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INSIDERS MADAGASCAR
Published 08/01/2013

Andry Rajoelina,
the billboard king turned president

Andry Rajoelina, who has been president of Madagascar’s High Transitional Authority since March 2009, is Africa’s youngest head of state. The controversial circumstances of his accession to high office have tainted his lightning political ascension, however, and earned him the hostility of part of the international community.

Nothing predestined Rajoelina to become a central figure on the Malagasy political scene. He began by organising dances and then set up the digital printing company Injet. In the 1990s, through his marriage to Mialy Razakandisa, he took over Doma Pub, a company owned by his family in law which was to become leader on the local advertising hoarding market.

He decided to go into politics after clashing with the authorities after they stopped him installing advertising hoardings in the Malagasy capital, Antananarivo. He bought a radio and television station and was elected mayor of the city in December 2007. Self-taught and energetic, he gradually established himself as leader of the opposition to the then president, Marc Ravalomanana. Although their political careers have a lot in common, the two became bitter enemies.

Rajoelina then officially set up his own party, Tanora MalaGasy Vonona (TGV), the initials of which – which refer to the French high-speed train and, by extension, to the speed of his own rise to political prominence – were to become his own nickname. Backed by part of the Merina bourgeoisie which had had enough of Ravalomanana and by the youth of the poor districts of the capital who identified with him, he led the popular uprising against the previous regime of 2008 and 2009. He came to power himself in March 2009 after getting a helping hand from the army which had rallied to his cause.

His management of the transition has caused controversy, however, and, in the eyes of part of a section of local public opinion and the international community, he has ended up being seen as one of the obstacles to a solution of the country’s crisis.(7057 words) 40 EUR

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