Madagascar elections: what happened next? An update from Emilie Filou.


Emilie Filou

A month and a half has passed since Madagascar’s new president, Hery Rajaonarimampianina, was sworn in and the results of the parliamentary elections were validated by the electoral court. Yet Madagascar seems no closer to having a new prime minister and a government.

Many expected the new PM to be nominated shortly after the national assembly’s first session on 18 February but the omission of a key word in the 2010 constitution has thrown members of parliament and constitutional law experts alike into a furious debate. The key word is “absolute”, in relation to the majority required in parliament to nominate the Prime Minister.

The constitution simply says that it is the party with a majority in parliament who has the right to nominate the premier (who must then be approved by the president). In the current context, this privilege falls to MAPAR, the party supporting coup leader Andry Rajoelina, who won 76 seats out of 151 in parliament. This has been widely disputed by constitutional experts, who argue that a relative majority would make it impossible to govern.

Case in point, a coalition of 95 MPs opposed to MAPAR set up the Plateforme pour la Majorité Présidentielle (PMP, Platform for the Presidential Majority) in a bid to claim absolute majority in parliament and trump MAPAR’s PM nomination.

Both MAPAR and PMP have therefore put forward a candidate: MAPAR has suggested Haja André Resampa, former general secretary of the presidency during the transition, while PMP has nominated Rolland Jules Etienne, a disqualified candidate in the first round of the presidential elections (who, incidentally, nominated Rajaonarimampianina as his replacement in the presidential race).

The president has so far refused to choose. He’s agreed with the principle that MAPAR should have the right to choose but he’s asked that the party consult with other political entities. Current Premier Jean-Omer Beriziky, who is popular with the international community, is thought to be favoured by the president, although MAPAR isn’t so keen. Rajoelina for his part announced earlier last month that he would no longer seek the PM’s job after it became clear that the president was keen to distance himself from the transition regime.

There is no deadline in the constitution by which the president must choose a Prime Minister and given the importance of the appointment, it’s unlikely Rajaonarimampianina will rush. Madagascar will have to wait a while longer for the post-coup era to start in earnest.

Read our previous blog on our Madagascar event


5 things we didn’t know about Madagascar


Sarah Nicholas

On Thursday morning, we welcomed journalist Emilie Filou for a breakfast briefing on Madagascar – an island which is hugely under-reported in the English language press, and that even Africa experts often know little about. Emilie’s presentation was packed with new information; these are the updates which particularly stuck in our mind:

1.       The cost of Madagascar’s political crisis

The political coup in 2009 had a huge impact on the economy – the World Bank estimates that the cost of the crisis has reached about $8 billion. While Madagascar still lags behind its neighbours on the African continent, it is beginning to recover.

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2.       A turning point?

The confirmation last week (17 January) of Hery Rajaonarimampianina as the first officially elected president of Madagascar in five years has been greeted with cautious optimism by the international community. Hery’s choice of Prime Minister will be the most significant indication of whether anything will truly change under his leadership. If the country can take advantage of its strategic location between growing Asian and African markets and its cheap workforce, it could still return to the pre-coup growth rates of 6-7%.

3.       Out of the crisis rises opportunity

– A backlog of 4,000 mining permits and 223 oil exploration licenses have accumulated since the crisis, as well as a huge backlog of infrastructure and construction projects

Agribusiness is beginning to benefit from new foreign investment, and with 90% of the population employed in agriculture and 70% of the island’s land used for arable, there is great potential in this secto

– Tourism was Madagascar’s second largest cash earner before the crisis. About 70% of the island’s fauna and 90% of its flora is endemic, and both Lonely Planet and Rough Guides cited the island in their ‘Top 10 Destinations’ in 2013 and 2014

4.       Challenges remain – national electricity production capacity is 0.5 MW

Madagascar remains one of the toughest markets in which to do business, which will take time and concerted effort from a committed leadership to redress. Corruption is culturally embedded, bureaucracy is burdensome, and – as anyone who has spent time in the country can testify – infrastructure is severely lacking. Electricity supply is unreliable and road density is just 9.7km/1000km2, compared to the sub-Saharan average of 31km/1000km2. And while Madagascar’s population is young and labour is cheap, education is poor and two thirds of teachers have no formal teaching qualification and often do not speak French – the language of the national curriculum.

5.       How to pronounce Hery Rajaonarimampianina’s name

The audience were suitably impressed when the longest name of any head of state tripped of Emilie’s tongue. For those who are still perplexed:

Emilie Filou is a freelance journalist specialising in business and development in Africa. Her work has been featured in The Economist, The Guardian and BBC Radio 4’s ‘From Our Own Correspondent’, as well as contributing to the Lonely Planet guide to Madagascar in 2011. She revisited the island in 2013, and is available for commissioned articles and briefings on the country. Email:


Kickstarting Madagascar: Shining a light on Africa’s forgotten island


Sarah Nicholas

Freelance journalist and friend of Gong, Emilie Filou has set herself a challenge: to tackle the chronic under-reporting of Madagascar in the Anglophone press.

Madagascar sits between the African mainland, Indonesia, and the Indian sub-continent. While its neighbours tell a startling story of growth and attract ever increasing media interest, the fourth largest island in the world is often overlooked by the English-language press. Is the country an awkward anomaly in the ‘Africa Rising’ narrative, or a final frontier market waiting to sky rocket like its Asian neighbours across the Indian Ocean?

A quick search for ‘Madagascar’ throws up talking cartoon zebras and the occasional lemur, but next to nothing about the political vacuum of a country which has spent the past four years without a functioning government. Nor is there any mention of the huge potential of the island’s textile, mining, agriculture and tourism industries.

Emilie wants this radio silence to end.

She has launched a Kickstarter project to crowd-fund her way to Madagascar and report back in words and photographs, producing a series of dispatches to tell the world what is really happening:

When she came to see the Gong team this week Emilie told us, “After four and half years of political vacuum, Madagascar is now the second poorest country in the world. The economy has stalled because of international sanctions; foreign direct investment has all but dried up; and tourism has slumped. This is all the more tragic because the country has everything it needs to succeed: a young population, a wealth of natural resources (minerals, oil), a relatively well-educated workforce, unique biodiversity and outstanding natural beauty, and huge tracts of fertile agricultural land.

“I need your help to finance the trip – I work freelance and don’t have the support of a big news organisation. Kickstarter funding will allow me to travel to Madagascar for three weeks in September to gather material needed to shine a light on the plight of the Malagasy people and the fantastic potential of the country.”

Emilie wrote the Lonely Planet Guide to Madagascar and since her last trip there in 2011 has written regularly about the country for The Economist, BBC Travel and the Africa Report. She has now exhausted what can be done remotely. This fresh batch of articles will be published in the Anglophone press over the course of the autumn; any unpublished material will go on Emilie’s website.

You can pledge your support via Kickstarter, in return for reports, insights and photos from Emilie: