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April 2002 issue of
World Press Review
(VOL. 49, No. 4)
Mad for Marc
World Press Review contributing editor
have been amazed to get this kind of reception, commented
an awestruck foreign onlooker. He was referring to the mass
protests and general strikes called in support of presidential
candidate Marc Ravalomanana, which brought hundreds of thousands
of supporters onto the streets of the capital city, Antananarivo,
during January and February. Ravalomanana, known to his fans
simply as Marc, ran against incumbent President
Didier Ratsiraka on Dec. 16.
President of Madagascar Marc Ravalomanana waves to supporters,
Feb. 24, 2002 (Photo: AFP).
He clearly captured the imaginations of many people in the impoverished
island nation. Colorful Marc posters adorn
the walls of even the remotest villages, and people of all ages
wear T-shirts bearing his name and photograph, wrote Mike
Cadman in Johannesburgs Sunday Independent (Feb.
The government reported that in the election, Ravalomanana and
Ratsiraka had both fallen short of the 50-percent majority needed
for a clear victory. A runoff was scheduled for Feb. 24, but
Ravalomanana protested, claiming that the government had rigged
the results and that he had actually won 52 percent of the vote.
Various indicators since Dec. 16 show that Marc Ravalomanana
won, but that a dark plot smothered the truth of the ballot
boxes and robbed him of his victory. Reality or fantasy?
asked Adelson Razafy in the Madagascar Tribune (Feb.
President Ratsiraka was quick to seize on the fact that the
general strikes were costing the country up to US$14 million
a day. His supporters fought back by blockading the capital.
The political standoff brought international mediators to the
country, including the secretary-general of the Organization
of African Unity, who brokered an agreement to postpone the
We must have Marc; the others have been here too long,
one protester said to the Sunday Independent (Feb. 3).
I ask you to be patient, Ravalomanana told his supporters,
according to a report in LExpress de Madagascar (Feb.
But on Feb. 22, Ravalomanana ran out of patience and publicly
declared himself president. At press time, President Ratsiraka
had called a state of emergency.