Painting by Cheri Samba

Lokuta eyaka na ascenseur, kasi vérité eyei na escalier mpe ekomi. Lies come up in the elevator; the truth takes the stairs but gets here eventually. - Koffi Olomide

Ésthetique eboma vélo. Aesthetics will kill a bicycle. - Felix Wazekwa

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Constitutional revision passed in the national assembly

The news just in from Kinshasa: The constitutional revision passed the national assembly today with 350 out of 500 votes. The Palais du Peuple got a bit chaotic when a fistfight broke out on the podium between opposition and majority MPs, but the vote eventually passed. Already there are accusations that the votes were bought in order to make this one of the fastest legislative acts of the national assembly (talk of $20,000 per MP) - it passed in just a few days, and apparently violated legal process as it was not sent to the government for comments before adoption.

Three hundred and fifty is pretty impressive, for more than the official total of AMP members in parliament - apparently they even got a few MLC members to vote for the revision, which again elicited accusations of bribery.

The proposed revision must now go to the senate. Given, however, that the current session closes in two days, some MPs doubt that the senate will have time to pass the revision and will have to take it up again in March when it comes back from vacation. But Kabila's AMP only needs 51% of the vote there, which is should have, and then 60% in a joint session of both chambers, which it should have, as well.

So what were the changes? I believe there were 18 articles put forward for changes, but I haven't seen the full list yet. The most important change was of course in the electoral system - the president is now elected by a plurality vote in one round of elections instead of two. He can win even with 15% or 20% of the vote, as long as he's ahead of his competitors.

Other changes include giving the minister of justice authority over the prosecutor's office, a power that exists in many other countries but that the Congolese constitution had thus far prevented - I am sure that critics will also claim that this change is anti-constitutional, as per Article 220 the independence of the judiciary cannot be tampered with through constitutional revisions.

The creation of 26 provinces out of the 11 current ones - a process known as découpage - has also been put on hold. Even though the constitution still says that these provinces will be created (Article 2), the period of 3 years over which this must be done (that has expired) has been removed.

Other changes are in the budgetary process (the president can ask for temporary credits if the budget isn't adopted in time) and in allowing the president to dissolve the provincial assemblies and revoke governors.


Rich said...

The bill on constitutional revision passed with 334 votes, 1 against and 2 abstentions. The opposition decided to vacate the chamber and not participate in the debate, after Francois Mwamba the MLC house keeper (since the arrest of Bemba he is conducting current affairs as dictated by Bemba from inside Schveningen’s cells) presented a procedural motion. This explains why the proposal went through without any resistance.

However, some MPs from the majority have seen in Francois Mwamba the MLC a time waster. Some are even calling him “Lukong” by the name of the Cameroon goal keeper who became expert in time wasting to buy his team some time. They say he uses any opportunity to dramatise the differences in order to buy his boss (Bemba some time in case he can be freed before the elections) so that he can make a heroic comeback on the Congolese political scene.

I have the majority argument concerning the Constitution’s Aticle 71 (relating to the presidential election in 2 rounds). It is quite long and didn’t get the time to summarise and translate it.

I think J Kabila is just trying to use his majority now, before it is too late, to try and secure what he can before the big push comes to shelve.

Affaire à suivre...

Jason Stearns said...

Merci pour les precisions.

Anonymous said...

@ jason

I know you are a DRC expert, Can you tell me how do you know that few MLC members voted for the revision? When all MLC members vacated the chamber before even the debate. Where did you come with "pretty impressive" 350 votes?
You sound very excited about it.

Jason Stearns said...

@ Anonymous - I'm not at all happy about this, I don't think a serious document like the constitution should be changed for such opportunistic reasons - the pretty impressive referred to the AMP's skill (or bribery) in getting all those votes.

An MLC leader himself told me some of their MPs voted for the bill.

Anonymous said...

No the vote count was 334 out of 337 present. 334 voted yes, 1 voted no and 2 did not vote. This is the count from the floor.

Jason Stearns said...

Yes - check my newest post. Updated.

Anonymous said...


Can you get the list of those who voted yes and post it on your blog?

Jason Stearns said...

Unfortunately, I've never found a place where the votes are made public - the national assembly's website doesn't have it.

Anonymous said...

Can you tell me the name of the MLC member who voted for it? once again Jason ALL MLC MEMBER WALKED OUT BEFORE THE VOTE. maybe you're talking about a opposition member, ( who got $ 20,000) but a MLC member. Give the mane.
MLC member should not be talking to you, if they read what you say about their leader and party.
Any way thanks your response.

Anonymous said...

Please tell at least the name of MLC leader who told you so.

Jason Stearns said...

Sorry, one of the ways I get information for this site is by protecting sources' confidentiality. And I don't think I have been biased against the MLC or Bemba by any means here.

Anonymous said...

We know you a pro tutsi,like CNDP,KAGAME, NKUNDA, H.KANAMBE aka j.kabila, ruberwa,...and other. It will be good if just you stop talking about MLC and JP BEMBA. Because we know for who you're working for JASON

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