Though politics have been unstable since the return to electoral politics in 2013, the 2018 election of Andry Rajoelina has brought some stability. However, 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 and poverty, particularly in the south.
- In July, a few retired and active military officers were arrested for plotting to assassinate the president and overthrow the government. The two primary suspects, both of whom are Malagasy and French citizens and likely led the plot, were sentenced to 10 and 20 years of forced labor in December. Most of their accomplices were acquitted or received lesser sentences.
- In October, former prime minister Jean Ravelonarivo was convicted of corruption, fined 6 billion ariary ($1.5 million), and sentenced to five years in prison. Ravelonarivo did not attend his trial and allegedly fled to Switzerland days before the court ruled on his case. Ravelonarivo’s accomplices—including Raoul Arizaka Rabekoto, the director of the state company who likely masterminded their embezzlement scheme—also fled the country.
|Was the current head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections?||3.003 4.004|
Madagascar is a semi-presidential republic, with a president elected for a five-year term and a prime minister nominated by the National Assembly and appointed by the president.
Andry Rajoelina defeated Marc Ravalomanana in the 2018 presidential election’s second round of voting with 55.7 percent of the vote, which the High Constitutional Court (HCC) confirmed despite allegations of fraud. Most regional and international election observers also recognized the election as generally free and fair.
Prime Minister Christian Ntsay, who was appointed by former president Hery Rajaonarimampianina in 2018, was reappointed by President Rajoelina in 2019.
|Were the current national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections?||3.003 4.004|
The bicameral legislature consists of the 151-seat National Assembly and the 18-seat Senate. Members of the National Assembly are directly elected to five-year terms.
In March 2020, the National Assembly passed a measure, approved by President Rajoelina, that reduced the size of the Senate from 63 to 18 seats. Six of these seats are appointed by the president; the remaining 12 are indirectly elected from an electoral college. Senators serve five-year terms. Critics claimed the downsizing of the Senate was politically motivated, as the opposition led by former president Rajaonarimampianina’s New Forces for Madagascar (HVM) party had dominated the body. The Senate elections in December 2020 were boycotted by nearly all opposition parties, and Rajoelina’s political alliance won 10 out of 12 seats; the vote was deemed free and fair by most election observers, despite the boycott.
A political alliance led by President Rajoelina won 84 National Assembly seats in the 2019 parliamentary elections, while former President Ravalomanana’s I Love Madagascar (TIM) party won 16; the remaining 51 were won by other parties and independent candidates. The contest was deemed free and fair by election observers, though some political parties claimed that the results were marred by fraud.
|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. The CENI’s independence and credibility has been seriously undermined by its lack of resources and expertise, particularly in database management and information technology. After CENI vice president Thiery Rakotonarivo revealed in March 2020 that over a million people would likely have the same national identity card numbers as others on the voter roll, he was forced to resign.
|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 political parties are registered in Madagascar. However, the law on political parties is widely viewed as a flawed document that places undue burdens on individual candidates, effectively instituting a high financial barrier for political candidacy. Political leaders frequently use religion, ethnicity, and caste as instruments to mobilize voters.
|Is there a realistic opportunity for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections?||3.003 4.004|
Opposition parties can 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.
The TIM claimed that a 2019 law passed by the National Assembly requiring elected officials to hold official status as the parliamentary opposition targeted their party leader Ravalomanana, who had not assumed elected office. Though the Senate initially delayed its passage and proposed amendments to the bill, the law passed without amendment in May 2021.
|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.
The military has some influence over politics, and it threatened to intervene during a 2018 political crisis. In July 2021, a few retired and active military officers were arrested for plotting to assassinate the president and overthrow the government. The two primary suspects, both of whom are Malagasy and French citizens and likely led the plot, were sentenced to 10 and 20 years of forced labor in December. Most of their accomplices were acquitted or received lesser sentences.
|Do various segments of the population (including ethnic, racial, 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. The members of the Merina ethnic group are overrepresented in government institutions compared to the members of the other seventeen prominent ethnic groups. While some LGBT+ people are active politically in the capital, they face social stigma that discourages political participation and open advocacy for LGBT+ rights.
