Government and Politics
The Constitution of the Federal Islamic Republic of the Comoros was approved by referendum on June 7, 1992. It replaced the constitution of 1978, as amended in 1982 and 1985. Among the general principles enumerated in the preamble are the recognition of Islam as the state religion and respect for human rights as set forth in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. All citizens are declared equal before the law.
The president is elected by direct universal suffrage to a five-year term and is limited to two terms. All persons over the age of eighteen who possess full civil and political rights may vote. The president may be elected to no more than two terms. The president is both head of state and head of government. The president nominates ministers to form the Council of Government, which had twelve members in the latter half of 1994. The ministries, which are routinely reshuffled, merged, eliminated, and resurrected, consisted of the following at that time: the prime minister, who also served as minister of civil service; Economy, Plan, Industry, and Handicrafts; Equipment, Energy, Urbanization, and Housing; Finance and Budget; Foreign Affairs and Cooperation; Information, Culture, Youth, Sports, and Posts and Telecommunication; Islamic Affairs and Justice; National Education and Technical and Professional Teaching; Public Health; Rural Development, Fisheries, and the Environment; Social Affairs, Work, and Employment; and Transportation and Tourism. The president also nominates governors for each of the three islands for five-year terms. If the presidency becomes vacant, the president of the Supreme Court serves as interim president until an election can be held.
The constitution provides for a bicameral legislature. The forty-two members of the "lower" house, the Federal Assembly, represent electoral wards for four-year terms. The Federal Assembly meets for two forty-five-day sessions per year, in April and October. The upper house, the Senate, has fifteen members, five from each island, who are chosen by an Electoral College. The post of prime minister is held by a member of the party holding a majority of seats in the Federal Assembly. The number of political parties may be regulated by federal law. In 1994 more than twenty political parties were active. Areas subject to federal legislation include defense, communications, law, international trade, federal taxation, economic planning, and social services.
As a federal republic, Comoros assigns autonomy to the three constituent islands in matters that, in accordance with the constitution, do not come within the purview of the national government. Each island has a council whose members are elected to represent electoral wards for four-year terms. Normally, each council meets twice yearly, in March and December, for a fifteenday session.
The judiciary is considered independent of the executive and legislature. The Supreme Court examines constitutional issues and supervises presidential elections. The high court also arbitrates when the government is accused of malpractice. The Supreme Court normally consists of at least seven members: two chosen by the president, two elected by the Federal Assembly, and three chosen by the respective island councils. Former presidents also may serve on the high court.
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