Madagascar country profile
- 10 January 2016
- From the section Africa
Situated off the southeast coast of Africa, Madagascar is the fourth largest island in the world. Having developed in isolation, the island nation is famed for its unique wildlife.
Traditionally, the Malagasy economy has been based on the cultivation of paddy rice, coffee, vanilla and cloves. But despite a wealth of natural resources and a tourism industry driven by its unique environment, the country remains one of the world's poorest and heavily dependent on foreign aid.
Since gaining independence from France in 1960, Madagascar has experienced repeated political instability, including coups, violent unrest and disputed elections.
The most recent coup in 2009 led to five years of political deadlock, international condemnation and economic sanctions. Despite the return of democratic elections in 2013, the political situation remains fragile.
President: Hery Rajaonarimampianina
Hery Rajaonarimampianina's election as president in 2013 brought fresh hope following years of political instability in Madagascar.
But just 18 months into his presidency, the country's National Assembly voted to impeach him for failing to deliver on his election pledges. Although the bid failed, both Mr Rajaonarimampianina's supporters and opponents continue to remain at loggerheads.
The restoration of democratic rule in 2014 has led to "decline in censorship of content and political interference with outlets", according to a 2015 report by Washington-based advocacy group Freedom House.
Following a coup in 2009, the Rajoelina government closed several outlets and radio stations were the target of physical attacks.
Censorship, harassment and intimidation were also reported.
Although nationwide broadcasting remains a state monopoly, there are hundreds of private local radio and TV stations. Radio is the main medium for news.
There were 1.1 million internet users by November 2015 (Internetworldstats.com).
Some key dates in Madagascar's history:
16th-17th centuries - First Europeans arrive but fail to gain a foothold.
1883 - French invasion.
1896 - Declared a French colony.
1946 - Becomes French overseas territory.
1947 - The French crush an armed rebellion.
1960 - Wins independence, Philibert Tsiranana installed as president.
1975 - Coup: Didier Ratsiraka appointed president, rules for most part of 30 years.
1992 - Democratic reform: New constitution approved by referendum.
2001 - Disputed presidential election - Didier Ratsiraka flees to France.
2009 - Bloodless coup results in economic sanctions.
2013 - Democratic elections fail to bring political stability with executive pitted against legislature.