by Juakali Kambale
The Democratic Republic of Congo is in the process of developing a new constitution, which should pave the way for general elections scheduled for later this year.
The draft constitution was adopted by parliament in May, but before entering into force, the new constitution has to be submitted to a referendum.
Analysts say the draft constitution is the most liberal the country has ever had. According to the new constitution the president can be elected for a maximum of two five-year terms.
Unlike the previous constitution, the president of the republic will no longer be the head of government. The president will share the executive powers with a prime minister elected from the leading political parties in the parliament. However, the president remains in charge of defence, security and foreign policy.
The new constitution has also set a minimum age limit of 30 years for presidential candidacy. This allows incumbent President Joseph Kabila, who is 33 years old, to run as a presidential candidate in the forthcoming elections.
The issue of the age limit came about after numerous consultations and debates in parliament between the pro-Kabila wing which, on one hand was defending a powerful presidency while on the other hand, the opposition wing was supporting a parliamentary regime with an executive led by a prime minister.
The international community also played a role in the drafting of the constitution especially with regards to the powers given to the president.
"We have provided funding in the DRC peace process and do not want it to be disturbed by some political leaders who want to restore the dictatorship," Louis Michel, the European Commissioner for Development said in early May in Kinshasa.
The new constitution will enable DRC to organise national elections. The elections, which had been scheduled for June 2005 according to the peace agreement signed in Sun City, have been rescheduled for later this year.
The postponement is a result of a delay in providing the legal documents enabling the Independent Electoral Commission to organise the elections. The president of the commission, Apollinaire Malu Malu, requested parliament to postpone the elections by six months.
In addition, two important documents, namely the electoral law and the referendum law are required before preparations for the elections begin. If necessary, the Independent Electoral Commission is allowed to request postponement by a further six months.
Opposition political parties do not agree with the postponement and have insisted that elections should be organised according to the Sun City agreement.
This disagreement has resulted in threats to peace in Mbujimayi and eastern Kasai province, where riots took place soon after President Kabila announced the possibility of a postponement of the elections.
The draft constitution states that new provinces will be created. Currently the DRC has a total of 11 provinces. Ten new provinces to be created under the new constitution, will be widely decentralised, both politically and economically.
According to the new constitution, 40 percent of taxes will remain in the provinces while 60 percent will be sent to the central government. (SARDC)