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Madagascar President - Philibert Tsiranana - 1960-1972

Philibert Tsiranana was born October 18, 1912 in the district of Ambarikorano, Mandritsara [or Anahidrano, in Majunga province]. The son of Madiomanana and Fisadoha TSIRANANA of the Tsimihety ethnic group, he often recalled how he used to till the soil on his grandfather's piece of land at Majunga, and looked after goats as a child. His parents were Catholic cattle ranchers. On January 20, 1933, he married Justine Kalotody, with whome he had six children.

He completed his early studies in his native town, and in 1926 he was admitted to the entrance examination at the regional Analalava school. He went to France for further studies, and from 1930 he studied at the "Normal Section "school of Teacher" Le Myre de Vilers "Antananarivo. For ten years he taught in his hometown, then was directed in 1942 to the professorship, following a refresher course in Antananarivo. In 1945 Philibert TSIRANANA passed the contest frames Professors Assistants and found the Ecole Normale Le Myre de Vilers. His Schoolteacher diploma earned him the position of Antsirabe. After that, he taught in the technical school at Tananarive until 1955.

Inspired by the ideas of Christian Socialism - a socialism that led him to achieve noble performances for his people, he founded the Madagascar's Social Democratic Party on December 28, 1956, and later on became its secretary-general. Tsiranana at one time was elected to the Provincial Assembly of his own province, to the Representative Assembly of Madagascar in 1952, and in 1956 to the French National Assembly. When he became Vice-President and then President of the Government Council of Madagascar, he fought diligently for the adoption of the Constitution of the 5th Republic in the referendum of 1958.

On 01 May 1959 he was elected President of the Republic by Parliament. June 16, 1962: An institutional Act establishes the election of the president by universal suffrage In February 1965: TSIRANANA decided to accelerate by one year the term of his term and set the presidential election on 30 March 1965. Joseph Raseta, who left in 1963 AKFM to found his own party the FIPIMA (Malagasy national Union), was a candidate for president. Independent Alfred RAZAFIARISOA also a candidate. The leader of MONIMA MONJA Jaona also showed an anxious moment to arise. On March 30, 1965: of the 2,583,051 registered, 2,521,216 were expressed. TSIRANANA is reelected President of the Republic by 2,451,441 votes, or 97% of the vote. Joseph Raseta collected 54,814 votes and Alfred RAZAFIARISOA 812 votes.

His political views are vividly seen in his work. Compared with the leaders of other developing countries of the time, Philibert's conduct appears honorable. Madagascar experienced moderate economic growth under his pragmatic socialist policies and came to be known as "the Happy Island." However, the democratization process was fraught with challenges and his term ultimately terminated in a political impasse that brought about the end of the democratic First Republic and ushered in the isolationist, Soviet-inspired socialist Second Republic. The "benevolent schoolmaster" public image that Tsiranana cultivated disguised intense firmness that tended toward authoritarianism.

Like most African leaders of his time, Tsiranana created an authoritarian, one-party state. By the 1960s, his Social Democratic Party was the only major political party in Madagascar. After he became head of state, and indeed throughout his entire public career, he made it clear that political independence meant practically nothing, unless it was followed by rigorous and overall economic freedom. He attached great importance to socialism so much so that many of his people were convinced that under this system, the hopes for greatness to Malagasy will not be distant. He often toured the country, spoke to the people, listened attentively to their problems, and in turn, reassured them that the day when their country will be one of the finest in Africa, was not far; that they must not sacrifice the luxury of political freedom to the degeneration of economic slavery; that they in turn should not ask what "Malagasy will do for them", but what "they will do for the young republic"; that they should not abuse and pay lip-service to their citizenship, but prove it by concrete results, such as hard work, intelligence, dedication and commitments of the mind, that can bring lasting rewards to all.

The cornerstone of Tsiranana's government was the signing with France of fourteen agreements and conventions designed to maintain and strengthen Franco-Malagasy ties. These agreements were to provide the basis for increasing opposition from Tsiranana's critics. A spirit of political reconciliation prevailed in the early 1960s. By achieving independence and obtaining the release of the MDRM leaders detained since the Revolt of 1947, Tsiranana had coopted the chief issues on which the more aggressively nationalist elements had built much of their support. Consistent with Tsiranana's firm commitment to remain attached to Western civilization, the new regime made plain its intent to maintain strong ties to France and the West in the economic, defense, and cultural spheres. Not entirely sanguine about this prospect, the opposition initially concurred in the interest of consolidating the gains of the previous decade, and most ethnic and regional interests supported Tsiranana.

