Category Archives: List of disputed areas and other territories with semi-presidential constitutions

List of disputed areas and other territories with semi-presidential constitutions

SP in disputed areas and other territories (7) – Chechnya

The Chechen Republic was proclaimed in October 1991 following the collapse of the USSR and a referendum in the region. A constitution was adopted in March 1992. The constitution was semi-presidential. It is available in English here.

Art 71 (1) stated: “The President of Chechen Republic is elected for 5 years by the citizens of Chechen Republic by general and direct election of balloting.”.

Art. 79 states:
“(1) The Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic bears the responsibility before the President of the Republic. The newly formed Cabinet of Ministers presents for consideration of the Parliament of the Republic the program of forthcoming activity for the term of authorities.

(3) The Parliament of the Republic can express mistrust to the Cabinet of Ministers that entails its resignation. The decree on this question is accepted by the majority of votes of not less than two-thirds of general number of the members of the Parliament of the Republic.”

It is unclear how long the constitution was even nominally operational. In April 1992 President Dudayev began to rule by decree and in June 1993 parliament was dissolved. For its part, states that the position of PM was abolished from April 1993 to June 1996. So, we can assume that there was some legal basis for semi-presidentialism for a short period in 1992-93 and then again from 1996. In January 1997 there were presidential and parliamentary elections and Aslan Aliyevich Maskhadov was elected as president.

In 2003, following the Russian military campaign, a new constitution was adopted that formally incorporated Chechnya within the Russian federation. The text is available here.

The wording of the translation of the 2003 constitution is a little confusing. The president is directly elected (Art. 65). There is a government and there is a position of chairman of the government (or prime minister). It appears as if the president’s nominee for prime minister has to be approved by parliament (Art. 83 (3) (a)). In addition, Art. 95 seems to suggest that the parliament can dismiss the government, but the wording is very unclear.

My understanding is that the Chechen government in exile, i.e., the one that refuses to acknowledge the incorporation of Chechnya as part of Russia, continued to follow the 1992 constitution even after 2003. However, in November 2007 Doku Umarov proclaimed himself Emir. So, the 1992 constitution is no longer semi-presidential.

As you can see, the situation is complicated. So, any clarification would be welcomed.

SP in disputed areas and other territories (6) – Tatarstan

Tatarstan is a Republic of the Russian Federation. However, it enjoys a greater degree of autonomy than most other constituent parts of the Federation. In August 1990 the Supreme Soviet of the Tatar Autonomous Soviet Social Republic declared itself to be sovereign. In 1994 a Treaty with the Russian Federation in effect ended immediate any claim to independence. In the meantime, in 1992 a constitution was adopted. As far as I understand it, a new constitution was adopted in 2000.

The 2000 constitution establishes a semi-presidential system. Art. 108 states that the president is directly elected. Art. 117 establishes a cabinet of ministers headed by a prime minister. Art. 118 states that Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Tatarstan shall be responsible to the President and to the State Council of the Republic of Tatarstan. Art. 89 (14) states that the State Council has to endorse the president’s choice of prime minister. This article also states that the State Council solves the question of confidence of the cabinet of ministers. This means that there is collective responsibility.

The president since 1991 has been Mintimer Sharipovich Shaimiev. He has been elected four times. Currently the prime minister is Rustam Nurgaliyevich Minnikhanov. He has been in office since 1998.

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Republika Srpska
Turkish Republic of North Cyprus
Palestinian National Authority

SP in disputed areas and other territories (5) – Republika Srpska

The Republika Srpska is officially recognized as one of the two entities that compose the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The constitution dates back to 1992, but it has been amended since. Like Serbia, and most of the constituent parts of the former Yugoslavia, it established a semi-presidential system.

Art. 83 establishes the direct election of the president, as well as the election of two vice-presidents.

Art. 93 establishes a prime minister, known as the president of the government.

Art. 94 states that the government is responsible to the National Assembly on the basis of votes of confidence and no-confidence. In addition, there are circumstances in which the president may dismiss the prime minister. So, the Republika Srpska is on the cusp of a president-parliamentary and premier-presidential form of semi-presidentialism.

The Republika Srpska was proclaimed in 1992. It was officially recognised in the Dayton Accords of 1995. The UN-appointed High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina has played a major role in the area since this time, including the dismissal of at least one president in the late 1990s.

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Turkish Republic of North Cyprus
Palestinian National Authority

SP in disputed areas and other territories (4) – Anjouan

Anjouan is one of the islands that make up the Comoros. The other two main ones are Moheli and the Grand Comoros (or Ngazidja). It might be remembered that the Comoros itself has a semi-presidential history. In 1979 it adopted its first semi-presidential constitution. This lasted until 1985. In 1992 another semi-presidential constitution was adopted and this one lasted until the coup in 1999. Since 2002, there has been a presidential constitution.

The Comoros has had a turbulent history. Since independence in 1975, there have been palace coups instigated and/or carried out by French mercenaries. There has been a general flip-flopping between democracy and autocracy. In the late 1990s the rivalry between the different islands was one of the causes of the coup in 1999. Anjouan was at the heart of this situation.

In 1997 Anjouan declared independence. This was never recognised by the international community. In 1998 Anjouan adopted a constitution. There were various coups on the island itself. There was also military intervention by the Comoros government. To stabilise the situation, the 2002 Comoros constitution tried to establish a federal relationship providing a degree of autonomy for each island. As a result, a new constitution was adopted for Anjouan in 2002. However, some elements in Anjouan continue to claim independence, though, as before, this is not recognised internationally.

