In Madagascar, Andry Rajoelina's dual nationality courts controversy on eve of Presidential Election

Andry Rajoelina. Screenshot from Tv5mmonde Info's YouTube channel. Fair use.

Madagascar is gearing up for its forthcoming presidential election against a background of controversy over the dual nationality of former president of the Republic Andry Rajoelina. In fact, under Malagasy law, holding another nationality automatically invalidates Madagascar nationality, which is a prerequisite for seeking election.

On November 9, 2023, Madagascans will go to the polls to elect the new president of the Republic of Madagascar. However, less than two months from this election, the question of outgoing president Rajoelina‘s dual nationality is still fueling heated debates in the country, particularly at the political player level.

The Constitution of the Fourth Malagasy Republic requires Rajoelina to resign as president in order to seek a second mandate. Article 46 of the Constitution stipulates:

(…)Le Président de la République en exercice qui se porte candidat aux élections Présidentielles démissionne de son poste soixante jours avant la date du scrutin Présidentiel(…)

(…)The president of the republic in office who stands as a candidate to the presidential elections resigns from his position sixty days before the date of the presidential ballot(…)

Rajoelina ought to have been replaced by Herimanana Razafimahefa, president of the senate. But the latter declined, and the matter has been referred to the government, headed by the prime minister. This situation is irksome to the opposition, which is accusing Rajoelina of trying to manipulate the elections, as this video from Africanews explains:

To find out more on Malagasy news in the media read: Reference points: What to read to understand Madagascar's pre-presidential election debates

What does Malagasy law say?

Indeed, the possession of a foreign nationality disqualifies any person from standing in the presidential election. The notorious Article 42 of Ordonnance No 60 – 064 dated July 22, 1960, specifies that:

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

Any Malagasy adult who voluntarily acquires a foreign nationality forfeits Malagasy nationality.

Further, Article 46 of the Madagascar Constitution specifies that:

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

Every candidate to the functions of president of the republic must be of Malagasy nationality.

The Electoral Code also spells out that:

Seul un citoyen de nationalité malgache peut se présenter à l'élection présidentielle.

Only a citizen of Malagasy nationality may present himself to the presidential election.

And yet, since June, papers dating from 2014 and documenting Rajoelina's French naturalization, have been leaked and circulating on social networks. This information pertaining to the president's nationality is a source of cyclical arguments in Malagasy political life. Online actors, especially on the side of the regime's opponents and detractors, are making the most of the chance to denounce the head of state for high treason and a “moral lapse.”

On June 17, a few days after the disclosure of Rajoelina's French nationality, Fernand Cello, a Malagasy investigative journalist, shared on his Facebook page a post by Fanirisoa Ernaivo, lawyer and a former candidate in the presidential election in Madagascar. In her post, Ernaivo explains:

” Tsy manana « double nationalité » ny Filoha Andry Rajoelina fa « simple nationalité française » hoy i Fanirisoa Ernaivo. Sady tsy nolovainy tamin’ny dadany na ny dadabeny mantsy io zom-pirenena frantsay ananany io no efa 40 taona izy no nangataka sy nahazo izany tamin’ny 2014 hoy ity mpitsara teo aloha sy Filohan’ny Sendikan’ny Mpitsara teo aloha ity. Mihatra avy hatrany amin’ny Filoha Andry Rajoelina arak’izany ny andininy fa 42 ao amin’ny Code de la nationalité Malagasy izay milaza fa very avy hatrany ny zom-pirenena Malagasy ho an’ny Malagasy feno taona izay misafidy haka zom-pirenena hafa.” hoy i Fanirisoa Ernaivo izay nanazava mikasika ny « procédure de naturalisation » concernant la nationalité du président Andry Rajoelina.

President Andry Rajoelina does not have “dual nationality” but “single French nationality” Fanirisoa Ernaivo has declared. He did not flip his French nationality with his father or his grandfather and he requested and received it in 2014 40 years later, the former judge and former president of the Law Society has declared. Article 42 of the Code of Nationality of Madagascar applies directly to President Andry Rajoelina which stipulates that Madagascar nationality is lost immediately for Malagasies who chose another nationality” Fanirisoa Ernaivo announced in explaining the “naturalization procedure.”

In the same vein, a video published on the Facebook page Rien ne va +(‘by Abdel’ in reality) (“All bets are off”) which went viral on social networks raises a question mark over the former Malagasy president's actions: did the president of Madagascar betray his people? The video is here:

Screenshot of the video on the Facebook page of Rien ne va + (‘by Abdel’ in reality)

In a special live broadcast, three weeks after the outbreak of the controversy concerning his acquisition of French nationality, the president of Madagascar admitted having indeed acquired naturalization in 2014 in the interests of his children. In this article on the TRTAfrica outlet, Rajoelina explains:

Je n’étais plus au pouvoir à cette époque, et j’ai accepté cette démarche dans l’intérêt de mes enfants qui devaient poursuivre des études universitaires en France. Quel parent ne ferait pas tout pour ses enfants?

I was no longer in power at the time, and I accepted this approach in the interests of my children who were to pursue University studies in France. What parent would not do all he could for his children?