Similar to other African leaders during the immediate independence era, Tsiranana oversaw the consolidation of his own party's power at the expense of other parties. A political system that strongly favored the incumbent complemented these actions. For example, although the political process allowed minority parties to participate, the constitution mandated a winner-take- all system that effectively denied the opposition a voice in governance. Tsiranana's position was further strengthened by the broad, multiethnic popular base of the PSD among the côtiers, whereas the opposition was severely disorganized. The AKFM continued to experience intraparty rifts between leftist and ultranationalist, more orthodox Marxist factions; it was unable to capitalize on increasingly active but relatively less privileged Malagasy youth because the party's base was the Merina middle class.

Until 1971, when a left-wing rebellion began in the island's southern districts, President Tsiranana, a Christian and Socialist, had appeared to be one of the most firmly entrenched leaders of independent Africa. In 1970 he fell ill, and struggles for succession weakened his party.

A new force on the political scene provided the first serious challenge to the Tsiranana government in April 1971. The National Movement for the Independence of Madagascar (Mouvement National pour l'Indépendance de Madagascar--Monima) led a peasant uprising in Toliara Province. The creator and leader of Monima was Monja Jaona, a côtier from the south who also participated in the Revolt of 1947. The main issue was government pressure for tax collection at a time when local cattle herds were being ravaged by disease. The protesters attacked military and administrative centers in the area, apparently hoping for support in the form of weapons and reinforcements from China. Such help never arrived, and the revolt was harshly and quickly suppressed. An estimated fifty to 1,000 persons died, Monima was dissolved, and Monima leaders, including Jaona and several hundred protesters, were arrested and deported to the island of Nosy Lava.

On January 30, 1972: Philibert TSIRANANA was re-elected for a third term President of the Republic unopposed by 99% of votes. Opposition political parties boycotted the presidential election. Another movement came on the scene in early 1972, in the form of student protests in Antananarivo. A general strike involving the nation's roughly 100,000 secondary-level students focused on three principal issues: ending the cultural cooperation agreements with France; replacing educational programs designed for schools in France and taught by French teachers with programs emphasizing Malagasy life and culture and taught by Malagasy instructors; and increasing access for economically underprivileged youth to secondary-level institutions.

In early 1972, what began as a student protest against French cultural domination of the island's schools quickly spread to a call for a general strike to protest poor economic conditions. Within days antigovernment protests arose both in the capital and in the provinces. By early May, the PSD sought to end the student strike at any cost. Authorities closed the public schools and banned demonstrations. After months of student demonstrations, President Tsiranana arrested 375 students on May 12, 1972 and sent them to Nosy-Lava. The turning point occurred on May 13 when the Republican Security Force (Force Républicaine de Sécurité--FRS) opened fire on the rioters in Antananarivo; in the ensuing melee between fifteen and forty persons were killed and about 150 injured. The government also declared a state of national emergency. Government police clashed with demonstrations in Antananarivo on May 13-14, 1972, resulting in the deaths of demonstrators and government policemen. President Philibert Tsiranana declared a state-of-emergency on May 13, 1972.

Mounting economic stagnation--as revealed in scarcities of investment capital, a general decline in living standards, and the failure to meet even modest development goals--further undermined the government's position. Forces unleashed by the growing economic crisis combined with student unrest to create an opposition alliance. Workers, public servants, peasants, and many unemployed urban youth of Antananarivo joined the student strike, which spread to the provinces. Protesters set fire to the town hall and to the offices of a French-language newspaper in the capital.

On May 17, 1972, the French government announced that it would not intervene in Madagascar. On May 18, 1972, President Philibert Tsiranana dissolved his government and turned over power to the army, under the command of Major-General Gabriel Ramanantsoa. Tsiranana effectively ended the First Republic.

He then turned over full power to the National Army under the command of General Gabriel Ramanantsoa, a politically conservative Merina and former career officer in the French army. The National Army had maintained strict political neutrality in the crisis, and its intervention to restore order was welcomed by protesters and opposition elements. The army, which had remained neutral throughout the general strike, quickly restored order by placing military officers in control of the six provinces and establishing a new, multiethnic cabinet.

Tsiranana was later tried for alleged implications in an attack on Ratsimandrava, in May 1975, to which he pleaded not guilty. President TSIRANANA died April 16, 1978. He was 66 years old. Tsiranana remains an esteemed Malagasy political figure remembered throughout the country as its "Father of Independence. During his administration, the Republic of Madagascar enjoyed institutional stability that stood in contrast to the political turmoil many countries of the African mainland experienced in this period. This stability contributed to Tsiranana's popularity and his reputation as a remarkable statesman.

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Page last modified: 14-10-2016 19:40:18 ZULU