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The World of Parliaments
Parliamentary developments

Amid protests in the capital, Nairobi, the Kenyan Parliament approved amendments to the draft Constitution on 22 July 2005, by 102 votes to 61. Known as the "Kilifi draft", this latest text had been prepared by certain MPs of the ruling National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) in early July 2005. Neither representatives from the main opposition group, the Kenya African National Union (KANU), nor the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), a member of the NARC, were invited to contribute. Under the previous "Bomas draft", presented by the National Constitutional Conference (NCC) in March 2005, a powerful Prime Minister would have been charged with chairing cabinet meetings, coordinating the work of government ministries and preparing legislation. All these functions were dropped in the Kilifi draft, which establishes that the President has the power to select and dismiss the Prime Minister without consulting Parliament. Following the parliamentary vote, Kenyans will vote to approve or reject the new Constitution in November 2005. If approved, it will be promulgated on 12 December 2005, and will represent the first constitutional reform since Kenya's independence from the United Kingdom in 1963.

On 3 August 2005, the "Military Council for Justice and Democracy", led by Colonel Ely Ould Mohamed Vall, seized power in a bloodless coup while President Maaouya Ould Taya, who himself came to power in a coup in 1984, was out of the country. Mr. Taya, who had been confirmed as President in elections held in 1997 and 2003, had reportedly angered many Mauritanians by establishing diplomatic ties with Israel and launching a crackdown on Islamic fundamentalist groups in the country. On 4 August, the leaders of the coup announced that the Government would remain in place but that the parliament would be dissolved. Parliamentary elections were promised within two years, preceded by a referendum on an amended Constitution within one year.

On 5 August, the African Union (AU) suspended Mauritania "until the restoration of constitutional order in the country". On 6 August, the Military Council adopted a Constitutional Charter giving Mr. Vall executive power, including the right to nominate a Prime Minister and members of the transitional Government. On 7 August, Prime Minister Sghair Ould M'Bareck resigned. By decree, Mr. Vall replaced him with Mr. Sidy Mohamed Ould Boubacar, a leader of the Social Democratic Republican Party (PRDS) which had previously ruled the country. AU envoys met Mr. Vall on 10 August and urged him to hold democratic elections in less than two years, a key condition for Mauritania's reaffiliation with the AU. Mr. Vall pledged that none of the 17-member Military Council would stand for election.

Serbia And Montenegro
On 7 April 2005, an agreement creating the conditions for the amendment of the Constitutional Charter of the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro was signed by the President of Serbia and Montenegro, Svetozar Marovic, Serbian President Boris Tadic, Montenegrin President Filip Vujanovic and the High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy of the European Union (EU), Javier Solana. It was adopted by the Serbian and the Montenegrin parliaments, respectively, on 2 and 23 June 2005, before being sent to the national parliament of Serbia and Montenegro. On 29 June 2005, the national parliament adopted amendments to the Constitutional Charter, along with the Law on Implementation of the Amendments to the Charter. The decision extended the mandate of the parliament until new elections would be held separately in Serbia and Montenegro. The national parliament of Serbia and Montenegro had been in a crisis since 3 March 2005, when the mandate of the parliament had officially expired, as the two republics had been unable to agree on the organization of direct elections. Montenegro had refused to organize elections before a referendum on its independence, which is due to be held in 2006.

On 6 July 2005, a new transitional Constitution was ratified by the Sudan's National Assembly, which paved the way for the inauguration of a new Government. Mr. Umar Al Bashir retained the post of President of Sudan, and on 9 July 2005, Mr. John Garang, the chairman of the former rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), was sworn in as First Vice- President and President of the semi-autonomous southern region.

On 31 July Mr. Garang was killed, together with six of his associates and the seven-member crew, when the Ugandan presidential helicopter he was traveling in crashed. Mr. Garang's death triggered three days of rioting in which more than 130 people were killed. Both the Government and the SPLM pledged to continue the peace process. Mr. Garang's deputy in the SPLM, Mr. Salva Kiir Mayardit, assumed his posts on 11 August 2005.

