The principle of people's power was enshrined in the 223-member People's Assembly, which replaced the Council of the Revolution as the nation's legislature in 1980. The primary purpose of the People's Assembly was to implement some degree of participatory democracy within the revolutionary state and to do so outside party confines. People's Assembly delegates did not have to be party members, and many were not. The planned electoral process was the election of 203 delegates to three-year terms by an electoral college. The electoral college, in turn, would be elected by universal suffrage. The remaining twenty delegates were to be elected by the Central Committee of the MPLA-PT. During the 1980s, implementation of this plan was obstructed by security problems and bureaucratic snarls. In 1980 the Central Committee elected all People's Assembly members. In 1983 the government's lack of control over many rural areas, combined with a dearth of accurate census data, prompted dos Santos to postpone the elections. The 1986 elections, actually held in 1987, consisted of mass meetings at which the names of nominees were presented on a list prepared by the existing People's Assembly. A few names were challenged and removed, but these lengthy public discussions did not constitute the democratic process required by the Constitution.
The People's Assembly met every six months to approve the national budget and development plan, enact legislation, and delegate responsibilities to its subcommittees. It also elected the twenty-five-member Permanent Commission to perform assembly functions between sessions. The president headed the Permanent Commission, which was dominated by members of the MPLA-PT Political Bureau. The subordination of the People's Assembly to the MPLA-PT was ensured by including high-level party officials among the former's appointed members and by frequent reminders of the preeminence of the party. The government's intention was to create people's assemblies at all levels of local administration in order to establish a government presence in remote areas and promote party-government contacts. The planned assemblies were an important symbol of people's power, although they were also intended to be controlled by the party elite.
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