Partly Free
PR Political Rights 26 40
CL Civil Liberties 35 60
Last Year's Score & Status
56 100 Partly Free
Global freedom statuses are calculated on a weighted scale. See the methodology.

header1 Overview

An unelected administration governed Madagascar following a 2009 coup, but the country returned to electoral politics in 2013. Politics since have been unstable, and government corruption and a lack of accountability persist. Defamation and other laws restrict press freedom. Authorities deny permits for demonstrations, and disperse some that take place. The government has struggled to manage lawlessness, particularly in the south. However, the courts have shown increasing independence, and in 2018 issued rulings that calmed an escalating political crisis.

header2 Key Developments in 2019

  • In January, the High Constitutional Court (HCC) confirmed the results of the late 2018 presidential election, which was won by former president Andry Rajoelina. Second-place finisher Marc Ravalomanana alleged fraud, but international observers considered the results credible.
  • In April, the HCC forced President Rajoelina to delay a referendum that would have dissolved the Senate and expanded powers for regional authorities if it was held and passed.
  • A political coalition led by Rajoelina won a majority of seats in the May lower house election, while the party of presidential runner-up Ravalomanana came in second place. The contest was considered free and fair by regional observers, despite allegations of fraud.
  • In a May report, Madagascar’s anticorruption agency alleged that scores of legislators adopted an electoral reform package benefiting former president Hery Rajaonarimampianina in return for bribes in 2018. In a November court filing, the agency alleged that several former ministers engaged in individual acts of corruption.

PR Political Rights

A Electoral Process

A1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Was the current head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections? 3.003 4.004

Madagascar is a semipresidential republic, with a president elected for a five-year term and a prime minister nominated by the National Assembly and appointed by the president.

Rajaonarimampianina of the New Forces for Madagascar party (HVM) was elected president in 2013 and resigned in late 2018 to stand for another term. Rajoelina and Ravalomanana, both former presidents, topped the first round of the election that November, defeating 34 other candidates but polling below the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff. Despite a bitter rivalry between Rajoelina and Ravalomanana, campaigning in 2018 was relatively peaceful. In December 2018, Rajoelina won the second round with 55.7 percent of the vote. Despite Ravalomanana’s protests, and earlier allegations of fraud in the first round by third-place finisher Rajaonarimampianina, the HCC confirmed the results in January 2019.

Christian Ntsay, who was appointed prime minister by Rajaonarimampianina in 2018 after the HCC ordered him to dissolve the government and name a consensus prime minister, was reappointed by President Rajoelina in July 2019.

A2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Were the current national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections? 3.003 4.004

The bicameral legislature consists of the 63-seat Senate, in which one-third of seats are appointed by the president; the remaining two-thirds are indirectly elected from an electoral college; senators serve five-year terms. Members of the 151-seat National Assembly are directly elected to five-year terms.

A political alliance led by President Rajoelina won 84 National Assembly seats in the May 2019 parliamentary election, while I Love Madagascar (TIM), the party of presidential candidate Ravalomanana, won 16; the remaining 51 were won by other parties and independent candidates. The contest was deemed free and fair by Southern African Development Community (SADC) election observers, though other political parties, including TIM, claimed that the results were marred by fraud.

The HVM won more than half the races in 2015 Senate election. Though that contest was relatively free and fair, other parties made accusations of fraud, and challenged the results. The HCC upheld the results in early 2016. The next Senate election is due in 2021.

A3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are the electoral laws and framework fair, and are they implemented impartially by the relevant election management bodies? 3.003 4.004

The Independent National Electoral Commission (CENI) is subject to some influence by the executive, which controls member nomination and budget allocation processes. A new electoral code was adopted in 2018, though provisions that would have prevented Rajoelina and Ravalomanana from running prompted mass demonstrations, and were ruled unconstitutional by the HCC later that year.