He asserts that he has a right to acquire French nationality from the fact that his grandfather held it. But this assertion has been rebutted by Fanirisoa Ernaivo, political exile and fervent opponent of the regime, who gives here, on her Facebook page, her own interpretation:

Screenshot of Fanirisoa Ernaivo's Facebook post. Fair use.

After the 2009 coup, Andre Rajoelina obtained French citizenship in 2014 to avoid criminal proceedings after his bloody coup and all the illegal business and crimes committed during the transition period.

He did not inherit this citizenship from his father.

France should not become a safe haven for criminals.

And so we have the opposition moving heaven and earth to prevent Rajoelina from seeking a second mandate.

Fruitless injunctions and depositions against Andry Rajoelina

The nationality question is not limited merely to arguments. A citation of “forgery and the use of forgeries, espionage and attacks on the external security of the State” has been introduced into the Madagascar Lower Court by the Association for Law and Development of Madagascar (ADM), led by Fanirisoa Ernaivo, currently a political refugee in France.

The information was relayed by the outlet Orange Actu Madagascar on its Facebook page:

Screenshot of the Facebook account of Orange Actu Madagascar. Fair use.

According to the president of RMDM Diaspora, Fanirisoa Ernaivo, a complaint concerning President Andry Rajoelina's “loss of Malagasy identity” will be lodged with prosecutors in Anosy on 29 June this year at 14.30.

This controversy has been stirring up a furor in the country's political circles for several days, and opinions coming thick and fast, especially on the interpretation of the articles of the Constitution relating to the nationality of the Head of State.

Madagascar rolling news on

In an article in Le Monde, the association accuses the head of state of having always had the intention of covering up his French nationality while being president, and of having in this way broken the law in putting himself up for the presidency in 2018.

Another application has been entered by Ernaivo in the Constitutional High Court (HCC) for a ruling on Rajoelina's nationality. The submission has been rejected in its entirety by the HCC. In its judgment 04-HCC/AR of August 22, 2023, relayed by the outlet Taniko Madagascar, the Constitutional High Court judges declare that:

La Haute Cour Constitutionnelle n’est pas compétente pour dire et juger si Rajoelina Andry Nirina a perdu la nationalité malagasy.

The Constitutional High Court is not competent to say and judge whether Rajoelina Andry Nirina has lost Madagascar nationality.

Supporters and defenders of the regime such as Rinah Rakotomanga hail the HCC's decision by publishing on her Facebook page:

Breaking news: [translator's note: first two lines of text in Malagasy]
H.C.C decision
Ruling No. 04-HCC/AR of 22 August 2023 concerning a plea seeking invalidation
Article 1: That the plea for the appointment of a public hearing is rejected.
Article 2: That the Constitutional High Court is not competent to state and judge that Monsieur RAJOELINA Andry Nirina has lost Malagasy nationality.
Article 3: That the plea for invalidation of the candidacy of Monsieur RAJOELINA Andry Nirina for the presidential election of 2018 has been ruled out of order and is inadmissible.
Article 4: That the present ruling be notified to the requestor, to Monsieur RAJOELINA Andry Nirina, and published in the Official Journal of the Republic.

Despite all the attempts to prevent Rajoelina's candidacy, he has formalized his candidacy for a second mandate. As a consequence, petitions seeking the invalidation of his candidacy have been filed by other candidates in the presidential election, chiefly citing as grounds his dual nationality. The HCC has declared all these petitions inadmissible by its judgment No 6.

The magazine Resaka Madagasikara publishes the news of the candidates’ rejected petitions:

Candidates’ complaints rejected.
Among the decisions made by the Constitutional High Court (HCC) over the weekend appear additionally the one in connection with the pleas lodged by candidates in the presidential election. In effect, five candidates to the highest office of state have lodged complaints contesting the candidacy of the outgoing President Andry Rajoelina, principally for the reason of the latter's dual nationality. The fact is that through its ruling No. 6, the HCC has declared inadmissible all the pleas tending to the disbarment of the candidate of the TGV from the contest.
In one of its recitals, the Court of Ambohidahy indicated that it is competent to adjudicate on the settlement of disputes over the establishing procedures for the presidential election. Furthermore, the requests lodged by the candidates at this ballot are appeals against the list of candidates to election. It is merely that “neither the drafter nor the legislator foresaw a possibility” of this order, again according to the HCC. This decision by the Court of Ambohidahy therefore lays to rest this episode, all the more so as the Court has already validated Andry Rajoelina's candidacy, the principal issue of the nationality debate.

In the run-up to November's election, the political situation in Madagascar remains very fraught. The 11 candidates in the election continue to use all the means at their disposal to disqualify Andry Rajoelina's candidacy in the forthcoming race for the Iavoloha Palace, official residence of the president of Madagascar.

Certain opponents are attempting to mobilize the crowd to demonstrate their outrage. But arrests are also multiplying. To prevent any demonstration, the forces of order regularly patrol the Place du 13 mai, a historic landmark of the country which plays a leading role in political demonstrations in Madagascar.

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