Cultural norms restrict the political participation of women, who hold 18 percent of National Assembly 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.
|Do the freely elected head of government and national legislative representatives determine the policies of the government?||3.003 4.004|
Since his 2018 election, President Rajoelina has brought some stability to government, which had experienced frequent replacements of the prime minister and cabinet members since the 2013 return to electoral politics. However, the current parliament lacks the strength to act as an effective check on executive power. Additionally, economic elites exert significant influence on elected officials.
|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 aim to address it. Investigations and prosecutions of corruption by the Independent Anticorruption Bureau (BIANCO) are infrequent and rarely target high-profile individuals, though the agency has become more independent in recent years. BIANCO has identified least 79 lawmakers who have accepted bribes; prosecutors had not pursued cases against them by the end of 2021. In 2019, BIANCO submitted a report to the High Court of Justice (HCJ) implicating three former ministers in acts of corruption; the court has not yet reviewed the allegations. In October 2021, former prime minister Jean Ravelonarivo was convicted of corruption, fined 6 billion ariary ($1.5 million), and sentenced to five years in prison. Ravelonarivo did not attend his trial and allegedly fled to Switzerland days before the court ruled on his case. His accomplices—including Raoul Arizaka Rabekoto, the director of the state company who likely masterminded their embezzlement scheme—also fled the country.
|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.
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.
|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.
During 2020 and 2021, the government targeted and harassed journalists and media outlets critical of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In April 2021, the government ordered television and radio stations to uphold a “letter of commitment” that they would ban all programming that would spread alleged misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic and “threaten public order and security.”
|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 have been 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 in recent years.
|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.
|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 spreading “false information,” and has been used to prosecute social media users.
In October 2020, former communications minister Harry Laurent Rahajason was sentenced to 44 months in prison after supporting a protest through social media. Though his arrest and others have deterred individuals from speaking freely online, particularly about the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, the authorities did not pursue legal action against those who criticized them in 2021.
Score Change: The score improved from 2 to 3 because there was no repetition of the previous year’s high-profile prosecutions for critical online speech about the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
|Is there freedom of assembly?||2.002 4.004|
The constitution guarantees freedom of assembly, but authorities have sometimes declined requests for protests and rallies in the name of public security.
In December 2021, former president Ravalomanana’s political party was prevented from holding a rally in the south of the country. That same month, various consumer protection associations were denied the right to organize a march against price inflation in the capital.
|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, but many domestic human rights groups lack resources. Although no restrictions are placed on NGOs, the government is not always receptive to their opinions. Groups focused on the environment or human rights face pressure from powerful interests.
|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.
|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 are seen as overburdened and corrupt.
In recent years, key HCC rulings have reflected its growing independence from the executive. However, the HCC has at times approved Rajoelina’s actions and disregarded legitimate allegations of corruption, despite legitimate protests from the opposition.
|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.
The government has increased funding for the judiciary, launched capacity-building efforts, and pardoned individuals detained over minor offenses as part of a new policy supported by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). In 2019, the government also instituted the use of “fair ground hearings” to alleviate the pretrial backlog.
|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. Nevertheless, since 2020, new military bases were built in these areas that were traditionally called “red zone” or under the control of the dahalo.
Detainees and prisoners suffer from harsh and sometimes life-threatening conditions due to overcrowding in detention facilities (though new facilities have been built to address this issue), as well as substandard hygiene and health care. People convicted of serious crimes can be sentenced to hard labor.
|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. Conservative cultural and social norms can prevent women from having the same opportunities as men. Some ethnic groups face discrimination outside of their home regions.
There are no legal protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity; LGBT+ people face social stigma, particularly in rural areas, and experience employment discrimination and occasional acts of violence. The age of consent for same-sex relations is 21, but 14 for heterosexual relations. In July 2021, the Interior Ministry shut down an LGBT+ party held in a bar in Antananarivo for allegedly “undermining good morals” and “inciting debauchery.”
|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.
|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 most farmers do not hold 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 registration procedures and simplifying the payment of registration fees.
|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.
|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 2021 Trafficking in Persons Report, the Malagasy government does not scrutinize officials implicated in trafficking, though it does provide some services to victims and convicted traffickers in 2020 for the first time in four years.
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Global Freedom Score61 100 partly free