Early period until the 19th century
The first settlement of the island by Indonesian
sailors of Malay-Polynesian origin probably took place
in the first century AD. From the beginning of the 9th
century, Arab and African slave traders founded their
first branches on the west coast of Madagascar. Around
1500, Portuguese seafarers were the first Europeans to
land on the island. Neither the Portuguese nor the
subsequent Dutch, English and French initially managed
to establish themselves on the island or to subjugate
and Christianize the local population. In addition to
the fierce resistance of the tribes, the Europeans had
to contend with the damp climate along the coast.
Towards the end of the 17th century, the Kingdom of
Merina emerged on the island after the chief of a
highland tribe succeeded several tribes to one. The
center of the empire was the city of Antananarivo. Under
King Andrianampoinimerina (1787-1810) all other tribes
in Madagascar were conquered towards the end of the 18th
century. Under his son Radama I, the English and with
them the European Christian culture were able to gain a
foothold on the island by supplying the regent with
weapons. After the death of King Radama I, missionaries
and Europeans were first exposed from the island, only
from the middle of the 19th century did Christianity
establish itself on the island under the ruler
Ranavalona II (1861 to 1896).
At the end of the 19th century, the French conquered
Madagascar despite the fierce resistance of the local
population. The capital was captured in 1896 and the
monarchy abolished in 1897. Madagascar finally became a
French colony. The first large-scale plantations for the
cultivation of tobacco, coffee, vanilla, cloves and
sugar cane were created on the east coast. Railway lines
were built to transport the goods to the ports of
Toamasina and Manakara.
After the end of the Second World War, Madagascar was
declared French territory by France, the residents of
the island were granted French citizenship and limited
self-government. At the same time, the resistance
movement "Mouvement D¨¦mocratique de la R¨¦novation
Malgache" (MDRM) was formed in the country. Revolts took
the lives of thousands of residents.
At the end of the 1950s, Madagascar became a republic
within the French community and received its own
constitution. According to AbbreviationFinder, Antananarivo became the country's official
capital. The first head of state was Philibert Tsiranana
from the "Parti Social-D¨¦mocrate" (SDP). In 1960 the
island finally became independent. Madagascar remained
economically oriented to France, and from the beginning
of the 1970s trade relations with politically isolated
South Africa were established.
Domestic political unrest led to a military
government in 1972: Didier Ratsiraka (from 1975 to 1993)
became president of the Supreme Revolutionary Council
from the party "Avantgarde de la r¨¦volution malagasy"
(AREMA), which declared Madagascar the "Democratic
Republic". The government increasingly turned away from
France and South Africa towards the Eastern Bloc
countries and China. Following the socialist model,
banks, insurance companies and companies were
nationalized, agricultural businesses were converted
into cooperatives and a one-party system was introduced.
The 1980s were characterized by increasing unrest among
the population, which was triggered by the poor economic
situation and social contrasts.
At the end of the 1980s, western-oriented opposition
forces ("Comit¨¦ National des Forces Vives") merged, and
after the collapse of the Eastern Bloc, ruling President
Ratsiraka was forced to take the opposition into
government. The multi-party system was reintroduced in
1992 and the power of the President was restricted. In
the December 1992 elections, Albert Zafy, the
representative of the "Forces Vives" alliance, received
the most votes. In March 1993, Zafy became President and
issued a general amnesty for political prisoners. The
Prime Minister also became a representative of the
"Forces Vives", Francisque Ravony. The country's main
problem at that time was poverty among large parts of
the population and an impending famine.
In 1996, President Zafy was relieved of his office
for exceeding his authority, and his successor was again
Didier Ratsiraka, who had returned from exile. The new
head of government in 1997 was the impartial Rascal
Rakotomavo, who was finance and economy minister under
Ratsiraka in the 1980s. The ruling party AREMA (now
"Association pour la Renaissance de Madagascar") won 63
out of a total of 150 seats in parliamentary elections
in May 1998, and Ren¨¦ Tantely Andrianarivo became the
new head of government.
In the wake of the December 2001 presidential
election, there were mass protests accusing Ratsiraka of
manipulating the elections. After a new count of votes
in April 2002, the Constitutional Court declared
opposition candidate Marc Ravalomanana the winner. His
policies led to a rapid recovery in the economy, but as
a result of which the rate of inflation rose so much
that staple foods were barely affordable for many
people. Nevertheless, Ravalomanana was confirmed in
office in 2006.
In 2006, English was chosen as the third official
language alongside Malagasy and French. The main aim was
to facilitate economic and political integration in
southern Africa. English is officially spoken in the
majority of the countries.
In July 2007, President Ravalomanana dissolved the
National Assembly prematurely, on the grounds that the
parliament had not been representative since the April
referendum. In this referendum, an administrative
reform, a parliamentary downsizing and a change in the
electoral system were decided by a large majority. The
real reason, however, was differences within the party.
The parliamentary elections on September 23, 2007 led to
a landslide victory for the ruling party: the TIM
received 105 out of 127 seats. Ravalomanana has been
accused of election fraud. The new government was
introduced on October 26, 2007; General Rabemananjara
remained prime minister.
Former Antananarivo Mayor Andry Rajoelina succeeded
in building public pressure against the government with
his TGV opposition movement and came to power in March
2009 with the help of military mutineers. The image of
Madagascar, which had been systematically built up in
previous years as a politically stable country, was
severely affected by riots, looting and military
operations with fatalities in January / February 2009.
Marc Ravalomanana had to leave the country. Since the
end of March 2009, a democratically illegitimate interim
government under Rajoelina has been ruling, which has
been subjected to international diplomatic sanctions.
Presidential elections overseen by the international
community were finally held in October 2013 The runoff
election in December 2013 was won by Hery
Rajaonarimampianina; he was sworn in in January 2014.