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Chronology for Merina in Madagascar

Publisher Minorities at Risk Project
Publication Date 2004
Cite as Minorities at Risk Project, Chronology for Merina in Madagascar, 2004, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/469f38b81e.html [accessed 29 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
Date(s) Item
1801 - 1900 Malagasy Kingdom established under the rule of Merina kings.
1896 French annexed Madagascar effectively destroying the Merina Kingdom.
1946 MDRM (Madagascar Revolutionary Democratic Movement) was established by Merina intellectuals. The French instituted a more liberal system of government which included giving the Malagasy elected deputies in the French Parliament. The MDRM won all three Malagasy seats in the 1946 election. In response to the domination of the Merina in the MDRM, the cotiers established an alternative party, PADSEM (The Disinherited Party of Madagascar).
1947 Revolt against France was led by the leaders of MDRM. Growth of PADESM was one of the factors behind the violence provoked by extremist elements of MDRM. Merina intellectuals felt that they, who had been the pre-colonial rulers of the island, should be in power. The violence left between 50,000-80,000 dead. Leaders of the protest were exiled or jailed and electoral politics were banned for seven years.
1951 - 1960 Opposition to Tsiranana's regime increased. The opposition was dissatisfied with the deterioration of the economy, with the president's continued subservience to French interests, and with the government's authoritarianism.
1954 France again allowed political parties. By 1960, three major parties emerged. PSD (Social Democratic Party) was formed by progressive elements of PADESM with cotier support and it was led by Philibert Tsiranana. MONIMA (National Movement for the Independence of Madagascar) was supported by the Antandroy ethnic group of the south (cotiers) and led by Monja Jaona. AKFM (Congress of the Independence Party of Madagascar) was supported by Merina and led by Richard Andriamanjato, the mayor of Antananarivo. The rivalry between PSD and AKFM reinforced the long-standing conflict between Merina and cotiers.
1959 PSD candidate Tsiranana was elected president. Tsiranana practiced a moderate, pragmatic socialism and maintained strong ties with France. Tsiranana's regime provided the basis for the formation of a privileged class which cut across Merina-cotier lines. He is supported mainly by the less-populated coastal regions.
Jun 26, 1960 Full independence was achieved in Madagascar.
Jul 1, 1971 - Jun 30, 1985 Urban violence increased with groups of unemployed harassing and exhorting money from people in the capital Antananarivo. People opposed to the government were especially targeted. To counter this violence, groups of students and bourgeois youths organized Kung-fu vigilante groups. These in turn were banned by the government in September 1984 provoking riots. In 1960, Merina made up 70% of the population of Antananarivo. Their domination of the population has surely decreased since then, but it is unlikely other groups have yet achieved numerical parity with the Merina in Antananarivo. Over the years, upper-class families have reaped colossal benefits for their family businesses and have frustrated governmental efforts to introduce economic reforms.
May 1972 Tsiranana emerged as the sole presidential candidate. Students, teachers, workers and the urban unemployed protested. In a confrontation with the security forces, 34 were killed. This led to widespread unrest and the eventual resignation of Tsiranana. He turned power over to General Gabriel Ramanantsoa who was given a mandate to rule for a transitional period of five years.
Dec 31, 1974 Ramanantsoa's years in office were plagued by a worsening economy, disunity in the army and government, and continuing discord between the cotiers and Merina. He drew most of his support from the people of the plateau. On 31 December 1974, the mainly cotier mobile police force staged an attempted coup in protest over the domination of the armed forces by Merina. This provoked a prolonged crisis that led to Ramanantsoa's resignation.
Feb 1975 Ramanantsoa transferred power to interior minister Colonel Richard Ratsimandrava, a radical. Ratsimandrava was assassinated after six days in power. The military spent several months deciding who would replace him.
Jun 1975 Lieutenant commander Didier Ratsiraka, former minister of foreign affairs, assumed power of the government. He was from the Betsimiraka (cotier) ethnic group and a member of its upper class. His regime was largely supported by the Betsimiraka and Betsileo (non-cotier) ethnic groups with some support from the Merina. He established the Revolutionary Council to supervise the government.
Dec 1975 Ratsiraka was approved for a seven-year presidential term and a new constitution was also approved. The new constitution provided for the establishment of FNDR (Front for the Defense of the Socialist Malagasy Revolution). AREMA (Avant-Guarde of the Malagasy Revolution) was established as the president's party. Two opposition parties were also formed under FNDR AKFM (Congress of the Independence Party of Madagascar) and MONIMA (National Movement for the Independence of Madagascar). AKFM often supported the government of Ratsiraka, though it held the position of "official opposition".
1987 Opposition to Ratsiraka within the FNDR increased. Other groups such as MSM and Vonjy began to cooperate openly with long-time opposition MONIMA in opposing government policies. May 1987 brought demands for the resignation of Ratsiraka.
Feb 1989 Opposition parties united to form ADM (Democratic Alliance of Madagascar), but they retained separate presidential candidates for the upcoming elections.
Mar 1989 Ratsiraka won his third term in office with 62% of the total vote.
Mar 1990 Ratsiraka's government formally permitted the resumption of multi-party politics. Withdrawal of Soviet aid in recent years and the collapse of communism forced Ratsiraka to become more dependent on the West for economic aid.
May 1990 Ratsiraka said coup leaders who called for a popular uprising 13 May 1990 were trying to instigate a tribal war. The coup leaders were from the highland plateau (Merinas). Most of Ratsiraka's government officials were cotiers who were given power by the French colonial authority in preference to the more nationalist Merinas.
Dec 1990 An alliance of opposition, Force Vives Rasalama (Lifeblood Committee, also known as Hery Velona), was formed. One wing of support for the Force Vives comes from the Merina people.
Jul 1 - Oct 31, 1991 Force Vives called for the resignation of Ratsiraka and established an opposition government led by Albert Zafy and Jean Rakotoharisan. Ratsiraka responded by announcing a state of emergency. Force Vives was able to organize a series of protests and strikes over the next several months. On 10 August, protestors marched on the president's residence to demand his resignation. The president's bodyguards opened fire and killed at least 100 protestors and injured many more. France withdrew its support for the Ratsiraka regime.
Oct 1991 Ratsiraka agreed to relinquish all executive powers and a transitional government was established until elections take place in the following year.
Aug 1992 A new constitution was adopted.
Oct 15, 1992 The Merina community in Antsirana in Northern Madagascar fled following the death of eight federalists (radical opposition members aligned with Jaona) who were trying to take over the airport. Members of the Merina community said they no longer felt safe in a town where attempts were being made to turn the population against it by saying that the soldiers who opened fire on the federalists were Merina from Antananarivo. The federalists claimed the government has ignored the development of rural areas and have concentrated power in the hands of Merina.
Nov 1992 Presidential elections took place. The two main candidates are Ratsiraka and Zafy. Zafy took 45% of the vote to Ratsiraka's 29%. A second round of elections took place in February 1993 as Zafy did not win an absolute majority in the first round. He easily defeated Ratsiraka in the second round.
Jun 1, 1993 Police put down a revolt by nationalist Maona Jaona who took over several buildings in an attempt to establish a separate federal state in Southwest Madagascar. He was part of the federalist movement and a member of the Antondroy (cotier) ethnic group of the dirt-poor southern region.
Jun 14, 1993 Legislative elections were held. Some Merina felt the election divisions favored the coastal people to the detriment of the more densely-populated urban areas like the capital. Some federalists continued to support Ratsiraka, seeing him as the only person who could stand up to what they see as the domination of the country's economy by the Merina.
Sep 28, 1993 The new parliament was set to start working. It is dominated by members of the Force Vives led by Merina Andriamanjato. The economy is the parliament's number one concern.
May 29, 1994 Prime Minister Ravony was courting international financial institutions to aid in the recovery of the economy. The Merina elites have dragged their feet when faced with reforms and have preferred to plead in favor of an economic standstill. Merina dislike both the Finance Minister Jose Yvon Raserijaona and Prime Minister Ravony.
Jan 14, 1995 France reported "clan warfare" in Madagascar between President Zafy, Prime Minister Ravony and National Assembly Chairman Andriamanjato.
Feb 1995 Finance Minister Raserijaona's departure encouraged the Merina to step up their opposition to Prime Minister Ravony.