B Political Pluralism and Participation

B1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do the people have the right to organize in different political parties or other competitive political groupings of their choice, and is the system free of undue obstacles to the rise and fall of these competing parties or groupings? 3.003 4.004

Almost 200 registered political parties are registered in Madagascar. However, the political parties law is widely viewed as a flawed document that places undue burdens on individual candidates, effectively mandating a high cost for political candidacy. Political leaders frequently use religion, ethnicity, and caste as instruments to mobilize voters.

B2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there a realistic opportunity for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections? 3.003 4.004

Opposition parties have the opportunity to increase their support through elections, but most political parties lack the financial resources to engage in vibrant competition. The government has historically denied opposition parties permits to hold demonstrations, and opposition and independent political figures experienced harassment in the form of frivolous legal cases.

A revision to a law on opposition parties, passed by the National Assembly in August 2019, prohibits individuals who do not hold a legislative seat from serving as official opposition leader; TIM boycotted the vote, claiming the law targeted party leader Ravalomanana. The Senate proposed an amendment to the bill later that month, effectively delaying its passage, and it remained unresolved in the upper house at year’s end.

B3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are the people’s political choices free from domination by forces that are external to the political sphere, or by political forces that employ extrapolitical means? 3.003 4.004

Economic networks compete for power through strategic support of political candidates. In turn, a narrow group of political elites maintain their status by supporting the interests of their private-sector patrons. As a result, lines between public and private expenditures are blurry, and democratic accountability is reduced.

The military has some influence over politics, and it threatened to intervene during a 2018 political crisis. However, the military did not interfere in the 2019 election, and SADC monitors called the contest peaceful.

Score Change: The score rose from 2 to 3 because the military did not interfere in elections held in 2019.

B4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do various segments of the population (including ethnic, religious, gender, LGBT, and other relevant groups) have full political rights and electoral opportunities? 2.002 4.004

The constitution guarantees political and electoral rights for all citizens, but in practice, discrimination impedes the political representation of some groups. While there is a small, active LGBT+ community in the capital, LGBT+ people face social stigma that discourages political participation and open advocacy for LGBT+ rights.

Cultural norms can restrict the political participation of women, who hold 16 percent of National Assembly seats and 19 percent of Senate seats. Muslims are disproportionately affected by the nationality code, which can make it difficult for them to secure citizenship documents and thus voting rights. Ethnicity and caste are important political determinants, but generally do not affect political rights.

C Functioning of Government

C1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do the freely elected head of government and national legislative representatives determine the policies of the government? 2.002 4.004

Following a 2009 coup, the country returned to electoral politics in 2013. However, government instability since has been reflected in the frequent replacement of the prime minister, and frequent changes to the composition of the cabinet.

According to the constitution, the president determines policies, and Parliament writes laws and votes on them. However, the National Assembly lacks the strength to act as an effective check on executive power. Additionally, economic elites exert significant influence on elected officials.

C2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are safeguards against official corruption strong and effective? 2.002 4.004

Corruption remains a serious problem in Madagascar, though a series of recent reforms and anticorruption strategies have been aimed at addressing it. Investigations and prosecutions of corruption by the Independent Anticorruption Bureau (BIANCO) were infrequent and rarely targeted high-profile individuals, but the agency has become more independent in recent years. In a May 2019 report, BIANCO implicated 79 lawmakers for accepting bribes to adopt 2018 electoral reforms favoring then president Rajaonarimampianina. Prosecutors were expected to review the report and consider indictments against the legislators, but no major updates were reported at year’s end. In November, BIANCO submitted a report to the High Court of Justice (HCJ) implicating three former ministers in acts of corruption. However, the file remained unreviewed by late November, as the some of the HCJ’s seats remained unfilled.

Score Change: The score increased from 1 to 2 because Madagascar’s anticorruption agency has shown greater independence in its activities, and reported on acts of corruption by legislators and ministers during the year.

