Madagascar’s former president Didier Ratsiraka, a naval officer nicknamed the “Red Admiral” for his socialist policies, died on Sunday morning aged 84, current head of state Andry Rajoelina announced on Twitter.

Ratsiraka, who was hospitalized earlier this week with a flu, was president of the Indian Ocean island from 1975 to 1991 and again from 1997 to 2002.

A protest movement between 1991 and 1992 forced him to leave power and accept the liberal transition demanded by his opponent at the time, Albert Zafy, who succeeded him at the head of state.

The “Red Admiral” regained power in 1997 but was once again ousted after the following presidential election.

After a contested election, demonstrations and armed clashes broke out from December 2001 to July 2002 in the streets of the country, between the supporters of Didier Ratsiraka and those of his new opponent, the mayor of Antananarivo, Marc Ravalomanana.

In 2003, the deposed president was sentenced in absentia to ten years of hard labour for “embezzlement of public funds” and then to five years in prison for undermining state security. However, his sentences were overturned in 2009.

For the past ten years, he has been present on the Malagasy political scene, regularly invited on television to deliver his analyses.