Jun 1995 The opposition felt Zafy should reprimand some of his counselors who were involved in shady financial operations and step back from Assembly leader Andriamanjato.
Jul 6, 1995 President Zafy denounced Ravony as a failure and urged the National Assembly to replace him. Zafy wanted a new prime minister from the Force Vives, which Ravony does not belong to.
Nov 5, 1995 Municipal elections resulted in victories for opposition candidates in several large towns. There was a low voter turn-out for the elections. (Indian Ocean Newsletter (ION), 11/11/1995)
Nov 5 - 6, 1995 The finance ministry building caught fire and was seriously damaged. The following night, the Queen's Building, built in 1839 and considered a symbol of the Merina Royal House was burnt down. (ION, 11/11/1995)
Jan 27, 1996 National Assembly Chairman Richard Andrianmanjato accused Pres. Zafy of letting down the local population. He and Force Vives Rasalama head Alain Ramaroson have been trying to force Zafy's hand to reshuffle the Cabinet. (ION)
Feb 1996 Zafy opponents in Parliament have been discussing the possibility of impeaching the president. The impeachment effort has the support of former Prime Minister and current Mayor of Antananarivo Guy Razanamasy and Merina personalities such as National Assembly Chairman Andrianmanjato and Forces Vives Rasalama head Alain Ramaroson. They want Zafy ousted before presidential elections scheduled for 1997, and claim that the president is incompetent and has created a power vacuum in the country by long absences from the capital. (ION, 2/3/1996)
May 1996 President Zafy continues to face fierce opposition, including the desertion of a number of his supporters. Judges have sporadically struck over Zafy's reluctance to put in place the independent judiciary enshrined in the constitution. He also continues to face economic troubles with workers striking over the decrease in their purchasing power. Zafy has attempted to rally the coastal people to his side, but there is increasing opposition amongst them as well as amongst the Merina. (African News Service (ANS))
May 28, 1996 President Zafy appointed a new Prime Minister, Norbert Lala Ratsirahonana. He is a Merina, but not of the aristocracy. (ION, 6/1/1996)
Sep 1996 A court upheld parliament's impeachment of President Zafy. His government had been divided over how to handle the country's economic crisis, and Parliament was upset over a 1995 referendum which gave the president the power to appoint the Prime Minister, a right formerly reserved for Parliament. (ANS, 9/20/1996)
Oct 28, 1996 The AKFM Renewal Party announced that supporters of President Zafy's UNDD (National Union for Democracy and Development) party killed three AKFM officials in Ambalavao, Atsimondrano, and Analawory. The AKFM is the party of National Assembly Chairman Andriamanjato.
Nov 3, 1996 The first round of presidential elections was held, and ex-presidents Zafy and Ratsiraka advanced. Regional voting was along ethnic lines. (ION, 11/9/1996)
Feb 1997 With 50.7% of the vote, Didier Ratsiraka was re-elected to the post of president. Almost half (49%) of the country abstained from taking part in the voting. He is facing increasing political and economic problems in the country. (ION, 2/8/1997)
Oct 1997 An opinion poll on ethnic groups and castes was taken in the capital. The Merina make up 88.9% of Antananarivo while the Betsileo, also of the highlands, make up an additional 5.1%. The Coastal people are strongly represented in the middle and lower salary jobs, especially public security forces while Merinas hold the majority (80%) of public administration positions in Antananarivo. The caste system within the Merina community persists with little intermarriage between caste members. (ION, 10/25/1997)
Jan 1998 President Ratsiraka is pushing for a yes vote in constitutional referendum to be held in March. Approval of the referendum would increase the powers of the president and decrease the powers of the National Assembly. (ION, 1/10/1998) It was later passed by a narrow margin.
May 1998 General elections were held May 17th. President Ratsiraka's AREMA party won 62 of 150 National Assembly seats while independents gained 34 seats. Other pro-government parties won 26 seats while the opposition AVI gained only14 seats. (BBC, 6/27/1998)
Jul 1998 President Ratriraka chose Tantely Andrianarivo as Prime Minister. He is a Betsileo from the highlands and a member of AREMA's executive committee.

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