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.
In Burkina Faso, the ruling party, the Congrès pour la démocratie et le progrès (Congress for Democracy and Progress – CDP), held its conference this weekend. Unsurprisingly, the party chose President Blaise Compaoré as its candidate for the presidential election scheduled for 21 November.
In addition, the party called for Art. 37 of the Constitution to be amended. This article limits the number of presidential mandates. It states that the president is elected for a five-year term and can be re-elected only once.
Compaoré has been in office since 1987 when he took power in a coup. The Burkinabé constitution was promulgated in 1991. At that time, the Constitution stated that the presidential terms was seven years and that a president could be re-elected once. In 1997 the term limit was abolished. In 2000 a five-year term was introduced and the two-term limit was reintroduced.
Compaoré was elected in 1991, 1998 and 2005. Given the most recent amendment was passed in 2000, the term limit is taken to apply from the first presidential election after that point. So, constitutionally, he is eligible to stand again in 2010, even though there is a two-term limit and even though he has been elected three times already.
And now, looking to 2015, the ruling party wants to abolish term limits!
One issue that comes up quite a bit in my research is when to begin counting a country as semi-presidential. I already alluded to this point in the posting on Turkey. Is Turkey now semi-presidential even though the current president was elected by parliament and even though he may be in office for five, or even seven years, until the first direct election takes place? I think we should count Turkey as semi-presidential now because the constitution has been changed and the definition used here relies solely on constitutional provisions. However, doing so means that we can have cases of semi-presidentialism where there has never been a direct presidential election.
Take Austria. In December 1928 Wilhelm Miklas was elected as president by parliament. In December 1929 the constitution was amended to include the direct election of the president. In 1934, the constitution was amended again and the direct election of the president was removed. In the meantime, democracy collapsed. For Polity, the last full year of democracy was 1932. So, the Austrian constitution was semi-presidential from 1929-34, but there was no direct presidential election in this period.
Another case is Burkina Faso. In 1970, a new semi-presidential constitution was adopted for the then Upper Volta. As far as I can tell, this system lasted until 1974. In this period there was no presidential election.
Another interesting example is Brazil from 1961-63. I will do a much fuller post about Brazil at some future date. For now, though, the presidential system was changed to a pure parliamentary system by a constitutional amendment in September 1961 only for the presidential system to be restored in January 1963. In this period there was no presidential election under the new system. So, for a short time Brazil had a directly elected president operating in a parliamentary constitution.
I count Brazil as parliamentary in this period in the same way that I count Austria and Burkina Faso (Upper Volta) as semi-presidential from 1929-34 and 1970-74 respectively. However, if one were to decide that a country only became semi-presidential at the point when the first direct presidential election occurred, then Austria and Burkina Faso (Upper Volta) would not be classed as semi-presidential and Brazil would be semi-presidential from 1961-63.