THE REPUBLIC OF MADAGASCAR, formerly known as the Malagasy Republic and the Democratic Republic of Madagascar, has undergone significant socioeconomic and political changes during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Occupying a strategic location off the southeast coast of Africa, the island historically became the target of British and French imperial ambitions. Ultimately, the competition resulted in French colonization at the end of the nineteenth century. The country gained full independence from colonial rule on June 26, 1960. Philibert Tsiranana headed the conservative regime of the First Republic, which was superseded in 1975 by a Marxist-oriented military regime under Lieutenant Commander Didier Ratsiraka.
In the face of rising political dissent and socioeconomic decline that reached its height at the beginning of the 1990s, the Second Republic succumbed to the wave of democratization spreading throughout the African continent. On March 27, 1993, the inauguration of Albert Zafy as the third elected president of Madagascar since independence marked the beginning of the Third Republic.
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