Reference points: What to read to understand Madagascar's pre-presidential election debates

Screenshot of Tv5monde's YouTube channel. Fair use.

Madagascar is gearing up for an upcoming presidential election, with the initial round scheduled for November 9, followed by a second round on December 20, 2023. To gain a better understanding of the importance of this election, Global Voices has created a mini-guide highlighting information sources that are worth considering to keep abreast of Malagasy news.

Most of Madagascar's media outlets produce information in two languages, Malagasy and French, which are the country's two official languages. The Malagasy population is estimated to be over 28 million, with more than a quarter of them speaking French.

The Malagasy Television and National Malagasy Radio are both state-owned media organisations operating under the umbrella of the public audio-visual group ORTM. They provide real-time broadcasts throughout the country, with the Malagasy Television channel also maintaining a presence on YouTube.

Besides these major media outlets, the Malagasy Press Agency plays a crucial role in the island's media environment. Alongside state-owned media, news websites like MadaTopInfo offer comprehensive coverage of national news in both French and Malagasy. Additionally, there are websites exclusively in Malagasy, including Newsmada, Madagate, and Infokmada.

In the digital sphere, Agoramada, a platform dedicated to providing information to internet users about digital opportunities in Madagascar, regularly releases statistics and trends concerning the most popular social media platforms in the country. Laplume is another platform specialising in the publication of essential data and statistics related to social media usage in Madagascar.

With over 250,000 followers on Facebook, the privately owned television channel Viva TV Madagascar, offers extensive coverage of news from the country. The announcement of the candidacy of Andry Rajoelina, the current president, was broadcast during their televised news segment on September 6, 2023.

Media-Madagascar Investigate, a bilingual platform headquartered in Canada, represents a portion of the Malagasy diaspora and disseminates news and updates concerning the political, economic, sports, and cultural landscape of the country.

Beyond its borders, Malagasy news attracts the attention of several international media outlets in both French and English. Notable among them are the French media giants TV5monde, France 24, and Radio France Internationale, as well as the French segment of the channel Africanews. Additionally, the French-language divisions of British-origin media, such as BBC Afrique and Africa 24, are actively engaged in covering Madagascar. The magazine Afrique XXI also provides regular coverage of events in Madagascar.

Madagascar‘s status in terms of freedom of expression is regularly assessed and included in the annual rankings by the international organisation Reporters Without Borders. In 2023, the country ranked 101st out of 180 in this index.

On the web

With a penetration rate of just 11.9 percent, internet access in Madagascar is still limited. Despite this, a segment of the younger population is active on the internet, primarily using platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. An agreement between Facebook and telecommunications providers in Madagascar allows internet users in the country to connect to the platform free of charge.

According to the 2022 ranking by Digital Report on social media usage in Madagascar, Facebook (3.05 million users) and Facebook Messenger (650,000) are by far the most widely used social media platforms among the population. They are followed by Instagram (147,400), Twitter (21,000), and LinkedIn (250,000).

Malagasy citizens also use Facebook as a platform to raise awareness about issues facing their country. Some of the most prominent and active voices in this regard include figures like Marie Christina Kolo, who passionately advocates for women's rights and climate causes. There is also Andriavina Ratafika Andrianarivo, a jurist, political analyst, and young activist dedicated to promoting effective and transparent governance. Also, providing commentary on Malagasy affairs from her base in Paris, Fanirisoa Ernaivo, a jurist and former presidential candidate in Madagascar, is known for her activism and critical stance on the current government. 

With just a few weeks left before the presidential elections, two issues are taking center stage. Firstly, the arrest on allegations of corruption of Romy Voos Andrianarisoa, the Malagasy president's chief of staff. Secondly, the focus is on the dual nationality acquired by the current president, Andry Rajoelina, in 2014. President Rajoelina, who holds both French and Malagasy citizenship, is now seeking re-election for a second term. This issue is linked to Article 42 of the Malagasy nationality code, which stipulates that:

‘Perd la nationalité malgache, le Malgache majeur qui acquiert volontairement une nationalité étrangère’

A Malagasy citizen of legal age who voluntarily acquires foreign nationality shall forfeit their Malagasy citizenship.

The Constitution of the Fourth Republic, which has been in place since 2010, specifies in Article 46 that:

Article 46.- Tout candidat aux fonctions de Président de la République doit être de nationalité malagasy.

Article 46 – Any candidate for the office of President of the Republic must be of Malagasy nationality.

Therefore, the current president would technically not hold Malagasy nationality and, therefore, would not be eligible to run for elections.

As the elections approach, discussions are poised to become heated, especially in the digital sphere, which maintains a greater degree of freedom and diversity compared to Malagasy state-owned media.

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