Death of Opposition

THE government is pushing for far-reaching constitutional changes that will concentrate more powers in the Presidency and the executive branch of the State, while diluting parliament and crippling the opposition, documents seen by The Namibian show.

Prime Minister Hage Geingob, Presidential Affairs Minister Albert Kawana and law reform commissioner Sackey Shanghala have been conducting selective consultations with opposition parties to get their support for the speedy approval of the amendments ahead of the upcoming elections.

No explanation has been given why all of the amendments are being considered urgent.

Some of the proposed changes are that parties getting less than 5% of votes will not have parliamentary seats that the President’s appointments to the National Assembly will not only increase from six to eight but will have full voting rights and powers as elected members some powers of the National Council will be clipped and the security commission, which used to recommend appointments to the President will now play an aisory role.

In addition, the National Council would no longer make any changes to the budget.

The amendments also seek to remove regional councils’ powers and give them to the governors who are appointed by the President.

There will be a vice president while the appointment of the deputy Prime Minister will not be mandatory. This move could effectively strip the Office of the Prime Minister of all the powers and transfer them to the Presidency.

Part of the constitutional changes also proposes that the President would appoint the head of the national intelligence services, which is currently existing under an Act of Parliament.

The functions of the security commission would be limited to aisory rather than recommending to the President who to appoint as chief of police, chief of defence and prisons chief. This could effectively give the President power to side-step the commission.

Judicial reforms are also part of the constitutional overhaul, with the head of the High Court’s title changed to deputy Chief Justice from the current Judge President. The new head would be appointed by the Presidency.

Furthermore, the amendments say that the Judiciary shall be a self-accounting State organ headed by the Chief Justice, who shall supervise it, but shall have a permanent secretary.

The wholesale changes are seen by many as a move by Geingob to centralise power on the Presidency in preparation for his possible takeover next year in the event that he will not get Swapo’s full support.

Recent media reports suggest that tension in Swapo are so high that the relationship between Geingob and President Hifikepunye Pohamba are not cordial.

Pohamba backed Geingob to retain his Swapo Vice Presidency in the run-up to the 2012 elective congress.

Should government gets its way, it will mean that almost all political parties in the country would not qualify for a National Assembly seat.

A basic calculation shows that for the current 72 seats a political party will have to gain a minimum of three seats to qualify to go to parliament, while if government also gets its way and pushes the composition of the National Assembly to 96 seats, it would mean that any political party should first qualify for five seats if it is to have a presence in the National Assembly.

Should these changes have been applied in the 2004 elections only DTA, CoD and Swapo could have made it to parliament while the same would have meant that after the 2009 elections, only RDP and Swapo would have qualified for National Assembly seats.

Apart from the widely reported move to increase the number of seats in the National Assembly, the constitutional amendments also seek to limit the review powers of the national council, although it does recommend an increase on the number of seats in the National council.

Source : The Namibian