In about the 5th century Africans and Indonesians began migrating to Madagascar. It is unsure as to who was actually there first, however. By the 9th century Muslim traders from eastern Africa had settled in northwest and southeastern parts of Madagascar. The first European to set foot on Madagascar, Diogo Dias, didn’t arrive until 1500. In 1600 Portuguese Roman Catholic missionaries attempted to convert the indigenous people. However, their efforts were unsuccessful and the Malagasy people remained faithful to their beliefs. In 1642 the French gained footholds in Madagascar, and remained there until the 18th century. Between 1774 and 1824, Madagascar was a popular stopping point for pirates.
In 1790 Merina rules established a leadership throughout most of the island. In 1817 the Merina got military and financial assistance from the British.
In 1885 the British turned Madagascar over to the French. By 1895 the French military had taken control over Madagascar and the Merina leadership was completely abolished.
In World War II Malagasy people fought in France, Morocco, and Syria. Once France fell to Germany, British troops occupied the island to stop it from getting taken over by the Japanese. The French received the island from England in 1943.
In 1947 the French influence had declined immensely and a national uprising ensued. It was suppressed after months of fighting. Because of this, the French began to improve their institutions and Madagascar started a peaceful path towards independence. On October 14th, 1958 the Malagasy Republic was officially declared a state. The official constitution was adopted in 1959 and full independence was gained on June 26, 1960.
Madagascar’s first President was Philibert Tsiranan. He was elected though the Social Democrat party in 1960 and was reelected in 1972. Shortly after this, however, antigovernment protests began to form and Tsiranan resigned and power was given to Gabriel Ramanantsoa. He resigned in 1975 to Lt. Col. Richard Ratsimandrava. Ratsimandrava was assassinated 6 days into his term, which led to a temporary military run government. In 1975 a new government was instated under Didier Ratsiraka.
Over the next 16 years under Ratsiraka the government was focused on a centralized state and was based toward socialism. Ratsiraka was elected for three 7-year terms.
Ratsiraka began making some changes to the government in the late 1980’s due to pressure by Malagasy citizens. These included relaxed censorship laws, relaxed economic policies, and the formation of more political parties.
Ratsiraka was decreasing in power and popularity due to a number of incidents, including his troops firing on peaceful demonstrators. In 1991 he was stripped of nearly all his power. A transition period began to form a new government.
In 1992 a new constitution was written and approved. By 1993 there was a new election and Albert Zafy, defeated Ratsiraka. In the 1997 election, both candidates were against each other again, but this time Ratsiraka was victorious. In 1998 the National Assembly, run by Ratsiraka’s party, that strengthen the presidency.
The presidential elections in December 2001 contested both candidates: Ratsiraka and Marc Ravalomanana claimed victory. Crisis followed with economic chaos and violence, until July 2002 when Ratsiraka fled to France. After the crisis President Ravalomanana started new reform projects and gained control of the majority of the National Assembly.