C3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does the government operate with openness and transparency? 2.002 4.004

The constitution provides for the right to information, but no law defines a formal procedure for requesting government information. However, ministers and officials often hold press briefings, and laws, decrees, and high court decisions are posted on the internet. In March 2019, the government launched a new online contact form for Malagasy to send messages to President Rajoelina and key aides.

There is little oversight of procurement processes. Asset declarations are required for most government officials, and while many complied with these laws, there are few practical consequences for those who refuse.

CL Civil Liberties

D Freedom of Expression and Belief

D1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are there free and independent media? 2.002 4.004

The constitution provides for freedom of the press. However, this guarantee has been undermined by criminal libel laws and other restrictions, as well as safety risks involved in the investigation of sensitive subjects such as cattle rustling and the illicit extraction and sale of natural resources.

In April 2019, investigative journalist Fernand Avimana was acquitted of theft after he was charged with stealing a checkbook in 2017. Avimana, who was held in pretrial detention for four months that year, was also charged with defamation, “endangering state security,” and “incitation to hatred” after he reported on an illegal mining operation in 2016, though those charges were dropped in 2017.

D2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals free to practice and express their religious faith or nonbelief in public and private? 3.003 4.004

Religious freedom is provided for in the constitution, though this right is upheld inconsistently. Religious leaders have noted that some workers were unable to practice their religion due to poor enforcement of labor laws. The government has historically restricted the Muslim community’s access to education by threatening to close down Islamic schools. Several church facilities have been attacked by armed individuals, some apparently attempting robberies. However, no major incidents of religious discrimination were recorded in 2019.

Score Change: The score increased from 2 to 3 because significant disruptions to religious worship did not occur during the year.

D3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free from extensive political indoctrination? 3.003 4.004

Academic freedom is generally respected. However, a lack of resources and frequent strikes hamper normal operations of public universities.

D4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals free to express their personal views on political or other sensitive topics without fear of surveillance or retribution? 3.003 4.004

There were no official reports of the government monitoring online activity. However, a cybercrimes law prohibits online defamation, and has been used to prosecute social media users.

E Associational and Organizational Rights

E1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom of assembly? 3.003 4.004

The constitution guarantees freedom of assembly, but authorities have sometimes declined requests for protests and rallies in the name of public security.

While political assemblies were banned in early 2018, assemblies and demonstrations were regularly held in 2019. In early January, supporters of presidential runner-up Ravalomanana held protests in Antananarivo, though police used tear gas to disperse crowds after protesters blocked roads. In October, protesters demonstrated against the construction of a bridge linking Antananarivo to a planned new capital city, Tana-Masoandra. According to the government, police officers used tear gas after protesters threw rocks in their direction, while news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported that police used live ammunition; five people were injured, four of them police officers, while another four people were arrested.

Score Change: The score increased from 2 to 3 because major protests were allowed to take place a year after political rallies were banned by the government.

E2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations, particularly those that are engaged in human rights– and governance-related work? 3.003 4.004

Freedom of association is provided for in the constitution and is generally respected. A wide variety of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are active. Although no restrictions are placed on NGOs, the government is not always receptive to their opinions. Domestic human rights groups often lack the resources to operate independently. Groups focused on the environment or human rights face pressure from powerful interests.

E3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom for trade unions and similar professional or labor organizations? 3.003 4.004

Workers have the right to join unions, engage in collective bargaining, and strike. However, more than 80 percent of workers are engaged in agriculture, fishing, and forestry at a subsistence level, and therefore have no access to unions.

F Rule of Law

F1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there an independent judiciary? 2.002 4.004

The executive influences judicial decisions through the reassignment of judges. Trial outcomes are frequently predetermined and the Malagasy people generally regard the judiciary as corrupt. Local tribunals in particular are seen as overburdened and corrupt.

