Madagascar - Leadership

In spite of the odds, Ravalomanana was able to attract unprecedented levels of public support. He has acquired the reputation of someone who makes quick decisions and gets things done his way. Besides the success of TIKO, signs of his can-do attitude are apparent in the almost obsessive way he prioritized the problems of filth and anarchy in the capital and transformed Antananarivo into a livable environment. Part of this operation involved the controversial bulldozing of 100 houses, which he condemned as eyesores. Getting things done at whatever the cost, including forcing people to work if necessary, has incurred political costs, but the positive change in the capital was obvious.

Ravalomanana conducted his presidential campaign in the hinterlands by helicopter, flying into villages and towns, delivering short, hard-hitting speeches, and flying back out to the next meeting. During the campaign he grew from a mousy speaker into a charismatic presence in search of media attention. He accused Ratsiraka of tampering with the election then boldly declared himself the winner, occupied the presidency, and appointed a cabinet. He placed loyalists and close associates in leadership positions, and capitalized on the popular groundswell of public demands for change. As Vice-president of the Protestant Church in Madagascar, his integrity was unimpeachable, and Ravalomanana wisely traded on the influence of Christian churches to resolve the political crisis.

In contrast to the failures of socialist policies, Ravalomanana has promised to fight poverty and unemployment utilizing his entrepreneurial skills. In December 2002, Ravalomanana's party, I Love Madagascar, captured 125 out of a total of 160 seats in Parliament, which despite allegations by the opposition of manipulation, confirmed the level of popular support for his political vision.

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