Madagascar: former president Marc Ravalomanana, eternal fighter

“I will not go to vote”: Marc Ravalomanana seems to have difficulty pronouncing this incongruous phrase in the mouth of a former President of the Republic

Madagascar: former president Marc Ravalomanana, eternal fighter

“I will not go to vote”: Marc Ravalomanana seems to have difficulty pronouncing this incongruous phrase in the mouth of a former President of the Republic. A man who, for more than twenty years, has been one of the main figures on the Malagasy political scene, with Andry Rajoelina the outgoing president, his enemy of fifteen years. He owes him his fall through the coup d’état in 2009 and a five-year exile in South Africa.

On the eve of the first round of the presidential election scheduled for Thursday, November 16, in a climate of tension of rare intensity, the 73-year-old ex-leader who looks his interlocutor straight in the eyes before speaking confesses: “It’s is very hard, but I have no choice. This election is not clean. »

Since the beginning of October, he has been hitting the streets of the capital with the other candidates gathered in the “collective of 10” who are boycotting the electoral campaign and calling on the population not to go to the polls on Thursday. Arm in arm, sometimes joining hands, all dressed in white shirts, through these peaceful marches repressed with tear gas they offer an unusual image of an opposition united for the restoration of constitutional order .

Of course, “dada” – dad in French – as his supporters call him, took care to be at the center of the photo, aware of his importance. But, to the surprise of many, he played the collective card to the end without giving in to the temptation of a solo escape even though he remains the most serious threat to Andry Rajoelina.

Duel of ego

In 2018, the latter won by a narrow head after a contested election. "I won't say that he doesn't have a personal grudge against Andry Rajoelina, but fundamentally his fight is for Madagascar and we must recognize in him a charisma that the others don't have," says an MP who is not not from his side.

In front of a crowd of several tens of thousands of people gathered by the collective at the Antsonjombe Coliseum, he nevertheless froze the other candidates by declaring: “Together, we will go to May 13, because it is on this square that I "I've been knocked down and that's where we're going to knock him down", leading to fears that the duel of egos will take over again.

“I am not angry, because I believe in God,” assures Marc Ravalomanana, a fervent Protestant, for whom politics and religion have always gone hand in hand to the point of having made words from the Gospel of Mark, “ Do not fear, only believe”, his slogan of the victorious campaign against Didier Ratsiraka in 2002. The motto had also paved the way for “Saint Marc” in business with the construction of the group specializing in the agri-food sector Tiko.

An empire through which the legend of the “milkman” was forged, the child of a peasant family born in the Highlands of the Big Island, who became a self-taught president and advocated the conduct of the State like that of a business . Tiko products which were part of the daily life of Malagasy people have disappeared from store shelves. His fall in 2009 was accompanied by the confiscation of his assets, only a part of which he recovered after his return from South Africa and the abandonment of the legal sanctions which had been pronounced against him.


Although time has passed, the man remains the simple and concrete character who made him successful. “As a leader, I have to find solutions,” he explains in the large office of the palace-like house overlooking Antananarivo, in the Faravohitra district. Finally, one among his “seven offices,” in reference to the biblical number.

In the maze of rooms where there is also a vast chapel, the intimate life of the Ravalomanana family mixes with a hive of collaborators devoted to the boss's conquest of power. His followers are often referred to as “fanatics” and he as a “guru.” But, admits with a certain envy the advisor of another candidate, he is the only politician whose faithful do not hesitate to give money to the TIM party (Tiako i Madagasikara - I love Madagascar) whatever their fortune and to make their campaign t-shirt when others have to spend billions of ariary to fill the stadiums.

This is the strength of Marc Ravalomanana: a solid base that has followed him since his first political mandate as mayor of Antananarivo in 1999. A few hours before the election, which they still hope to see postponed, his lieutenants are discussing possible strategies. It was here that they prepared for battle. And, “everything was ready,” assures the host whose age has not diminished his authority. An authority through which the two-faced assessment of his presidency can be read. The one that allows him to remain in the history of Madagascar as the one who revived the economy, built roads that the country lacks so much and opened up remote regions. Then from his second term in 2006, one which isolated him in a solitary and predatory practice of power for the benefit of his own interests.

The majority of Malagasy people seem to have only remembered the first sequence. Conversely, foreign partners, from whom the “collective of 10” expected a more effective commitment in defending the values ​​of democracy, remain focused on the second. Marc Ravalomanana looks like a scarecrow. A fortiori for France which still suspects him of Francophobia. So much so that between Andry Rajoelina and the veteran, some half-heartedly slip that it is “white bonnet and white bonnet”.

“To get out of this, Madagascar needs the definitive withdrawal of these two protagonists from the political scene,” says a local observer. For that, we will still have to wait. Marc Ravalomanana has already announced with the other members of the collective that they will not recognize the result of the election. The crisis is here to stay.