The 1987 constitution established the office of president. Theoretically, the Council of State ruled along with the president and exercised legislative oversight in relation to other branches of government. In reality, however, the office of the president in particular and the executive branch in general were the most powerful branches of government. The president was able to act with considerable independence from the National Shengo.
Although the constitution stipulated that the president was accountable to the National Shengo, Mengistu demonstrated repeatedly that there was no authority higher than his own office. By law he was responsible for presenting members of his executive staff and the Supreme Court to the National Shengo for election. At the same time, the president, "when compelling circumstances warrant it" between sessions of the National Shengo, could appoint or relieve the prime minister, the deputy prime minister, and other members of the Council of Ministers; the president, the vice president, and Supreme Court judges; the prosecutor general; the chairman of the National Workers' Control Committee; and the auditor general. The National Shengo was by law supposed to act on such decrees in its next regular session, but this appeared to be only pro forma.
The president, who could be elected to an indefinite number of successive five-year terms, had to submit nominations for appointment to the Council of Ministers (his cabinet) to the National Shengo for approval. However, by the time nominations reached the National Shengo for consideration, their appointment was a foregone conclusion. In practice, President Mengistu would chose individuals for particular offices without any apparent input from the National Shengo, the WPE, or the Council of State.
The president, who was also commander in chief of the armed forces, was also responsible for implementing foreign and domestic policy, concluding international treaties, and establishing diplomatic missions. If he deemed it necessary, the president could rule by decree.
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