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Africa

Changing the constitution to remain in power

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-12-20

Elections in Tunisia on Oct. 25 will likely see Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who abolished term limits, stay in power. Such a manipulation of the constitution is not unusual in Africa. FRANCE 24 has compiled a list of examples.

 

ALGERIA

A constitutional amendment was passed by the Parliament in 2008, abolishing the two-term limit for rulers, allowing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to be re-elected.

Bouteflika has had three five-year mandates, starting with his election in 1999. The next elections are due in 2014.

 

BURKINA FASO

When President Blaise Compaore reached the end of his first two seven-year terms in office in 2005, the constitutional council ruled that a 2000 amendment to the constitution limiting the president to two five-year terms did not apply to him since it took effect while he was president. This cleared the way for his candidacy in the 2005 election, which he won.

Compaoré, who took power in a coup in 1987, was elected in 1991 and has been re-elected twice. The next presidential elections are scheduled for 2010.

 

CAMEROON

The National Assembly voted in 2008 to change the 1996 constitution to remove the limit of two presidential terms, allowing President Paul Biya to run for re-election in 2011.

Biya assumed the presidency upon the resignation of his predecessor in 1982 and was subsequently elected (as the sole candidate) in 1984 and 1988. He was re-elected again in 1992 in the country’s first multiparty presidential election, then re-elected in 1997 and 2004.

 

CHAD

In 2005, a referendum approved a change to the constitution removing a two-term limit, which allowed President Idriss Deby to run for a third term in 2006.

Elected in 1996 after a new constitution, Deby was re-elected in 2001 and 2006. Next presidential elections are set for 2011.

 

GABON

In 2003, the constitution was changed to allow President Omar Bongo – approaching his fourth decade in power – to run for an unlimited number of terms. The change also increased term length from five to seven years.

Omar Bongo took power in 1967 and was then elected in 1973, 1979 and 1986. A multiparty system was introduced in 1991, under which he was re-elected in 1993, 1998 and 2005. Bongo died in 2009 after 42 years in power, the world's longest-serving ruler. Elections have been scheduled for August 30.

 

NAMIBIA

The constitution was amended in 1999 to specifically allow President Sam Nujoma a third term. He did not run in 2004. Since the amendment applied only to Nujoma, later presidents have been limited to two five-year terms.

Nujoma's successor, President Hifikepunye Pohamba, was elected in 2004. Next elections will take place in November 2009.

 

NIGER

The 1999 constitution limited the president to two five-year terms and made amending that provision illegal. President Tandja Mamadou called a referendum on a new constitution on August 4. The new rules allow him to stay in power till 2012 and to run for office after that for an unlimited number of terms. After the Parliament and the Constitutional Court  opposed the referendum, Tandja dissolved both and began ruling by decree.

President Tandja Mamadou was elected to power in 1999 and reelected in 2004. Next presidential elections are in November 2009.

 

NIGERIA

President Olusegun Obasanjo's "Third Term Agenda" to have the constitution changed to allow him another run for the presidency was blocked by the Parliament in 2006. Presidents are still limited to two four-year terms.

President Umaru Yar'Adua was elected in 2007. The next elections are expected to take place in 2011.

 

TOGO

Term limits were scrapped in 2002 to allow Gnassingbe Eyadama a third term. Gnassingbe Eyadama took power in 1967 and was elected in 1972, 1979 and 1986. He won the first multiparty presidential elections in 1993 and was re-elected in 1998 and 2003.

After the death of President Gnassingbe Eyadama in February 2005, the army put his son Faure Gnassingbe into office. After an outcry, Faure Gnassingbe resigned and called an election, which he won. The next elections are scheduled for 2010.

 

TUNISIA

After Zine El Abidine Ben Ali assumed the presidency in 1987, Tunisia's constitution was amended in 1988 to allow presidents no more than two terms. After Ali's first two terms in office, a new amendment in 1998 allowed a third term. Finally, in 2002, term limits were abolished altogether and the age limit raised to 75 (Ben Ali will be 73 in September).

Ben Ali assumed the presidency in 1987, was elected in 1989 and re-elected in 1994 as the only candidate. Alternative candidates were allowed for the first time in 1999, but Ben Ali won with 99.66% of the vote in 1999 and with 94.48% of the vote in 2004. Next elections are scheduled for October 25.

 

UGANDA

Parliament removed the two-term limit from the 1995 constitution in 2005 as President Yoweri Museveni was reaching the end of his second term. The changes also introduced a multiparty system.

Yoweri Museveni took power in 1986 and held elections, which he won, in 1996. He was re-elected in 2001 and 2006. Next elections are in 2011.

 

ZAMBIA

Frederick Chiluba was elected in 1991 and re-elected in 1996. He wanted to run for a third term in 2001 but failed to win support for his bid to change the rules. The president is currently limited to two five-year terms.

Chiluba’s successor, Levy Mwanawasa died in office in 2008. He was succeeded by his vice president, Rupiah Banda, who was then elected to the post in October of the same year. Next elections are to take place in 2011.

 

Date created : 2009-10-23

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