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Ivory Coast - Government

Voters in Ivory Coast went to the polls 30 October 2016 to decide on constitutional changes. But the package being voted on by the 6.3 million voters left many confused, and turnout was low, but it secured a majority. The country has been relatively stable since 2011 when former President Laurent Gbagbo was arrested after a year-long civil war that killed hundreds of Ivorians. Gbagbo was being tried at the International Criminal Court in The Hague on charges of crimes against humanity.

Ivory Coast voters approved the new constitution, the electoral commission announced 01 November 2016. However, the opposition — which had called for a boycott — contested the 42 percent official turnout as inflated and, therefore, not legitimate. After two days of tallying the votes, the electoral commission’s official results showed 93 percent of voters were in favor of the new constitution.

President Alassane Ouattara's revised 2016 constitution, which parliament overwhelmingly approved, would create a vice president picked by the president and establish a Senate in which a third of legislators would be nominated by the head of state. The post of vice president was included in the new constitution to help ensure a smooth succession of power in the event the sitting president dies or is incapacitated while in office. It was seen as a vehicle to allow Ouattara to groom a successor for when he finished his second and final term in 2020.

The new constitution also ended a clause - the so-called "Ivorian-ness" clause from 2000 - which stipulates that both parents of a presidential candidate must be born on Ivorian soil. Ouattara is from central Ivory Coast, but his father was born in neighboring Burkina Faso. The president said the changes would help end unrest linked to issues of national identity. Violent episodes include a coup in 1999, a civil war in 2002 that split the country between its north and south, and a postelection crisis in 2010. The most recent violence led to months of bloodshed, with then-President Laurent Gbagbo refusing to step down. Critics speculated that Ouattara is trying to line up a successor for when his term ends in 2020. The opposition saw the change as a "monarchistic tactic."

Ivory Coast voted in a constitutional referendum on 30 October 2016. President Alassane Ouattara backed the initiative, which would create a senate and a new post of deputy president, but the opposition did not share his enthusiasm. One of the main reasons to reform the current constitution, Ouattara has said, was to remove a contentious article on nationality that played a role in years of civil war in the West African nation. Ouattara's political opponents used the article on nationality to block him from several presidential elections in the past, claiming his parents were not born in Ivory Coast, and he was thus not eligible. The US-trained economist was elected head of state in 2010 and took office the following year, after months of unrest involving supporters of his predecessor as president, Laurent Gbagbo.

When the president announced details of the planned change creating a new post of deputy president, and adding a senate as a second legislative branch of the government - they immediately aroused controversy. President Alassane Ouattara said the creation of the post of a vice- president will ensure peace and stability in case there is a power vacuum in the west African nation. The vice president would finish the mandate if the president died or was incapacitated while in office. With regards to the senate, the president said that it will be composed of former state workers of exemplary qualities. A third of senators would be appointed by the president, while the remaining two-thirds would be chosen in an indirect election process, the details of which would be determined in a separate law.

The new constitution also removed the age limit of 75 for presidential candidates. All three of Ivory Coast's main political figures — Ouattara and former presidents Laurent Gbagbo and Henri Konan Bedie — will be older than 75 in 2020, when the next elections are due. The new constitution also also makes it easier to change the constitution. It lowered the number of votes required for revisions submitted directly for approval by parliament to two-thirds of MPs from four-fifths, and removed a clause requiring a public referendum for any changes to presidential mandates.

In the program that was announced, the National Assembly would be allowed to see and debate the Constitution for three days before the referendum. It was a bit strange that the Constitutional change had been announced for over one year, but the text itself turned into the biggest national secret in the country. The suspicion was that the sole reason for the "new" Constitution was the creation of the post of Vice President as a stratagem for President Outarra to get out of a power shift he had made. The speculation was that appointing a party confidant as Vice President would prevent the expected power shift.

Ivory Coast's parliament has approved changes to the constitution that ease a presidential eligibility requirement at the center of a political crisis that turned deadly. The majority of parliament members 11 October 2016 voted in favor of a new draft saying candidates must claim Ivorian nationality exclusively and have an Ivorian-born father or mother. Under the existing constitution, both parents of presidential candidates must be Ivorian.

Cote d'Ivoire's constitution of the Second Republic (2000) provides for a strong presidency within the framework of a separation of powers. The executive is personified in the president, elected for a 5-year term. The president is the head of state and commander in chief of the armed forces, may negotiate and ratify certain treaties, and may submit a bill to a national referendum or to the National Assembly. According to the constitution, the president of the National Assembly assumes the presidency for 45-90 days in the event of a vacancy and organizes new elections in which the winner completes the remainder of the deceased president's term. The president selects the prime minister, who is the head of government. The cabinet is selected by and is responsible to the prime minister.

The President of the Republic is the Head of State. He is elected for five years by direct universal suffrage. He is re-elected only once. In case of vacancy of the Presidency of the Republic by death, resignation, absolutely prevented, the Acting President of the Republic is provided by the Speaker of the National Assembly for a period of 45 to 90 days during which he must elect a new President. The President of the Republic is the supreme commander of the Armies. He presides over the High Council of Defence. He is the guarantor of the independence of the judiciary and chairs the Supreme Council of Magistracy.

