Category Archives: Central African Republic

CAR – A test of semi-presidentialism’s capacity to generate political stability?

The situation in the Central African Republic has stabilised in the last couple of weeks. Indeed, the situation there now creates the conditions for what might be considered a test of one of the supposed advantages of semi-presidentialism.

Prior to the New Year, rebel forces were able to advance steadily towards the capital, Bangui. The democratic opposition to President Bozizé gave the armed rebels their support. Even though there was little appetite for the overthrow of President Bozizé on the part of his fellow heads of state in Africa, the weakness of his position was clear. Therefore, very quickly President Bozizé agreed to negotiations with the rebels/opposition. They agreed partly because of the attitude of the international community.

The peace talks quickly led to an agreement. There was a cease-fire, the text of which in French is here. There was then a political agreement, the text of which is also available in French here.

The key points of the political agremeent are as follows:

  • The president remains in office until 2016
  • There will be a Government of National Union comprising supporters of the President, as well as the various elements of the opposition
  • The Government will be in power for at least 12 months and the President cannot dismiss it from office
  • The Prime Minister will be appointed from the opposition

Consistent with the agreement, the incumbent government duly resigned. The opposition has agreed on its candidate for PM. The president now has to appoint the PM formally to office. There are no signs that he will not do so.

The agreement has some of the signs of the sort of arrangement that was reached in Kenya and that still applies in Zimbabwe. However, there are major differences. This is not a constitutional document, whereas the agreements were constitutionalised in the other two cases. In addition, the other agreements were very detailed. This document is very short. (For the record, the Kenyan agreement did establish a semi-presidential regime, at least until the new presidential constitution was adopted. By contrast, the Zimbabwe agreement did not establish semi-presidentialism because the government is not responsible to the legislature).

Over and above the specifics of this particular case, the CAR agreement is interesting because it creates the conditions for a test of one of the supposed advantages of semi-presidentialism. There is a body of mainly theoretical work, which says that semi-presidentialism can be advantageous because it allows the president from one political force to share power with a prime minister from another force. Both forces feel that they have a stake in the system. Therefore, the danger of instability is reduced. To be clear, this arrangement is not a system of cohabitation because the president’s party or supporters are represented in the cabinet. (That said, in everyday journalistic talk, it is not uncommon to hear this arrangement being called cohabitation. One example relating to the CAR agreement is here.)

An open question, though, is what the situations like the ones in CAR and Kenya are really providing a test of. The CAR is not a democracy and neither was Kenya at the time of the agreement there. Do those who argue in favour of semi-presidentialism assume that this advantage applies only to democracies and that it can help to stop them from reverting to autocracy? Or, by contrast, do they assume that it is only or people also useful for non-democracies as a way of helping them to create the conditions for moving to democracy. These are two very different scenarios. Usually, the pros and cons of presidentialism, parliamentarism and semi-presidentialism are based on the former assumption. In other words, they are located in the literature on democratic consolidation and how to ensure that democracy does not collapse once it has emerged, rather than the literature on democratization and how to bring about democracy in the first place.

Obviously, the situation in CAR cannot a test of any argument about democratic consolidation, because the country is currently well below any threshold of democracy. However, like the Kenyan case, it could be considered a test of whether semi-presidentialism can create the conditions for the emergence of democracy by establishing a system of power-sharing.

As an aside, Kirschke’s 2007 article in Comparative Political Studies is about the only study that comes close to providing a proper test of this supposed advantage of semi-presidentialism and, to my mind, the paper is very flawed. The definition of semi-presidentialism is not rigorous. The application of the term ‘cohabitation’ is not rigorous either. It also includes democracies and non-democracies in the study, yet, as I have just outlined, the literature tells us again and again that we need to treat these scenarios differently.

Anyway, the situation in CAR provides a potential test of one of the supposed advantages of semi-presidentialism and its capacity to generate the conditions for democratisation. Let’s see what happens and hope that CAR’s history of instability can be overcome.

CAR – By-elections

In the Central African Republic legislative by-elections were held on 4 September. They were caused by the annulment by the Constitutional Court of the results in 14 constituencies at the election in March.

As usual, information is difficult to come by. However, there is a report here. According to the report, the National Convergence “Kwa na Kwa” (KNK) party of President Bozizé won 8 seats. Three independents, quite likely close to KNK, were returned and there was one seat each for the Mouvement de Libération du Peuple Centrafricain (MLPC), the Parti pour la Démocratie en Centrafrique (PAD) and the Parti Social Démocrate (PSD).

The opposition, now under the umbrella of the Front pour l’Annulation et la Reprises des Elections (FARE-2011), boycotted the vote, claiming that the original legislative elections were fraudulent.

The KNK has an overwhelming majority in the legislature.

CAR – Legislative election 2nd round

The second round of the legislative election in the Central African Republic was held on 27 March. The first round was held on 23 January.

The first round produced the following result:

National Convergence “Kwa Na Kwa” – 26 seats
Independents – 8 seats (5 of whom are reported to be close to President Bozizé)
MLPC (opposition) – 1 seat

It has been very difficult to get any information about the second round. However, one seemingly reliable source has presented the following figures:

National Convergence “Kwa Na Kwa” – 36 seats (total 62)
Independents – 18 seats (total 26)
Presidential majority – 11 seats
MLPC (opposition) – 1 seat (total 2)

The figures do not completely tally. There are 105 deputies and 106 seats reported. However, the overwhelming strength of President Bozizé’s supporters is clear.

The opposition boycotted the second round of the election.

The names of the ministers in the new government are available here. PM Faustin Touadera was reappointed.

CAR – Presidential election (update)

The presidential election in the Central African Republic was held on 23 January. There have been plenty of reports of irregularities.