On 26 July 2005, King Mswati III signed into law the kingdom's new Constitution, which he had commissioned in 1996. Although the Swazi Parliament had unanimously approved a Constitution Bill on 13 June 2005, King Mswati III had sent the document back to it on 5 July 2005. He had ordered lawmakers to reconsider several provisions concerning religion, taxation of the royal family and women's rights. After Parliament made the requested amendments, King Mswati III agreed to accept the Constitution and announced that it would come into force six months later.

Swaziland has been ruled by royal decree since 1973, when King Mswati's father, King Sobhuza II, banned political parties. The new Constitution accords more rights to citizens, but consolidates royal power in Africa's last absolute monarchy. It allows freedom of speech, assembly and religion, although political parties are still banned. Women are given the same rights as men in "political, economic and social activities", with a third of parliamentary seats reserved for them. The King retains power to dissolve Parliament and the cabinet, dismiss and appoint judges, and act as head of the police, the correctional services and the army. The King also has the right to veto any measure that he deems to be against the public interest. King Mswati III has not announced whether the 1973 royal decree will coexist with the new Constitution. In the meantime, he has ordered Swazi customs to be codified. Women's rights groups in the country fear that the codified traditional law will take precedence over the rights guaranteed to them by the new Constitution, which stipulates that "a woman shall not be compelled to undergo or uphold any custom to which she is in conscience opposed".

In accordance with constitutional amendments enacted in 2002, the new upper chamber of the Tunisian parliament, the Chamber of Councillors, held its inaugural session on 16 August 2005. Of the current statutory number of 126 members, 85 are indirectly elected by members of the Chamber of Deputies and city councils, while the remainder are appointed by the President. The number of members of the Chamber of Councillors will be determined every six years by the law on elections, and is not to exceed two thirds of that of the Chamber of Deputies.

The first indirect elections were held on 3 July 2005 for 71 of the 85 indirectly elected members. The General Union of Tunisian Workers (UGTT), which is entitled to 14 seats, did not participate. Whether the 14 seats will be filled or not has not been decided yet. The list of 41 appointed members, including seven women, was published on 1 August 2005, bringing the total number of women to 15. Mr. Adballah Kallel is the first Speaker of the Chamber of Councillors.

A constitutional amendment to lift the two-term limit for the post of President was approved by the Ugandan Parliament on 28 June 2005, and passed its second reading on 12 July 2005. After the third reading, due to be completed by the end of August 2005, President Museveni is expected to give his assent, thus opening the way for him to stand again in the presidential election scheduled for 12 February 2006.

In a referendum held on 28 July 2005, 92.5 per cent of voters approved the re-establishment of the multiparty system. Turnout was 42.1 per cent of the 8.5 million registered voters. President Museveni had been under internal and international pressure to re-establish the multiparty system, which had been banned under Article 269 of the Constitution.

In the run-up to the referendum, the President had campaigned strongly in support of the multiparty system, unlike five years earlier, when in a similar referendum he had argued that such a system would divide people along ethnic lines. The Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), a political entity widely opposed to President Museveni, had called for a boycott of the referendum, arguing that the President was trying to appease those opposed to lifting presidential term limits by offering his support to the multiparty system.

On 15 July 2005, the Government gazetted the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (Number 17) Bill, known as the "Senate Bill", for public debate before it was to go through the legislative process. The Bill aims to reintroduce an upper house of parliament. In its current form, it provides for a new Senate of 66 members, with a five-year term. Five members will be elected from each of 10 administrative provinces. In addition, there will be 10 chiefs from the Council of Chiefs, including its President and Vice-President. The remaining six members will be appointed by the President. The Bill is due to be presented to the House of Assembly by the end of August 2005.

Between 1980 and 1989, Zimbabwe had a bicameral parliament consisting of a 120-seat House of Assembly and a 40-seat Senate. The Senate was disbanded following constitutional amendments in 1987 and 1990, which also provided for direct election of the President. Since 1990, the country has had a unicameral parliament of 150 members.


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