The President of the Republic is the sole holder of executive power. He appoints the Prime Minister Head of Government, the Presidents of the Institutions of the Republic, with the exception of the President of the National Assembly. On the proposal of Prime Minister President of the Republic appoints the other members of the Government. As the Head of Administration, he appoints civil and military posts of the State.

The President of the Republic ensures respect for the Constitution; it ensures the continuity of the State. He is the guarantor of national independence, territorial integrity, respect for international treaties and agreements. He initiates laws concurrently with the members of the National Assembly. He ensures the execution of laws and court decisions. The President of the Republic has the right to pardon. He determines and conducts the policy of the Nation. He chairs the Council of Ministers. When he is absent from the national territory, the President shall deputize for the Prime Minister.

The unicameral National Assembly is composed of 225 members elected by direct universal suffrage for a 5-year term, normally concurrently with the president. It passes on legislation typically introduced by the president, although it also can introduce legislation. The National Assembly does not have the political clout needed to pass any real legislation of substance. Proposed laws and regulations are not published in draft form for public comments. The National Assembly debates most legislation. The Government often holds public seminars and workshops to discuss proposed plans with trade and industry associations.

While the National Assembly seems to operate in the mindset of business as usual, the international community did not recognize the National Assembly's validity. United Nations Security Council Resolution 1633 of October 21, 2005 noted that the mandate of the National Assembly would end by December 16, 2005. On December 16, 2005, the Constitutional Council decreed that the National Assembly would stay in office. On January 15, 2006, the International Working Group took note of the end of the National Assembly's mandate. A new parliament building in Yamoussoukro (Chinese funded) is under construction.

The judicial system culminates in the Supreme Court. The National Assembly is the only room of the Ivorian parliament. It derives its heritage from the colonial period. It was instituted by the Ivorian constitution on 31 October 1960 and made November 27, 1960 with a staff of seventy members elected every Ivorian. In Ivory Coast, the legislative power is exercised by the single chamber whose members, members are appointed by district, the list majority system blocked a tour without preferential vote or splitting. The powers of this institution expire at the end of the second ordinary session of the fifth year of his mandate. It is then fully renewed by putting in competition any citizen who wishes, provided he is twenty-five years at least and he never renounced Ivorian nationality.

In rural areas, traditional institutions often administer justice at the village level, handling domestic disputes and minor land questions in accordance with customary law. Dispute resolution is by extended debate, with no known instance of resort to physical punishment. The formal court system is increasingly superseding traditional mechanisms.

The High Court of Justice is competent to try government officials for major offenses. There is also an independent Constitutional Council which has seven members appointed by the president that is responsible for, inter alia, the determination of candidate eligibility in presidential and legislative elections, the announcement of final election results, the conduct of referendums, and the constitutionality of legislation. Judicial reform is essential. Cote d’Ivoire has many well-qualified lawyers and judges, but the judicial system has become tremendously polarized and politicized. One area where the Ivorian justice system should play a central role is in the creation of improved systems of economic governance and financial accountability.

For administrative purposes, Cote d'Ivoire is divided into 19 regions and 90 departments. Each region and department is headed by a prefect appointed by the central government. In 2002, the country held its first departmental elections to select departmental councils to oversee local infrastructure development and maintenance as well as economic and social development plans and projects. There are 196 communes, each headed by an elected mayor, plus the city of Abidjan with 10 mayors.

The number of operational sub-prefectures increased in 2014 from 358 to 422 following the nomination of members of the prefectural corps in January, but the effectiveness of local administrations remained hampered by poor infrastructure, limited resources and a lack of technical and professional capacity, which undermined service provision. The Peacebuilding Fund continued to support the rehabilitation of some public infrastructure in the west. Fiscal administration was not restored in most areas, while customs services and border surveillance remained inadequate owing to coordination and resource constraints.

Despite the lifting of the zone of confidence which had physically divided the country and prevented the free movement of people and the delivery of goods and services between the north and the south, by 2010 Côte d’Ivoire was still a divided country, with the Forces nouvelles maintaining a parallel administration, economy, treasury, judicial system and security structures in the north. While all préfets and souspréfets had been redeployed to the areas controlled by the Forces nouvelles, the so-called structures parallèles of the infamous comzones (commandants de zone - zone commanders), and Forces nouvelles-appointed mayors and other local authorities continued to exercise real authority and collect revenues in the north. No progress had been made with regard to the redeployment of Customs officials to the north, and all border crossing points in the north remain staffed by the Forces nouvelles. A few tax agents were redeployed at the regional level, but they remained largely non-operational. Similarly, regional representations of line ministries had been established, but remained largely non-operational. The problem of parallel commercial and fiscal structures run by former warlords was one of the key issues complicating the relationship between the authorities and the population. In the North, the challenge was the effort to reacquaint residents with the institutions of the Ivoirian state, even with the very idea of the state.

Following the 2007 Ouagadougou peace agreement, some authorities had already returned to Forces nouvelles-held areas: the first Préfet returned to Bouaké in June 2007, and other officials followed. But power remained in the hands of the rebel commandants de zone. State institutions were devoid of any real security or fiscal authority and provided no real services to the population, which in turn disregarded them.

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Page last modified: 10-01-2017 19:27:57 ZULU