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Andry Nirina Rajoelina (Malagasy: [ˈjanɖʐʲ nʲˈrinə radzoˈel]), born 30 May 1974, is the President of the High Transitional Authority of Madagascar. He became president on 21 March 2009 during a political crisis, having held the office of Mayor of Antananarivo for one year prior. Before entering the political arena, Rajoelina launched several successful enterprises, most notably including a printing and advertising company called Injet in 1999 and the Viva radio and television networks in 2007. He began his career as an entrepreneur in his teenage years, first as a DJ at local clubs and parties, and later by organizing and promoting musical events in the capital.
Upon rising to power, Rajoelina dissolved the Senate and National Assembly and transferred their powers to a variety of new governance structures he made responsible for overseeing the transition toward a new constitutional authority. These administrative structures have repeatedly conflicted with the internationally mediated process to establish a transitional government of consensus. Voters approved a new constitution in a national referendum unilaterally organized by the Rajoelina administration in November 2010, ushering in the Fourth Republic and putting in place the conditions enabling Rajoelina to stand in presidential elections scheduled for May 2013.
Andry Rajoelina was born on 30 May 1974 to a relatively wealthy family in Antananarivo. His father, now-retired Colonel Roger Yves Rajoelina, held dual nationality and fought for the French army in the Algerian war. At the age of 13, Rajoelina became the 1987 junior-class national karate champion. While still in high school, Rajoelina began working as a DJ at parties and clubs in Antananarivo to earn pocket money. Although Rajoelina's family could afford a college education for their son, he opted to discontinue his studies after completing his baccalaureat to launch a career as an entrepreneur.
In 1993, at the age of 19, Rajoelina established his first enterprise: a small event production company called Show Business. The connections and influence of his father, then a prominent military officer, in combination with Rajoelina's own knowledge of Antananarivo nightlife, were factors in the company's success. By the following year, he had firmly established his reputation among the youth elite of the capital for organizing an annual concert called Live that brought together foreign and Malagasy musical artists. The event continued to grow in popularity with each passing year, attracting 50,000 participants on its tenth anniversary.
In 1999, he launched Injet, an advertising and digital printing company that quickly grew in prominence with its expansion of billboard advertising throughout the capital. The business was the first to make digital printing technology available on the island. Local magazine Echo Australe, which named then-mayor of Antananarivo Marc Ravalomanana their Entrepreneur of the Year in 1999, bestowed the same honor on Rajoelina in 2000.
Rajoelina proposed in 2000 to his girlfriend of six years, Mialy, whom he had met in Antananarivo in 1994 during her senior year of high school, and who had recently completed her undergraduate and masters studies in finance and accounting in Paris. The couple reunited in Madagascar and wed the same year. Their marriage produced two boys, Arena (born 2002) and Ilonstoa (born 2005), and a daughter born in 2007 that the couple named Andrialy, a contraction of their own names. Mialy's wealthy parents invested in their son-in-law's Injet enterprise, which significantly expanded with the 2001 purchase of Domapub, a competing billboard advertising business concentrated in Antananarivo. The couple worked together to manage the family businesses, with Rajoelina responsible for Injet and his wife handling the affairs of Domapub. A competition organized by French bank BNI Crédit Lyonnais awarded first prize for best young entrepreneur in Madagascar to Rajoelina in 2003.
Shortly after Ravalomanana won the presidential elections in 2001, Rajoelina befriended the new president's daughter and continued to expand his relationship with the capital's political elite over the course of the Ravalomanana presidency. Rajoelina further expanded his influence in the public arena of the capital with the May 2007 purchase of the Ravinala television and radio stations, which he renamed Viva TV and Viva FM. The official launch of these newly acquired media channels on May 27 was attended by many of the capital's political and cultural elite, including TIM party president Jacques Sylla and Antananarivo mayor Hery Rafalimanana.
Mayor of Antananarivo
As the head of the TGV association, Tanora malaGasy Vonona (Young Malagasies Determined), Rajoelina successfully ran for mayor of Antananarivo, beating TIM party incumbent Hery Rafalimanana. Rafalimanana, who had originally been elected to the post as an independent, had enjoyed strong popularity during his tenure as mayor. His high rate of public approval was attributed to his talent as an administrator and his successful continuation of efforts first launched in 1999, under Ravalomanana's mayoral administration, to improve the quality of life for the inhabitants of the capital city. Despite being nationally and internationally credited with effectively managing the capital and achieving significant transformation of the urban landscape in the city, and although he opted in his re-election campaign to run as a TIM candidate rather than an independent, Rafalimanana's campaign suffered from inadequate TIM promotional support and the increasingly unpopular image of the TIM party. Rajoelina was elected mayor on 12 December 2007 with 63.3% of the vote and a 75% voter turnout.
