Madagascar is a semi-presidential representative democratic multi party republic, wherein the popularly elected president is the head of state and selects a prime minister, who recommends candidates to the president to form his cabinet of ministers.
According to the constitution, executive power is exercised by the government while legislative power is vested in the ministerial cabinet, the Senate and the National Assembly, although in reality these two latter bodies have very little power or legislative role.
The constitution establishes independent executive, legislative and judicial branches and mandates a popularly elected president limited to three five-year terms.
The public directly elects the president and the 127 members of the National Assembly to five-year terms. All 33 members of the Senate serve six-year terms, with 22 senators elected by local officials and 11 appointed by the president.
The last National Assembly election was held on 20 December 2013 and the last Senate election was held on 30 December 2015.
At the local level, the island’s 22 provinces are administered by a governor and provincial council. Provinces are further subdivided into regions and communes.
The judiciary is modeled on the French system, with a High Constitutional Court, High Court of Justice, Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, criminal tribunals, and tribunals of first instance.
The courts, which adhere to civil law, lack the capacity to quickly and transparently try the cases in the judicial system, often forcing defendants to pass lengthy pretrial detentions in unsanitary and overcrowded prisons.
Antananarivo is the administrative capital and largest city of Madagascar. It is located in the highlands region, near the geographic center of the island. King Andrianjaka founded Antananarivo as the capital of his Imerina Kingdom around 1610 or 1625 upon the site of a captured Vazimba capital on the hilltop of Analamanga.
As Merina dominance expanded over neighboring Malagasy peoples in the early 19th century to establish the Kingdom of Madagascar, Antananarivo became the center of administration for virtually the entire island.
In 1896 the French colonizers of Madagascar adopted the Merina capital as their center of colonial administration. The city remained the capital of Madagascar after regaining independence in 1960.
In 2017, the capital’s population was estimated at 1,391,433 inhabitants. The next largest cities are Antsirabe (500,000), Toamasina (450,000) and Mahajanga (400,000).
Politics of Madagascar, Foreign relations of Madagascar, and Human rights in Madagascar
Since Madagascar gained independence from France in 1960, the island’s political transitions have been marked by numerous popular protests, several disputed elections, an impeachment, two military coups and one assassination.
The island’s recurrent political crises are often prolonged, with detrimental effects on the local economy, international relations and Malagasy living standards.
The eight-month standoff between incumbent Ratsiraka and challenger Marc Ravalomanana following the 2001 presidential elections cost Madagascar millions of dollars in lost tourism and trade revenue as well as damage to infrastructure, such as bombed bridges and buildings damaged by arson.
A series of protests led by Andry Rajoelina against Ravalomanana in early 2009 became violent, with more than 170 people killed. Modern politics in Madagascar are colored by the history of Merina subjugation of coastal communities under their rule in the 19th century.
The consequent tension between the highland and coastal populations has periodically flared up into isolated events of violence.
Madagascar has historically been perceived as being on the margin of mainstream African affairs despite being a founding member of the Organisation of African Unity, which was established in 1963 and dissolved in 2002 to be replaced by the African Union.
Madagascar was not permitted to attend the first African Union summit because of a dispute over the results of the 2001 presidential election, but rejoined the African Union in July 2003 after a 14-month hiatus.
Madagascar was again suspended by the African Union in March 2009 following the unconstitutional transfer of executive power to Rajoelina. Madagascar is a member of the International Criminal Court with a Bilateral Immunity Agreement of protection for the United States military.
Eleven countries have established embassies in Madagascar, including France, the United Kingdom, the United States, China and India.
Human rights in Madagascar are protected under the constitution and the state is a signatory to numerous international agreements including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Religious, ethnic and sexual minorities are protected under the law. Freedom of association and assembly are also guaranteed under the law, although in practice the denial of permits for public assembly has occasionally been used to impede political demonstrations.
Torture by security forces is rare and state repression is low relative to other countries with comparably few legal safeguards, although arbitrary arrests and the corruption of military and police officers remain problems.
Ravalomanana’s 2004 creation of BIANCO, an anti-corruption bureau, resulted in reduced corruption among Antananarivo’s lower-level bureaucrats in particular, although high-level officials have not been prosecuted by the bureau.