Guest post by Sophia Moestrup
In response to the controversy surrounding the newly created Senate, President Blaise Compaoré on Monday ordered his government to assess the ‘process of operationalizing the Senate.’ He specifically requested that a report with ‘recommendations and suggestions’ be submitted to him by August 31, in the spirit of strengthening social cohesion and stability. Read the president’s full statement here.
The statement is being interpreted differently by observers. Some see it as a statesman’s call for dialogue with the opposition. Others as evidence of the president’s backpedalling following large-scale demonstrations by the opposition. And some as a tactical move to delay the process, waiting for heads to cool. The opposition claims the Senate will be costly, adds little to the functioning of democratic institutions, and that its primary purpose is to provide Compaoré with a tool for eliminating constitutional term-limits for the president. Compaoré’s term ends in 2015 and he is not eligible for another term, according to Article 37 in the constitution. The presidential camp, on the other hand, claims that the Senate will complete the country’s democratic architecture by strengthening decentralization through the representation of the regions, traditional and religious leaders and civil society.
The Senate controversy is an indication that the race for 2015 is already on.
Burkina Faso held its first ever Senatorial elections at the weekend.
The Senate was created as a result of a 2012 constitutional amendment. It is very contested. The opposition believe it is another way for the ruling Congrès pour la démocratie et le progrès (CDP) party of President Blaise Compaoré to control the system.
The Senate is elected indirectly. The 2012 constitutional revision did not specify the number of Senators. Instead, the details were passed in an organic law in May 2013. There are 89 Senators, of whom 39 are elected indirectly by local councillors, 4 are elected by groups representing religious authorities, traditional powers, trades unions, and business organisations., 5 are elected by Burkinabés living abroad, and the remaining 29 are appointed by the President of the Republic.
The election of the 36 regional senators took place at the weekend. There are 13 regions each of which returns three Senators. Lefaso.net reports that there were 18,478 electors and 14,196 voted. The opposition boycotted the election. Unsurprisingly the CDP did well, winning 36 of the 39 seats. Satellite parties won the remaining three seats.
So, with the 29 presidential appointees, unsurprisingly the ruling CDP will have a clear majority whatever happens in the remaining elections. This perhaps illustrates why the opposition was so opposed to the institution.
Legislative and local elections were held in Burkina Faso last weekend. The main question was whether or not there would be any challenge to the dominance of President Blaise Compaoré and his ruling CDP party.
The provisional and still slightly incomplete results of the legislative election have been reported by the CENI (the electoral commission). There are still 25 seats to be decided, but they will not change the basic distribution. Here are the seat results as they stand (no vote share is likely to be reported):
- CDP (Congrès pour la démocratie et le progrès): 58 seats
- ADF/RDA (Alliance pour la démocratie et la Fédération–Rassemblement démocratique africain): 15 seats
- UPC (Union pour le Progrès et le Changement): 15 seats
- UPR (Union pour la République): 4 seats
- UNIR/PS (Union pour la renaissance/ Parti sankariste): 2 seats
- CFD/B: 2 seats
- PDS/METBA (Parti pour la Démocratie et le Socialisme): 1 seat
- UNDD (Union Nationale pour le Démocratie et le Développement): 1 seat
- RDS : 1 seat
- ODT (Organisation pour la Démocratie et le Travail): 1 seat
- RDB : 1 seat
- CNPB (Convention Nationale pour le Progrès du Burkina): 1 seat
So, Burkina Faso has a vibrant multi-party system and, even though it has a clear majority, the CDP will face fierce opposition in the new parliament? Well, not really. Yes, this was the most pluralist of any BF election in terms of the number of parties contesting seats. However, many of the parties who were returned are the equivalent of satellite parties of the CDP.
RFI reports that true opposition parties like UNIR/ PS and the PDS/METBA will win only a handful of seats.
In June a series of constitutional amendments were passed in Burkina Faso.
The always-excellent La Constitution en Afrique website has provided a link to the amendments. They are available in French.
In May I blogged about some of the problems that were occurring in the context of an amendment that was designed to allow the upcoming legislative election to be delayed for a period. The text was submitted to the Constitutional Council, which ruled, in a report from Lefaso.net, that the reform was constitutional.
I had assumed that was the end of the process. However, in June another constitutional law was passed. This reform changes many articles of the constitution. In fact, one report states that 62 of the 173 articles in the constitution were amended!
One of the reason why so many changes were required is that reform introduced an upper chamber of parliament, the Senate. Indeed, the President of the Senate now assumes the interim presidency if the President of the Republic dies or resigns. Senators will be indirectly elected. Some will be elected by local councillors. Some will be appointed by religious, cultural, labour and business institutions.
In semi-presidential terms there have been changes to the role of the prime minister. Art. 46 now specifies that the president must nominate a prime minister from among the parliamentary majority. In addition, Art. 63 now requires the prime minister to undergo an investiture vote no more than 30 days after his/her appointment.
