Freedom in the World 2017 - Madagascar

Freedom Status: 
Partly Free
Political Rights: 
Civil Liberties: 
Aggregate Score: 
Freedom Rating: 

An unelected administration governed Madagascar for five years following a 2009 coup, but the country has since returned to electoral politics through presidential, parliamentary, and municipal elections. However, few governing bodies are truly independent from the president. Corruption and a lack of government accountability remain problematic. Independent journalists face pressure from authorities, and demonstrations are frequently banned or dispersed. The government has struggled to manage lawlessness in the southeast. 

Key Developments in 2016: 
  • The country adopted a new Communication Code that increased penalties for defamation.
  • In October, the United Nations reported that nearly 850,000 people were in need of immediate humanitarian assistance due to a severe drought.
  • Three people were killed and scores were injured in a grenade attack at the main Independence Day celebration in the capital.
Executive Summary: 

While Madagascar has returned to electoral politics since a 2009 coup, the country’s political framework is constituted by a fragile arrangement of personal networks through which the administration of President Hery Rajaonarimampianina develops and implements policy. In April 2016, President Rajaonarimampianina appointed his third prime minister in three years in a chaotic process in which the previous prime minister learned of his dismissal only after the announcement of the new one was made. Meanwhile, opposition political movements continued to demand the president’s resignation, while in May a sitting senator was arrested amid rumors of another coup attempt.

During the year, lawmakers approved, and Rajaonarimampianina promulgated, a new Communication Code that included several provisions that could be used to restrict media freedom. Though initially expected to lift older provisions that allowed jail terms for defamation of public officials, the new code increased the possible fines for defamation, and contained penalties for offenses including using media to discourage participation in national celebrations, and disseminating information harmful to the country’s currency.It also allowed for the confiscation of equipment or the outright closure of press outfits deemed repeat violators of the new code. 

Popular discontent increased in 2016, amid a stagnant economy and an unresponsive political system. Demonstrations against the presence of foreign mining companies and land expropriation, and against the new Communication Code, took place during the year. Many demonstrations were banned or dispersed by authorities, particularly those against the new press restrictions. Police sometimes used excessive force when breaking up antigovernment gatherings.

Separately, at the Independence Day celebration in the capital in June, a grenade explosion killed 3 people and wounded over 90 in what authorities characterized as an act of political terrorism. 

In October, the United Nations reported that nearly 850,000 people were in need of immediate humanitarian assistance due to a severe drought.

Political Rights

Political Rights 24 / 40

A. Electoral Process 9 / 12

A1. Is the head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections?
A2. Are the national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections?
A3. Are the electoral laws and framework fair?


B. Political Pluralism and Participation 10 / 16

B1. Do the people have the right to organize in different political parties or other competitive political groupings of their choice, and is the system open to the rise and fall of these competing parties or groupings?
B2. Is there a significant opposition vote and a realistic opportunity for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections?
B3. Are the people’s political choices free from domination by the military, foreign powers, totalitarian parties, religious hierarchies, economic oligarchies, or any other powerful group?
B4. Do cultural, ethnic, religious, or other minority groups have full political rights and electoral opportunities?


C. Functioning of Government 5 / 12

C1. Do the freely elected head of government and national legislative representatives determine the policies of the government?
C2. Is the government free from pervasive corruption?
C3. Is the government accountable to the electorate between elections, and does it operate with openness and transparency?


Civil Liberties

Civil Liberties 32 / 60

D. Freedom of Expression and Belief 10 / 16

D1. Are there free and independent media and other forms of cultural expression?
D2. Are religious institutions and communities free to practice their faith and express themselves in public and private?
D3. Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free of extensive political indoctrination?
D4. Is there open and free private discussion?


E. Associational and Organizational Rights 8 / 12

E1. Is there freedom of assembly, demonstration, and open public discussion?
E2. Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations?
E3. Are there free trade unions and peasant organizations or equivalents, and is there effective collective bargaining? Are there free professional and other private organizations?


F. Rule of Law 6 / 16

F1. Is there an independent judiciary?
F2. Does the rule of law prevail in civil and criminal matters? Are police under direct civilian control?
F3. Is there protection from political terror, unjustified imprisonment, exile, or torture, whether by groups that support or oppose the system? Is there freedom from war and insurgencies?
F4. Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population?


G. Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights 8 / 16

G1. Do individuals enjoy freedom of travel or choice of residence, employment, or institution of higher education?
G2. Do individuals have the right to own property and establish private businesses? Is private business activity unduly influenced by government officials, the security forces, political parties/organizations, or organized crime?
G3. Are there personal social freedoms, including gender equality, choice of marriage partners, and size of family?
G4. Is there equality of opportunity and the absence of economic exploitation?


Scoring Key: X / Y (Z)
X = Score Received
Y = Best Possible Score
Z = Change from Previous Year

Full Methodology

Explanatory Note: 

This country report has been abridged for Freedom in the World 2017. For background information on political rights and civil liberties in Madagascar, see Freedom in the World 2016.