Didier Ratsiraka was born in Vatomandry, French Madagascar on 4 November 1933, and he served as Minister of Foreign Affairs under Gabriel Ramanantsoa before being appointed the leader of the Supreme Revolutionary Council on 15 June 1975. In this position, Ratsiraka became the military dictator of Madagascar, and he proclaimed the "Democratic Republic of Madagascar", a communist state led by his Association for the Rebirth of Madagascar. He had the support of 95% of voters when he established the republic, but he abandoned Marxism-Leninism in favor of market socialism in 1978, leading to a decrease in popularity. In 1989, he won the presidential election with 63% of the vote, and many claimed that the election was rigged; 75 people were killed in the resulting demonstrations. On 10 August 1991, 400,000 people marched on the presidential palace, and at least 11 people were killed when his guards opened fire on them.
Transition to democracy
In 1992, Ratsiraka decided to hold multi-party elections and lead the transition to democracy, ending the "Democratic Republic"; he lost the 1992 election to Albert Zafy, but he regained power in the 1997 election and served as president until 2002. During the 2001 elections, his rival Marc Ravalomanana won a majority of the vote, but Ratsiraka claimed that Ravalomanana had not won a majority of votes, leading to conflict between the two rival governments. By the end of February 2002, Ravalomanana's supporters had control of the capital of Antanarivo, while Ratsiraka was based out of Toamasina. Ratsiraka fled to France, promising to return, but he returned to see his supporters demoralized. On 5 July 2002, he fled to the Seychelles and then to France, taking with him $8,000,000. He was sentenced to penal labor in absentia, but he was pardoned and allowed to return in 2011.