiraka "federalists" to disrupt balloting in several coastal areas.

In April 2007, a referendum that saw a 75% voter turnout supported constitutional changes, introduced English as the third official language, and redefined the country’s administrative divisions from the previous six provinces to a new set of 22 regions. However a political crisis broke out towards the end of 2008, led by the mayor of the capital, Andry Rajoelina, who challenged the legitimacy of several government decisions. The challenge and ensuing turmoil led to the exile of Mr. Ravalomanana and the establishment of a Transitional Authority backed by the military and headed by Mr. Rajoelina.

The referendum of November 17, 2010 led to the establishment of the Fourth Republic. Majority of the population voted for it and a new constitution was promulgated on December 11, 2010. This event started the Fourth Republic of Madagascar. The prime minister and members of parliament initiate legislation, and the government executes it. The president can dissolve the National Assembly. For its part, the National Assembly can pass a motion of censure and require the prime minister and council of ministers to step down. The Constitutional Court approves the constitutionality of new laws. The new constitution which launched the Fourth Republic was an attempt to consolidate and legitimize the rule of Andry Rajoelina and his government, which was installed after a military-backed coup d'état against former President Marc Ravalomanana at the beginning of the national political crisis.

The principal institutions of the Republic of Madagascar are a presidency, a parliament, a prime ministry and cabinet, and an independent judiciary. The president is elected by direct universal suffrage for a 5-year term, renewable twice. The Executive Branch of the government, particularly the Presidency, has traditionally been very dominant. The President appoints the Prime Minister (PM) since the brief exception in 1992 change to elect the PM from the National Assembly was overturned in 1995. Little distinction is made between the political network of the President and the role of the Presidency. In Madagascar, the dominant role of the Presidency stands in the context of a culture descendant from monarchic rule.

In Madagascar, the parliament has two chambers; the National Assembly and the Senate. The Legislature is unable to constrain Presidential authority, as it has become a marginal part of the system, in service to, rather than in check of, Presidential executive power. The bicameral Parliament is composed of the National Assembly and the Senate: the Senate (upper chamber) was only created in 2001, and has little legislative influence, with over a third of its members appointed by the President. The National Assembly (lower chamber) has a history of greater legislative influence but has since been both strongly politicized and subject to the direct institutional intervention of successive executives, which has undermined its ability to exercise even its limited oversight functions. The legislature has been politically isolated, underfunded and has limited technical capacity. Unless the electoral code and law on political parties change, the Legislature is likely to continue to be dominated by the Executive.

The National Assembly election held on September 23, 2007, marked a significant reform to the parliament. The National Assembly has 127 members, elected for a 4-year term in single-member and two-member constituencies. The Senate has 33 members, with 22 members elected for a 6-year term, 1 for each province by provincial electors, and 11 members appointed by the president. Following the 2009 coup d'etat, the Malagasy National Assembly and Senate were dissolved by the de facto authorities. Thus, there was no legitimate legislative body in Madagascar.

The Judiciary is also unable to play its role as an independent branch of government or as a defender of citizen rights. The President has significant power of the Judiciary and the Supreme Court (HCC) in particular, as the President is the guarantor of judicial independence, simultaneously holds the post of President of the Superior Council of the Magistrature (CSM) and names three of the nine members of the HCC. The HCC is flexible to accommodate the sitting President’s interests, as often it can interpret what it sees as contradictions in the constitution by drawing on common law. Although it does not appear that the Judiciary is largely captured by executive rents, it is largely powerless against those that are. Selective application of the legal framework has led to a perception of widespread impunity.

In an effort to decentralize administration, the country's six provinces were dissolved in the constitutional referendum of 2007, in favor of 22 regions. Decentralization is an ongoing process, and was a key element of Madagascar's development plans prior to the 2009 coup d'etat.

Madagascar has a tradition of limited village self-rule associated with the institution of the fokonolona — a village council composed of village elders and other local notables. After having been alternately suppressed and encouraged by the French colonial authorities, authorities officially revived the fokonolona in 1962 in an attempt to involve local communities in plans for rural economic and social development. The perceived usefulness of the fokonolona derived from its traditional role of maintaining order in the village and providing social and economic assistance.

The law provides traditional village institutions the right to protect property and public order. Some rural areas used an informal, community-organized judicial system, or “dina,” to resolve civil disputes between villagers over such issues as alleged cattle rustling. Although the dina system provided the only rule of law in some villages and isolated regions of the country, it at times imposed harsh sentences without due process. The dina system also served as a means to exploit villagers. For example, dina leaders in Tsaratanana required villagers who lost cattle to pay money for the dina to intervene, although such intervention rarely resulted in the return of stolen cattle.

Weak governance remains a key constraint to Madagascar’s development. Despite progress made in selected areas of governance, such as financial management, governance challenges have been both the cause and consequence of this crisis. The lack of effective checks and balances between government branches, institutional weaknesses, the inappropriate mingling of public and private interests and interference in the application of the legal framework together with perceptions of widespread impunity have reduced the levels of efficiency, transparency and accountability of government action.

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Page last modified: 14-10-2016 19:40:19 ZULU