|This large island off the coast of Africa was first settled about 2 millennia ago by a Malay-Indonesian people. Eventually other groups arrived including Africans and Arabs but the population has remained essentially Asian in both ethnicity and culture. In the 16th century, Portugal made an attempt to colonize the island but it was not a success. The British and French eventually did establish significant commercial interests on the island in the form of coffee plantations and the French named it a protectorate in 1885 and a full-fledged colony in 1896. In 1960 the Malagasy Republic was declared and twelve years later the government was brought down by a coup that placed a decidedly anti-Western and particularly anti-French government in its place. In 1992, a new constitution was adopted and the next year's election led to the ouster of Didier Ratsiraka, who had been in power for 17 years. Ratsiraka was returned to power in 1997 when the 1993 election results were overturned.