Although the present head of State has self-proclaimed himself, Madagascar is usually a semi-presidential representative democratic republic, whereby the Prime Minister of Madagascar is head of government, and of a pluriform multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the Senate and the National Assembly. The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature.
The political situation in Madagascar has been marked by struggle for control. After Madagascar gained independence from France in 1960, assassinations, military coups and disputed elections featured prominently.
Didier Ratsiraka took power in a military coup in 1975 and ruled until 2001, with a short break when he was ousted in the early 1990s. When Marc Ravalomanana and Ratsiraka both claimed victory after presidential elections in December 2001, Ratsiraka's supporters tried to blockade the capital, Antananarivo, which was pro-Ravalomanana. After eight months of sporadic violence with considerable economic disruption, a recount in April 2002 led the High Constitutional Court to pronounce Ravalomanana president, but it was not until July that Ratsiraka fled to France and Ravalomanana gained control of the country.
Internal conflict in Madagascar had been minimal in the years that followed and since 2002, Ravalomanana and his party, Tiako-I-Madagasikara (TIM), have dominated political life. In an attempt to restrict the power and influence of the president, the prime minister and the 150-seat parliament have been given greater power in recent years.
Tension since was generally associated with elections. A presidential election took place in December 2006 with some protests over worsening standards of living, despite a government drive to eradicate poverty. Calls by a retired army general in November 2006 for Ravalomanana to step down were said to have been 'misinterpreted' as a coup attempt.