Rajoelina faced significant challenges in his tenure as mayor. Upon taking office, he was confronted with redressing the city's treasury, which had accumulated 8.2 billion Malagasy Ariary (approximately 4.6 million U.S. dollars) in debts under previous mayors, including Ravalomanana himself. Beginning 4 January 2008, Ravalomanana ordered water cutoffs at public pumps and brownouts of Antananarivo's street lights run by the state utilities company Jirama, due to 3.3 million ariary of unpaid debts to Jirama by the City of Antananarivo. Rajoelina responded by condemning the move as political and proceeded to undertake an audit that identified and addressed long-standing procedural irregularities and issues of corruption within the city's administration. Following a series of crimes against members of Rajoelina's inner circle in 2008 that comprised the burgling of his cabinet director's car, the kidnapping and ransoming of one of his special advisers, and the death of an assistant under mysterious circumstances, rumors spread that the Rajoelina administration was being deliberately intimidated by supporters of the president.
Confrontation with Ravalomanana
On 13 December 2008, the Government closed Andry Rajoelina's Viva TV, stating that a Viva interview with exiled former head of state Didier Ratsiraka was "likely to disturb peace and security". This move catalyzed a public already dissatisfied with other recent actions undertaken by Ravalomanana, including the July 2008 signing of a deal with agricultural firm Daewoo to lease half the island's arable land for South Korean cultivation, and the November 2008 purchase of a second presidential jet at a cost of 60 million U.S. dollars. Within a week Rajoelina met with twenty of Madagascar's most prominent opposition leaders, referred to in the press as the "Club of 20", to develop a joint statement demanding that the Ravalomanana administration improve its adherence to democratic principles. The demand was broadcast at a public press conference where Rajoelina also promised to dedicate a politically open public space in the capital which he would call "Democracy Place".
Beginning in January 2009, Andry Rajoelina led a series of political rallies in downtown Antananarivo where he gave voice to the frustration that Ravalomanana's policies had triggered, particularly among the marginalized and members of the political opposition. On 17 January he gathered 30,000 supporters at a public park and declared it renamed Democracy Place (Place de la democratie). At a rally on 31 January 2009 Rajoelina announced that he was in charge of the entire Malagasy Republic, declaring: "Since the president and the government have not assumed their responsibilities, I therefore proclaim that I will run all national affairs as of today." He added that a request for President Ravalomanana to formally resign would shortly be filed with the Parliament of Madagascar. This self-declaration of power discredited Rajoelina in the eyes of many of the supporters who had rallied around his original pro-democracy message, and the number of attendees at subsequent rallies declined, averaging around 3,000 to 5,000 participants.
On 3 February, Ravalomanana dismissed Rajoelina as Mayor and appointed a special delegation headed by Guy Randrianarisoa to manage the affairs of the capital. Rajoelina denounced the decision and warned that it would not be accepted by the population of Antananarivo. The following day Rajoelina instead designated Michele Ratsivalaka to succeed him as mayor. Rajoelina incited demonstrators on 7 February to occupy the presidential palace, prompting the presidential guard to open fire on the advancing crowd, killing 31 and wounding more than 200. Popular disapproval of Ravalomanana intensified and polarized some in favor of his resignation, although perceptions of Rajoelina as an alternative remained mixed.
Rajoelina was effectively handed the presidency on 18 March 2009 when military leaders transferred to him the executive power that had been given to the military by Ravalomanana. Rajoelina, as head of the High Transitional Authority which he had created in the weeks before Ravalomanana's resignation, was 35 years of age when sworn in, making Rajoelina the youngest president in the country's history and the youngest head of government in the world at that time. In 2012 he was the youngest head of state in Africa and the third youngest in the world, surpassed by Prime Minister of Montenegro Igor Lukšić, who is two years his junior, and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, ten years his junior.
The Southern African Development Community, a bloc of 15 nations including Madagascar, announced on 19 March that it would not recognize Rajoelina's presidency since the takeover was unconstitutional. His ascension to the presidency was also condemned by the European Union and the United States, and the African Union suspended Madagascar and threatened sanctions if the constitutional government had not been restored in six months.