Jeune Afrique is reporting that the Constitutional Council has approved the following result:

François Bozizé (Convergence nationale, “Kwa Na Kwa” – “Work Only Work”) – 64.37%
Ange-Félix Patassé (Independent) – 22.41%
Martin Ziguélé (Mouvement pour la Libération du Peuple Centrafricain, MLPC) – 6.80%
Emile Gros Raymond Nakombo (Rassemblement Démocratique Centrafricain) – 4.61%
Jean-Jacques Démafouth (Nouvelle Alliance pour le Progrès) – 2.79%

Turnout was 54.01%.

This result means that the incumbent president, François Bozizé, has been re-elected at the first ballot.

CAR – Constitutional amendment regulating elections

On 11 May a constitutional amendment was passed in the Central African Republic. The amendment was designed to regulate the current situation regarding the electoral process.

The amendment changed Arts. 24 and 50 of the constitution. The change to Art. 24 has the effect of saying that when presidential or legislative elections cannot take place for unexpected and “irresistible” reasons the president shall ask the Constitutional Council to verify that this is the case and, if so, shall authorise the incumbent president to retain power. In effect, given the electoral timetable has slipped, this change allows President Bozizé to remain in power legitimately. The change to Art. 50 allows the National Assembly to do the same.

There is a very helpful article on Wikipedia that provides details of the current electoral situation and some background to the change. The bottom line is that the opposition were happy to agree to the constitutional amendments in return for a definitive election date. The Constitutional Council has since verified the delay to the elections and President Bozizé has decreed that the first round of presidential and parliamentary elections will be held on 23 January 2011 with the second round on 20 March.

CAR – Elections delayed, president asks for extension to term

In the Central African Republic President François Bozizé has once again delayed elections. Having originally been scheduled at short notice for 25 April, they were then put back to 16 May. However, they have now been delayed further.

According to L’Indépendant, the decision follows a meeting between President Bozizé and opposition forces. Given the opposition wanted a delay, the decision is being taken as a sign that President Bozizé is willing to try to achieve a consensus on the matter. Indeed, the phrase ‘period of transition’ is being used. The opposition was going to boycott the elections, but there is now the promise of a proper competition, if the elections are organised properly.

Jeune Afrique reports that legislation is being introduced into the National Assembly formally to prolong President Bozizé’s term of office, which is due to expire in June. Again, though, this is being presented as a technical matter, rather than an anti-democratic initiative.

CAR – Elections contested in advance

The political situation in the Central African Republic seems to be deteriorating. In March President François Bozizé announced that presidential and legislative elections would be held simultaneously on 25 April. There was a very negative reaction to this announcement by the opposition, known as the Collectif des forces du changement, which felt that it and the country would not be in a position to hold a fair election in such a short space of time. After a while the dates of the elections were put back. The legislative election is now scheduled to be held on 16 May and the presidential election is scheduled for 11 and 24 June.

The opposition is still arguing that the electoral process is flawed in advance. Therefore, it has announced that it will boycott both elections. This means that there will be two candidates for the presidential election, President François Bozizé, and former president, Ange-Félix Patassé. The Electoral Commission has ruled out a third candidate, Auguste Boukanga.

The elections have to be seen against the background of the failure of the inclusive political dialogue. There is a nice report by the International Crisis Group published in January 2010 (available here) that outlines the gradual failure of the inclusive agreement. This report also details problems with the Electoral Commission, which is considered to be too close to President Bozizé.

CAR – New government

The Central African Republic has a new government. The prime minister, Faustin-Archange Touadéra, resigned on 19 January and was immediately reappointed by President François Bozizé.

While the prime minister remains the same, the composition of the government is quite different. Consistent with the agreement that was reached at the “inclusive political dialogue”, the new government includes members of the opposition.

Jeuneafrique reports that François Naouyama of the Armée populaire pour la restauration de la démocratie, which was leading a rebellion in the north, has been appointed Minister for Environment and Ecology. Djomo Didou of the Union des forces démocratiques pour le rassemblement, another organisation in rebellion, is Minister for Housing. More moderate members of the opposition have also been included.

The Minister for Communication in the previous government and leader of the dialogue process has been promoted to minister of State in the new government.

To date, this is a textbook example of consensus government bring political stability.

CAR – President promises new inclusive government

The period of “inclusive political dialogue” in the Central African Republic has ended. The process seems to have gone well. President Bozizé has committed himself to appointing a wide-ranging government, including representatives from the opposition and rebel factions that attended the dialogue meetings.

The plenary meeting of the group adopted a report on the theme of politics and governance. The need for the formation of an inclusive government was one of the recommendations of the report. The report does not seem to threaten the semi-presidential status of the country.

Other recommendations include the creation of a truth and reconciliation commission. The various parties are invited to nominate their representatives over the next few days.

CAR – Political dialogue

A period of “inclusive political dialogue” began in the Central African Republic on 8 December. The dialogue brings together the various actors – rebels and government – in the CAR. It was established by various decrees in October and November 2007. There is a website with further details here.

Among those participating are President François Bozizé, former president Ange-Félix Patassé, who has returned to Bangui after five years in exile, and the head of the rebel army Jean-Jacques Demafouth. The dialogue is scheduled to last until 20 December. There is a report in jeune afrique here.

The dialogue is officially due to address three themes: 1.) Questions of politics and governance; 2.) The security situation and armed groups; 3.) Economic and social development.

Under the first theme, the question of the constitution is on the agenda of the first sub-theme – political questions. In addition, governance from an institutional point of view is one of the issues to be discussed under the second sub-theme – governance. So, no doubt there will be some reflection on the CAR’s semi-presidential constitution.

My guess is that semi-presidential will suit the actors very well because it offers the promise of some sort of power-sharing. Whether the constitution, and the actors, are in a position deliver any such power-sharing is a different matter entirely.