Since gaining independence in 1960, Madagascar has passed through stages of nationalism, socialism, and following the Cold War, capitalism. Marc Ravalomanana is a product of this history, and as a leading business magnate in the country, has benefited from this confluence of history. In 1999 he became mayor of Antananarivo, which denizens of the capital thought much cleaner and better organized than before. His tough-guy approach to running the city was tempered by his youth, good looks, and wealth, accelerating his popularity among the Merina urbanites to the extent that he was able to dwarf all other challengers for the presidential elections of December 2001.
Ravalomanana declared himself president on 22 February, and set up his cabinet. With the support of churches, civil society groups, and a portion of the army, he controlled the capital. In March he gained control over the state radio and TV. Ratsiraka retreated to his coastal fiefdom, Toamasina, where he enjoyed provincial support.
In April 2002, with both Ratsiraka and Ravalomanana agreeing to a recount of the December 2001 polls, the High Constitutional Court declared Ravalomanana the winner with 51.46% of the vote, and 35.90% for Ratsiraka. Ratsiraka defied the verdict, but Ravalomanana was sworn in for the second time on 6 May 2002 as Madagascar's fourth head of state. With army commanders loyal to him, Didier Ratsiraka continued to lay siege to Antananarivo. Bridges leading into the city were blown, and food and basic necessities were in short supply. Eventually Ratsiraka and his loyalists were backed into Toamasina. On 26 June, ambassadors from all the major donor countries except for France attended an independence day speech by Ravalomanana. Facing military defeat and having lost the support of the international community, Ratsiraka capitulated leaving the way open for Ravalomanana to assume the presidency.