The 1998 constitution was semi-presidential. The 2002 constitution is not. Both are available in French here. Both were adopted after referendums.

In 1998, the president was directly elected (Art. 9). There was a prime minister who was head of government (Art. 27). The government was collectively responsible to the Chamber of Deputies either on the basis of a motion of confidence or no-confidence. It stated explicitly that, if defeated, the government had to resign (Art. 56).

On the basis of the 2002 constitution, the president is directly elected (Art. 16). The government can ask for a motion of confidence. If it loses, it has to resign (Art. 44). However, in contrast to the 1998 document, there is no prime minister.

In fact, only identifies a prime minister until January 1999. So, it is not clear that the Anjouan constitution of 1998 was ever really applied, mainly, I assume, because of the refusal of the Comoros government to recognise the secession and the subsequent use of military force.

For the record, Anjouan held a presidential election on 15 June. The second round will be held on 29 June.

Finally, while Moheli and Grand Comoros also have constitutions since 2002, neither is semi-presidential.

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Turkish Republic of North Cyprus
Palestinian National Authority

SP in disputed areas and other territories (3) – Turkish Republic of North Cyprus

Another disputed area that has a semi-presidential constitution is the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus. The constitution of the Turkish Cypriot State dates back to 1985 and is available here. The Turkish Republic of North Cyprus was proclaimed in 1983. So, this is the first constitution of the self-proclaimed state.

The president is directly elected (Art 105). The last presidential election was held in April 2005 and was won by Mehmet Ali Talat. The president serves for a five-year term. President Talat represent the Republican Turkish Party (CTP).

The constitution establishes a prime minister (Art. 112), whose cabinet needs the confidence of the Assembly to be formed (Art 115). The Assembly may table a vote of no-confidence during the legislative term. If the government loses the confidence vote, then it has to resign.

As I understand it, there have been a couple of periods of a divided executive in the area (meaning that the president and PM are from different parties, but the president’s party is represented in government), but no periods of cohabitation (where the president’s party is not represented in government). If I am mistaken, then please let me know.

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Palestinian National Authority

SP in disputed areas and other territories (2) – The Palestinian National Authority

In 2003 the Constitution of Palestine was passed. This document regulated the internal affairs of the Palestinian National Authority. The constitution had been the subject of negotiation for years, but was eventually passed in the context of attempts to find a settlement to the conflict with Israel. In particular, it was, in effect (and as I understand it), part of the attempt to marginalise Yasser Arafat, who was seen by various parties as a stumbling block to peace. The creation of a semi-presidential system with a president and a prime minister was a deliberate attempt to try to reduce Arafat’s power over the system. He died in November 2004.

The constitution can be found here. Articles 67 and 75 clearly establish the government’s collective responsibility to the legislature. Article 45 establishes a president-parliamentary form of semi-presidentialism.

A really interesting situation in this context concerns the brief period of cohabitation following the victory of Hamas in the 2006 legislative election. In January 2005 Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) of Fatah was elected as president. In January 2006 Hamas gained an absolute majority in the legislative election. There was some talk of a coalition but Hamas formed a single-party government. Therefore, there was a period of cohabitation.

In effect, this situation did not last long. In June conflict in Gaza led to Hamas controlling that area, while it was expelled from government. President Abbas dissolved the government and assumed emergency powers.

From a parochial point of view, the question is whether the semi-presidential system was partly responsible for the civil war. My guess is that the causes of the conflict are already well overdetermined, but that the semi-presidential system did not help in any way.

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SP in disputed areas and other territories (1) – Nagorno-Karabakh

This is the first of an occasional series on semi-presidentialism in areas other than internationally recognised states. I am focusing on areas that have full constitutions. However, these areas are not recognised by the international community as independent states. They may be territories that have declared independence but whose status has not been internationally recognised or they may simply be self-governing units under the protection of another state – territories like Greenland, or the Isle of Man.

The first example is Nagorno-Karabakh. This region is officially part of Azerbaijan. It has a substantial Armenian population. After the collapse of the Soviet Union the Nagorno-Karabakh legislature declared independence. However, this was not recognised by either Azerbaijan or the international community. There has been ongoing conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over this region since this time and indeed well before. The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic has a high degree of de facto independence.

In December 2006 a referendum was held that approved a constitution for the territory. The result of the vote was not internationally recognised. However, given the area enjoys a degree of de facto autonomy, political leaders within the area have declared it to be the basic constitutional document governing the area. The text is available here. (Prior to the referendum my understanding is that the territory used a series of laws to govern its internal affairs and that there was no consolidated constitutional document).

The 2006 constitution has clear semi-presidential elements:

Article 62
1. The President of the Republic shall be elected by the citizens of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic for a five-year term of office.
Article 99 
3. The Government shall be composed of the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, and the Ministers.
Article 97
1. The National Assembly may adopt by a majority vote of no confidence towards the Government.

However, it is not entirely clear what happens if a vote of no-confidence is passed. There is also a quite complicated role for the legislature in the appointment of the prime minister and government (Article 100).

The most recent presidential election was in July 2007. The winner was Bako Sahakyan, who ran as an independent and who won over 85% of the vote. The last legislative election was held in June 2005. I believe the government is a coalition of the Democratic Party of Artsakh and the Free Motherland party. The opposition appears to have only 3 seats in the 32-seat legislature.

Armenia and Azerbaijan are, of course, themselves semi-presidential.