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Burkina Faso - Government

Between 1966 and 1978 Upper Volta was directed by a military regime headed by General Sangoule Lamizana. In July of 1978, Upper Volta Inaugurated the Third Republic and a popularly elected government composed of an executive, legislative, and judicial branch was established. The executive branch consisted of the president who also served as commander in chief of the armed forces, and the Council of Ministers, or Cabinet. A 57-member national assembly, headed by a presidentially appointed prime minister, made up the legislative branch.

In the 1978 general election General Lamizana won a narrow victory to assume the presidency. However, in November 1980, after more than six months of repeated, disruptive confrontations with Upper Volta's powerful trade unions, General Lamizana was removed from office in a bloodless coup led by then Commander of the Armed Forces in Ouagadougou, Colonel Saye Zerbo. Col. Zerbo dissolved the National Assembly, suspended the constitution, and established a Milltery Committee of Recovery for National Progress. The new head of state promised that all individual and collective liberties, except that of political activity, would be guaranteed while the military government instituted its program for national recovery.

Several reforms were proposed by the new government, including turning all villages into cooperatives, reorganizing and strengthening the Regional Development Organizations (ORDs) and the National Office of Cereals (OFNACER), and establishing a universal system of primary education for all youngsters. Like its predecessors, however, the military government must contend with Upper Volta's well-organized trade unions, which constitute a powerful economic and political force.

The authoritarian regime that had been in place for more than a quarter of a century was finally ousted in October 2014 in what the Burkinabè call the “popular insurrection.” The fire-blackened ruins of the old National Assembly building still stand in the city center as a stark reminder of the public fury that forced then-president Blaise Compaoré to flee to neighbouring Côte d’Ivoire.

The government of the Fourth Republic included a strong presidency, a prime minister, a Council of Ministers presided over by the president, a unicameral National Assembly, and the judiciary. The legislature and judiciary are nominally independent but remain susceptible to executive influence. Given the fragile roots of democratic institutions, constitutional checks and balances were seldom effective in practice. Compaore and the CDP dominated the cabinet and all areas of government.

Vigilante groups across the country operated detention facilities. Media reported cases of torture and killing that took place in these facilities. For example, on 10 May 2016, a suspected thief named Moussa Boly and three of his comrades were detained by a local vigilante group in the village of Benwourgou. Boly’s remains were found the following day, and police stated there were signs he had been tortured.

In 2000, President Compaore and the CDP altered Burkina Faso's constitution limiting the presidential mandate to two terms of five years. In 2005, following a petition from UNIR/MS leader Benewende Sankara, the constitutional court ruled that the 2000 amendment was not retroactive, thereby legitimizing Compaore's candidacy in 2005 and allowing him to run again in 2010 despite the fact that he had been in office since 1987. Compaore won the 2005 elections with an overwhelming majority of the votes. The remaining votes were divided between thirteen other candidates, who each received between five and less than point five percent of the votes.

In April 2011, in an effort to help restore social peace, the Council of Ministers established the Consultative Council on Political Reforms (CCRP), tasked with collecting, debating, and submitting constitutional, political, and institutional reform proposals that would promote democracy and good governance. From June 23 to July 14, the CCRP met to analyze and discuss various proposals, and on July 21, submitted consensual reform proposals to President Compaore. The reform proposals were centered on four major themes: 1) the need for more dialogue between the government, political parties, and civil society; 2) the reestablishment of a balance of power between the executive and legislative branches; 3) electoral law reform; and 4) reinforcement of good governance practices. A national conference was held December 7-9, 2011 to examine the July CCRP conclusions and decide which consensual reforms to adopt.

In spite of repeated calls by the Prime Minister and the Ministry of State in Charge of Political Reforms, some opposition parties and some civil society leaders refused to take part in the CCRP's regional meetings and the national conference, arguing that the consultative council was biased in favor of the government and illegal because it included unregistered opposition representatives. They also claimed that the CCRP only aimed to amend Article 37 of the constitution, in order to maintain Compaore in power. Despite predictions by the non-participatory opposition, Article 37 was not discussed, and participants focused instead on the political measures that could be easily adopted.

The consensual reforms included the creation of a senate (with no more than 90 members); an increase in the number of National Assembly members (to include at least two from each province, which would mean 26 more seats); the creation of a constitutional status for traditional leaders; the inclusion of gender policy in the constitution; the establishment of a minimum (35) and maximum (75) age for presidential candidates; amnesty for current and past presidents; and the authorization for Burkinabe expatriates to vote in presidential, municipal, and legislative elections. An April 7, 2012 decree established a committee in charge of monitoring the implementation of these consensual reforms.

On 31 May 2014 the opposition organizes a "large popular gathering" to mark "the launching of a series of measures and provisions" calling for "citizen resistance" against the organization of a referendum to amend article 37 of the Constitution.

On 28 October 2014, more than 200,000 persons peacefully protested Compaore’s effort to change the constitutionally mandated presidential term limit. On October 30, the day of the scheduled National Assembly vote, rioters burned the National Assembly and other buildings. Compaore dissolved the National Assembly and government and declared a state of siege. On 31 October 2014, Compaore, who had been in power since 1987, resigned and fled the country with members of his family, the National Assembly president, and others.

Following the popular uprising of October 2014 that forced President Blaise Compaore into exile after 27 years in power, the country organized presidential and legislative elections. On 06 November 2015 the transitional members revised the old Constitution and limited the number terms of the President of Faso to two.

On 18 March 2016 the government formed in mid-January after 13 months of transition announced the creation of a constitutional commission for a passage to a fifth Republic. It will be set up on 30 September 2016.

Newly elected President Roch Marc Christian Kabore promised to change the Constitution to separate powers and end a situation where the president is in charge of every institution in the country. Many political analysts have observed that the current Constitution that was adopted in June 1991, gives enormous powers to the president.

On 03 June 2016 the Burkina Faso government formed a constitutional commission comprised of 92 people who include politicians, intellectuals, religious leaders, trade unionists and civil society actors to rewrite a new Constitution. A cabinet statement said the new Constitution will end the misrule witnessed during the 27-year reign by deposed president Blaise Compaore. The constitutional commission will be charged with the responsibility of writing a constitution within the next 60 days, to usher in the "Fifth Republic."

The people were likely to approve the revised constitution in the national referendum. The date for the referendum was likely to coincide with the next local council elections, which were originally planned for 22 May 2016, but had been postponed. The new date is yet to be announced as of mid-2017.

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Page last modified: 06-06-2017 18:16:02 ZULU