Philibert Tsiranana

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Philibert Tsiranana
Bundesarchiv B 145 Bild-F013783-0033, Berlin, Staatsbesuch aus Madagaskar-2.jpg
1st President of Madagascar
In office
1 May 1959 – 11 October 1972
Preceded by None (position first established)
Succeeded by Gabriel Ramanantsoa
Prime Minister of Madagascar
In office
14 October 1958 – 1 May 1959
Preceded by None (position first established)
Succeeded by None (position abolished)
Personal details
Born (1912-10-18)18 October 1912
Ambarikorano, Madagascar
Died 16 April 1978(1978-04-16) (aged 65)
Antananarivo, Madagascar
Nationality Malagasy
Political party Social Democratic Party
Spouse(s) Justine Tsiranana
Profession Professor of French and Mathematics

Philibert Tsiranana (18 October 1912 – 16 April 1978) was a Malagasy politician and leader, who served as the first President of Madagascar from 1959 to 1972. During the twelve years of his administration, the Republic of Madagascar enjoyed institutional stability that stood in contrast to the political turmoil many countries of the African mainland experienced in this period. This stability contributed to Tsiranana's popularity and his reputation as a remarkable statesman. Compared with the leaders of other developing countries of the time, his conduct appears honorable. Madagascar experienced moderate economic growth under his pragmatic socialist policies and came to be known as "the Happy Island." However, the democratization process was fraught with challenges and his term ultimately terminated in a political impasse that brought about the end of the democratic First Republic and ushered in the isolationist, Soviet-inspired socialist Second Republic.

The "benevolent schoolmaster" public image that Tsiranana cultivated disguised intense firmness that tended toward authoritarianism. Nonetheless, he remains an esteemed Malagasy political figure remembered throughout the country as its "Father of Independence."

Early life[edit]

An example of cattle ranchers in Madagascar.

According to his official biography, Tsiranana was born on 18 October 1912 in Ambarikorano, Sofia Region, in northeastern Madagascar.[1] Born to Madiomanana and Fisadoha Tsiranana,[2] Catholic cattle ranchers from the Tsimihety ethnic group,[3] Philibert was destined to become one himself.[4] However, following the death of his father in 1923, Tsiranana's brother, Zamanisambo, suggested that he attend a primary school in Anjiamangirana.[5]

A brilliant student, Tsiranana was admitted into the regional school of Analalava in 1926, where he graduated with a brevet des collèges.[6] In 1930, he enrolled in the Le Myre de Vilers normal school in Tananarive, named after former resident-general of Madagascar Charles Le Myre de Vilers, where he entered the "Section Normale" program, preparing him for a career teaching in primary schools. After completing his studies, he started a teaching career in his hometown. In 1942, he began receiving instruction in Tananarive for middle school teaching and by 1945, he succeeded in the teacher assistant competitive examinations, allowing him to serve as a professor in a regional school.[4] In 1946, he obtained a scholarship to the École normale d'instituteurs in Montpellier, France, where he worked as a teacher assistant. He left Madagascar on 6 November.[7]

Later life[edit]

He was part of the Tsimihety ethnic group. Well-educated, Tsiranana eventually entered politics and was elected to the National Assembly of Madagascar. In 1956, he was elected to one of Madagascar's three seats in the French National Assembly. He then helped to form the Social Democratic Party (PSD), a moderate party which supported autonomy for Madagascar from France, but not full independence. Tsiranana became vice-president of the executive council in 1957, being the only person to hold that new position in Madagascar. He became prime minister in 1958, and, when it was decided that Madagascar would receive independence, he became a candidate for President. In 1959, the post of Prime Minister was abolished and Tsiranana became Madagascar's first president.

Like most African leaders of his time, Tsiranana created an authoritarian, one-party state. By the 1960s, his Social Democratic Party was the only major political party in Madagascar. In 1971, his government brutally crushed a rebellion. Early in 1972, the government was confronted with student protests against the dominance of French culture and the many economic problems of Madagascar. The protests were crushed, but so much unrest was created that Tsiranana dissolved the government in May 1972 and appointed General Gabriel Ramanantsoa as prime minister. In October 1972, Tsiranana resigned as President and handed power to Ramanantsoa. Though he still had some support within the country, Tsiranana had been severely ill for a couple of years and generally stayed out of politics for the few months before his death.

Tsiranana's son Philippe stood in the 2006 presidential election, placing twelfth with only 0.02% of the vote.



  1. ^ Charles Cadoux. Philibert Tsiranana. In Encyclopédie Universalis. Universalia 1979 – Les évènements, les hommes, les problèmes en 1978. p.629
  2. ^ Saura 2006 v. I, p. 13.
  3. ^ Charles Cadoux. Philibert Tsiranana. In Encyclopédie Universalis. Édition 2002.
  4. ^ a b "Biographies des députés de la IVe République: Philibert Tsiranana". Retrieved 23 May 2012. 
  5. ^ Saura 2006 v. I, p. 14.
  6. ^ Saura 2006 v. I, p. 15.
  7. ^ Saura 2006 v. I, p. 17.