One more for the reverse wave

Madagascar has fallen from the ranks of democracies, at least for a time. Just because the highest court says a transition in executive power is constitutional does not make it so.

President Marc Ravalomanana, under siege for a while, actually tried to hand power to a military junta, but Andry Rajoelina, the former mayor of the capital, apparently will become “interim” president instead. Rajoelina had been in a power struggle with Ravalomanana for months.

Ravalomanana won the 2006 presidential election with over 55% of the vote. The runner-up had 11%, and Rajoelina was not even a candidate.

Madagascar is interesting to me as one of the few countries ever to have qualified for each of the three variants of “presidential” democracy. I show it as democratic and premier-presidential from 1991 to 1993, president-parliamentary from 1993 to 1997, and (more or less “pure”) presidential since 1997 (though for now, no longer democratic). The progression shows the steady increase in formal presidential power over the cabinet–in the 1991-93 system the president had barely any say in who became premier, as well as no right to dismiss the premier. Since 1997 the post of premier still exists, but it now takes a two-thirds vote of parliament to remove the premier and cabinet, taking the country out of the realm of “semi-” presidentialism.

As if to underscore the lowly status of the PM, apparently the constitution actually states that the leader of the upper house should be the interim president if the elected president resigns. (I believe most semi-presidential systems have that role fall to the premier, though I have never looked into this systematically.) In any case, it certainly should not fall to the Constitutional Court to pick a non-legislator, who is constitutionally too young for the presidency in any case.

In career-path trivia, I wonder how many other countries have had presidents (interim or otherwise) who were former dic jockeys.

2 thoughts on “One more for the reverse wave

  1. A couple of notes. In the French Constitution, the president of the Senate assumes the interim presidency when necessary. This happened in 1969 and 1974. I haven’t checked either, but I would wager that this would be the case in a number of African countries that adopted constitutions similar to the French one. This was certainly the case, for example, in Congo-Brazzaville 1992 and in Mauritania and still applies in Senegal. In Mali, Tunisia and Togo it is the president of the National Assembly who assumes the interim.

    As for Madagascar, at what point does a constitution tip from being semi-presidential (in terms of collective responsibility to the legislature) to presidential? Even though a two-thirds majority is required, the government is still collectively responsible. (When the government declares a bill to be a resigning matter, then only a simple majority is needed against (Art. 94), though obviously the legislature has no right of initiative in this case).

  2. At what point does it tip? At >50%+1. I understand “confidence of the assembly” to mean the majority. (Are there any systems commonly understood to be parliamentary in which a simple majority of the members of the first chamber is not sufficient to oust a cabinet?)

    I figured you would know the answer on the interim presidencies, so thanks for that, Robert! The pattern is not at all what I thought.

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