Constitution of Angola
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Since gaining independence from Portugal in 1975, there have been three constitutions of Angola. The first came into force in 1975 as an "interim" measure; the second was approved in 1992, and the third one was instituted in 2010.
Independent Angola's first constitution dedicates the new republic to eliminating the vestiges of Portuguese colonialism. The Constitution provides numerous guarantees of individual freedom and prohibits discrimination based on color, race, ethnic identity, sex, place of birth, religion, level of education, and economic or social status. The Constitution also promises freedom of expression and assembly.
Constitutional revisions in 1976 and 1980 more clearly establish the national goal of a revolutionary socialist, one-party state. As revised, the Constitution vests sovereignty in the Angolan people, guaranteed through the representation of the party, and promises to implement "people's power." It also emphasizes the preeminence of the People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) as policy-making body and makes the government subordinate to it. Government officials are responsible for implementing party policy. Economic development is founded on socialist models of cooperative ownership.
Other constitutional guarantees include health care, access to education, and state assistance in childhood, motherhood, disability, and old age. In return for these sweeping guarantees, each individual is responsible for participating in the nation's military defense, voting in official elections, serving in public office if appointed or elected, working (which is considered a duty), and generally aiding in the socialist transformation.
Despite its strong socialist tone, the Constitution guarantees the protection of private property and private business activity within limits set by the state. National economic goals are to develop agriculture and industry, establish just social relations in all sectors of production, foster the growth of the public sector and cooperatives, and implement a system of graduated direct taxation. Social goals include combating illiteracy, promoting the development of education and a national culture, and enforcing strict separation of church and state, with official respect for all religions.
The Constitution also outlines Angola's defense policy. It explicitly prohibits foreign military bases on Angolan soil or affiliation with any foreign military organization. It institutionalizes the People's Armed Forces for the Liberation of Angola (FAPLA) as the nation's army and assigns it responsibility for defense and national reconstruction. Military conscription applies to both men and women over the age of eighteen.
The 1975 constitution was completely rewritten, and amended in March 6, 1991 and August 26, 1992 to allow for a multiparty democratic republic, in the form of a presidential system - starting with multiparty elections and direct election of the president.
On 21 January 2010 the National Assembly of Angola approved a new constitution to replace the interim constitution in effect since independence in 1975. The constitution was passed, in its entirety, by 186 votes in favour and none against, with two assembly members abstaining. The constitution has been drafted by a committee of 60 parliamentarians, advised by 19 experts and a public consultation, and contains 244 articles. The vote was boycotted by the opposition National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) party which claimed that the process was flawed and undermined democracy. The ruling party, MPLA, had an 81% majority on the constitution committee, equal to their parliamentary majority. The constitution will need to be approved by President José Eduardo dos Santos and the Constitutional Court but both steps are seen as formalities.
The new constitution establishes a government similar to those currently operative in South Africa and Botswana. It names the President of Angola as Head of State, Head of the Executive and Commander-in-Chief of the Angolan Armed Forces. The new constitution abolishes direct election of the president; the person heading the list of candidates of the majority party in the assembly will automaticvally become president, and nr. 2 of the list vice-president. The president is limited to two five-year terms by the constitution but would not count the 30-year term already served by dos Santos and would start from the next parliamentary elections in 2012, allowing him to remain president until 2022. The post of Prime Minister will be abolished, with the role assumed by the vice-president. The Assembly retains the right to remove the president from office but this decision must be approved by the Supreme Court. The constitution clarifies the ambiguous land rights that existed in Angola, stating that all land is owned by the state, which can decide who is entitled to use it. The state will only provide land rights to Angolan nationals or companies registered in Angola.
The constitution will give the president the power to appoint judges to the Constitutional and Supreme courts and also appoint the head of the Court of Audits, which is responsible for reviewing public expenditure. The document also maintains the present status of Cabinda, an exclave of Angola which is claimed by Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (FLEC) separatists, as a part of Angola. The current national flag (which is similar to the flag used by the MPLA during the Angolan Civil War) is retained, freedom of religion and the press is guaranteed and the death penalty remains banned.
The new constitution was hailed as "a day of victory and happiness for the people of Angola" by Fernando da Piedade Dias dos Santos, then president of the National Assembly, and Bornito de Sousa, who chaired the constitutional commission, said that the charter was "a reflection of equality, of good sense, and true representation of the electorate". However, UNITA member Raul Danda stated that the constitution was "a complete fraud" and that his party was wearing black "because it's like going to the graveyard to bury democracy". UNITA's parliamentary leader Alda Juliana Paulo Sachiambo also spoke out against the new constitution saying that it gave "excessive executive power" to dos Santos. Head of Katiava Bwila University, political scientist Paulo de Carvalho, has spoken against the UNITA claims and said that the party-list system is used in democracies in Europe, Asia and South Africa and that the new document contains many clauses that were in the old constitution.
The original vote of the constitution had been expected in March but was moved to January. There has been speculation that this was to avoid public debate on the matter by holding the vote at the same time that Angola hosts the 2010 African Cup of Nations. Dos Santos had said that as soon as the constitution is passed he will reduce the size of the government and reduce the opportunities for officials to engage in corrupt activities. Angola currently ranks in the top 18 most corrupt countries, according to Transparency International.
- Rita M. Byrnes. "The Constitution". Angola: A country study (Thomas Collelo, ed.). Library of Congress Federal Research Division (February 1989). This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
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