Interestingly, Art. 168.1 now states that all presidents who have been in office from independence in 1960 to the time of the amendment enjoy complete immunity. This article seems designed to protect the current president, Blaise Compaoré. However, if it facilitates an eventual alternation in power by reassuring President Compaoré that he would not be prosecuted if he stepped down, then this is probably a good thing for democracy in Burkina Faso.
In Burkina Faso the constitutional problem that I posted about a couple of weeks ago seems to have been resolved.
A constitutional law was passed that would have extended the mandate of the National Assembly to no later than 3 June 2013. However, the Constitutional Council ruled that the law was unconstitutional. The problem was that a new law had to be passed before the current term of the legislature expired and there was scarcely any time to do so.
Anyway, deputies have now passed a new constitutional law. Whereas the previous one made specific reference to this legislature, the new amendment is general. The Council struck down the previous bill because it was specific. If this bill is sent to the Council, then presumably it will pass.
The text is available in France from Burkina24 here.
What still puzzles me is how this new law was passed. Previously, the crisis was caused by the fact that the bill was struck down almost immediately before the Assembly was due to end its five-year term. Therefore, there was no time to pass a new amendment. However, time seems to have been found and elections will take place later in the year.
There is a constitutional problem in Burkina Faso.
According to Sidwaya Quotidien, in March a constitutional law was passed that would have extended the mandate of the National Assembly to no later than 3 June 2013. The mandate was due to expire on 6 May 2012. To ensure that the law was in conformity with the constitution, the President of the National Assembly submitted the law to the Constitutional Council. The Council has now ruled that the law is unconstitutional.
This creates a crisis because unless the situation is regularised before 6 May, the President of the Republic will have to legislate by decree until elections are held and a new Assembly is convened.
As I understand it, the aim of extending the mandate of the National Assembly was to ensure that legislative and municipal elections would be held at the same time later this year or early next year.
The Council struck down the law because it claimed that constitutional laws have to be general in nature and not specific. The Court’s decision is final.
On 23rd June in Burkina Faso the so-called Consultative Council on Political Reform (Conseil consultatif sur les réformes politiques – CCRP) was inaugurated. Its report was presented to President Blaise Compaoré who delivered a speech on the topic on 21 July. The opposition boycotted the CCRP.
As far as I know, the report is not available. The elephant in the room is Art. 37. This is the article stating that the president can only be re-elected once. The question is, after 23 years in power, whether or not President Compaoré will want and be able to change the constitution to allow him to stay in office at the end of his current term. There has been a lot of unrest recently, but his hold on power seems secure.
Even though the report does not seem to make any recommendations as regards this article, a report in Afriquinfos suggests that the CCRP has recommended the maintenance of the semi-presidential system, an increase in the number of deputies and the creation of an upper chamber. The latter reforms would no doubt allow the regime to distribute extra benefits to key constituencies.
There is a suggestion that the CCRP has recommended that no presidential candidate can be aged more than 70 (Compaoré is 60). It also seems to recommended that all presidents of the country since independence should have immunity from prosecution after they leave office. For me, this latter reform is key. If President Compaoré can be sure that he will not be pursued when he leaves office, then the chances of him willingly doing so and allowing at least some sort of alternation in power will surely be increased.
Following the dissolution of the government last Saturday, President Blaise Compaoré has appointed a new prime minister. He is Luc Adolphe Tiao.
According to Le Pays, PM Tiao is a former ambassador to France and a journalist by training. According to the article, he is someone who promotes dialogue. So, his nomination makes sense in the context of the sporadic but ongoing unrest.
Events in the Middle East or Arab ‘spring’ are overshadowing dissatisfaction that is manifesting itself elsewhere. In that regard, Burkina Faso may be about to enter the news.
President Blaise Compaoré was easily re-elected in November 2010, though turnout was low at 54.8% according to the new-look African Elections website. Anyway, over the past few weeks, there has been growing discontent with the regime. There were student demonstrations in March that spread more widely. There has also been unrest within the military
Now, there is a report from Jeune Afrique that there was a mutiny within the presidential guard yesterday evening. According to the report, the rebellion was due to the non-payment of a wage rise. Apparently, discussions are under way, but this is another sign that the Compaoré regime may be weakening.
In an update, President Compaoré has issued a decree dissolving the government and stating that the general secretaries of the government departments are in charge of day-to-day business. The decree is available in French here.
The presidential election was held in Burkina Faso on Sunday. The electoral commission is due to present the final results very soon, but they have leaked. And, in any case, the result was never in doubt. Burkina Faso is not an electoral democracy.
Anyway, President Blaise Compaoré is going to be re-elected. Jeune Afrique is reporting that he won 80.98% of the vote. His nearest rival, Hama Arba Diallo, is reported as winning 7.96% and the next candidate, Bénéwendé Stanislas Sankara, won 5.52%. The turnout is reported as only 48%.
President Compaoré took office in 1991. Term limits are likely to be abolished very soon. So, he could be around for a very long time. He is still only 59 years old.