Revelations that Madagascar’s President, Andry Rajoelina, holds dual French nationality have caused a stir in the Indian Ocean island, where the law says anyone who acquires citizenship of a foreign country automatically loses their Malagasy nationality.
Rajoelina has been accused of a lack of transparency since documents revealing he was naturalised by decree in November 2014 by then French prime minister Manuel Valls were this week leaked on social media.
The head of state has been urged to clarify the matter after a copy of the decree, which was also signed by the interior minister and published in the Official Journal, made the rounds online.
“The functions of a president of the republic can only fall to a citizen of Malagasy nationality,” said Hajo Andrianainarivelo, head of the opposition Malagasy Miara Miainga party, referring to article 46 of the Madagascar’s constitution.
His party urged Rajoelina to “speak on this subject that offends the sovereignty of the Madagascar people, who have been betrayed”.
Meanwhile Rivo Rakotovao, head of the HVM party, denounced what he called “treason” and a “moral fault” committed by the President.
“There is a glaring legal problem, but what bothers me most is that he lied. He became French and, in doing so, he pledged allegiance to another country. What credibility does he have to defend Madagascar?”
In reponse to the accusations, the President’s chief of staff, Romy Voos Andrianarisoa, described the leaking of the documents as an “undoubted political move”, adding that Rajoelina was born to a Malagasy mother and father.
“He is Malagasy”, Andrianarisoa said. “The President is French on the side of his great-grandfather, so under common law … a significant percentage of Malagasy people are dual nationals and live in perfect harmony with their political positions.”
Andrianarisoa also disputed that the acquisition of a foreign nationality “immediately” leads to the loss of Malagasy nationality.
“This loss must be formally noted by an authority,” she added.
Reports say French nationality was granted to Rajoelina in exchange for his temporary withdrawal from the country’s political crisis in 2013.