However, key HCC rulings have reflected its independence from the executive. In 2018, it struck election laws that would have prevented key figures from competing against former president Rajaonarimampianina in that year’s election. That same year, it ruled that Rajaonarimampianina had to appoint a prime minister and unity government that reflected the results of the 2013 election. In April 2019, the HCC forced President Rajoelina to delay a constitutional referendum that aimed to dissolve the Senate and give more power to regional authorities.

F2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does due process prevail in civil and criminal matters? 1.001 4.004

Due process rights are poorly upheld. A lack of training, resources, and personnel hampers the effectiveness of the criminal justice system. Many people held in pretrial detention do not have access to lawyers, and the successful assertion of due process rights is often tied to the ability of family and friends to intercede on behalf of the accused.

In response to these circumstances, the government has worked to increase funding for the judiciary, launch capacity-building efforts, and pardon individuals detained over minor offenses as part of a new policy supported by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). In October 2019, the government also instituted the use of “fair ground hearings” to alleviate the pretrial backlog.

F3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there protection from the illegitimate use of physical force and freedom from war and insurgencies? 2.002 4.004

The police and military are unable to assert authority over the entire country, and areas in southern Madagascar are subjected to raids and violence by bandits and criminal groups. Security forces operate with little oversight or accountability for extrajudicial killings, particularly against cattle thieves, known as dahalo.

Detainees and prisoners suffer from harsh and sometimes life-threatening conditions due to overcrowding in detention facilities, and substandard hygiene and health care. As part of the OHCHR-backed penal policy, the government began construction of a new prison and allocated more funding to the prison system in 2019.

People convicted of crimes can be sentenced to hard labor.

F4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population? 2.002 4.004

Legal provisions prohibit discrimination based on race, gender, disability, and social status, but these are upheld inconsistently. Traditional, cultural, social, and economic constraints can prevent women from having equal opportunities as men. Some ethnic groups face discrimination outside of their home regions. There are no legal protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity; members of the LGBT+ community face social stigma, particularly in rural areas, and experience employment discrimination and occasional acts of violence.

G Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights

G1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy freedom of movement, including the ability to change their place of residence, employment, or education? 3.003 4.004

The government generally does not interfere in freedom of movement; individuals are allowed to move freely in the country and can travel internationally. However, bandit attacks in the south and west have made traveling across the island difficult. The government has made some progress in responding to these attacks, however; authorities seized 112 weapons and arrested 48 people in a May 2019 operation.

Score Change: The score improved from 2 to 3 because authorities have made progress addressing the insecurity that limits free movement in parts of Madagascar.

G2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals able to exercise the right to own property and establish private businesses without undue interference from state or nonstate actors? 2.002 4.004

Madagascar’s legal structure provides protections for private property rights, though enforcement of these protections is inconsistent, in part because the vast majority of farmers do not hold the official rights to their land. There is a history of competition between the state-recognized property rights system and customary land use practices, as well as attempts by the state to permit mining, commercial agriculture, and other economic pursuits on land where ownership is disputed.

In recent years, Madagascar has made it easier to start a business by reducing the number of procedures to register a business, and simplifying the payment of registration fees. In May 2019, the government launched a financing program to support Malagasy establishing new businesses.

G3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy personal social freedoms, including choice of marriage partner and size of family, protection from domestic violence, and control over appearance? 2.002 4.004

Women and children have limited social freedoms in Madagascar, especially in rural areas. Forced child marriage and domestic abuse are common. Although sexual harassment is illegal, the law is not enforced and harassment is common. Abortion is illegal in Madagascar. No law prohibits same-sex sexual relations.

G4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy equality of opportunity and freedom from economic exploitation? 1.001 4.004

Most people work in subsistence agriculture, making advancement in the local economy extremely challenging.

According to the US State Department’s 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report, the Malagasy government does not scrutinize officials implicated in trafficking. The report also noted that the government does not provide services to survivors of trafficking. However, Madagascar has made some recent progress in arresting those accused of trafficking; two were arrested in March 2019, and another three were held in December.

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  • Global Freedom Score

    61 100 partly free