President of the High Transitional Authority
Rajoelina took power in an atmosphere of national tension and international pressure to re-establish constitutional authority. The new head of state announced on 17 March that a new constitution would be presented for voter approval and general elections would be held within 24 months. Immediately after taking office, Rajoelina began naming opposition leaders to positions within his High Transitional Authority (HAT). He dissolved the Senate and Parliament and transferred their powers to his cabinet, the officials of the HAT, and the newly established Council for social and economic strengthening, through which his policies were issued as decrees. Legislative authority rested in practice with Rajoelina and his cabinet, composed of his closest advisers. A military committee established in April increased HAT control over security and defense policy. The following month, after the suspension of the country's 22 regional governors, Rajoelina strengthened his influence over local government by naming replacements despite the fact that regional governorships were normally elected positions. The National Inquiry Commission (CNME) was established shortly thereafter; although its official purpose was to strengthen HAT effectiveness in addressing judicial and legal matters, the new entity carried out investigations and arrests of TIM supporters and other opponents of the TGV party. In addition, the new administration launched a strong crackdown on demonstrations by the new opposition, composed largely of Ravalomanana supporters; at two demonstrations in April 2009 security forces opened fire on unarmed civilians protesting the HAT's closure of three media networks formerly controlled by Ravalomanana, killing four and wounding sixty.
One of Rajoelina's first measures as president was to cancel Ravalomanana's controversial deal with Daewoo Logistics.
In addition to managing the affairs of state, Rajoelina periodically engaged in ongoing negotiations to establish a consensus government in advance of free and fair elections to restore government constitutionality and legitimacy in the eyes of the international community. On 4 August 2009 Rajoelina met with former Madagascar presidents Ravalomanana, Ratsiraka and Zafy along with former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano acting as mediator at the four-day mediation crisis talks held in Maputo, Mozambique. The Maputo Accords signed by the four leaders in August and further accords signed in Addis-Abeba in November provided guidelines for a period of consensual political transition. In the months that followed, however, Rajoelina obstructed the implementation of the accords, making unilateral political decisions and filling all important government posts with TGV party representatives.
After being pushed back repeatedly, a constitutional referendum was held on 17 November 2010 that resulted in adoption of the state's fourth constitution with 73% in favor and a voter turnout of 52.6%. The independent Malagasy political watchdog group KMF-CNOE, as well as the political opposition and the international community, cited numerous irregularities in the process, which was carried out unilaterally by Rajoelina's High Transitional Authority. The constitution in effect at the time Rajoelina took office required that presidential candidates attain a minimum of 40 years of age. One substantive change made by the new constitution was to lower the minimum age for presidential candidates from 40 to 35, making Rajoelina eligible to stand in presidential elections. In addition, the new constitution mandated the leader of the High Transitional Authority (the position held by Rajoelina) be kept as interim president until an election could take place. Analysts said this could allow Rajoelina to remain in power indefinitely. The new constitution also contained a clause that required presidential candidates to have lived in Madagascar for at least six months prior to the elections, effectively barring Ravalomanana and other opposition leaders living in exile from running in the next election, which is scheduled to be held in May 2013.
Although Andry Rajoelina was officially sworn in as President of the High Transitional Authority of Madagascar at Mahamasina stadium in Antananarivo on 21 March 2009, the international community maintained that Rajoelina’s legitimacy was conditional to free and fair elections. A number of key international organizations in which Madagascar had been a member, including the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union, continue to withhold recognition of Rajoelina's legitimacy. The United States, Madagascar's largest bilateral donor and provider of humanitarian aid, also refused to acknowledge the Rajoelina administration. Rajoelina initially sought to persuade former donors to recommence their support; when these efforts failed to yield results, the young head of state explored the possibility of foregoing the support of traditional partners through new or strengthened relations with such alternatives as Libya, China and Saudi Arabia but was again unable to secure the desired partnerships.
France gradually moved toward increased diplomatic engagement with Rajoelina. During the crisis of 2009, Rajoelina found refuge in the French Embassy at the request of the international community and the United Nations mediator. On 12 May 2010, Andry Rajoelina was received by Abdou Diouf, General Secretary of the International Organization of the Francophonie (OIF). On 13 May 2011, Andry Rajoelina met with Alain Juppé, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, and was received by the French President Nicolas Sarkozy on 7 December 2011. According to the French presidency, “The interview was devoted to the situation in Madagascar and the completion of the political transition initiated in 2009 through the implementation of the roadmap for the return of constitutional order, validated by the international community”.
Rajoelina has likewise been afforded increasing entry to the United Nations. From 9 to 13 May 2011, Rajoelina was invited to participate in the 4th UN Conference on the least developed countries, held in Istanbul, Turkey. Rajoelina also spoke during the 66th Session of the United Nations General Assembly which took place on 23 September 2011 in New York City.
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