Debates, Controversies and New Developments
There are several issues up for debate between Chad’s political leaders. These include among others: the need to establish a framework for political dialogue, the enforcement of the law granting an official status to the opposition, the introduction of a biometric voter registration system, the demilitarization of public administration, and the promotion of social dialogue.
A framework for political dialogue
Since the last elections, the need to create a political framework conducive to dialogue has been a focus of political leaders. This framework would replace the Committee for the monitoring of the August 13, 2007 Political Dialogue whose mandate will soon come to an end. However, the majority and the opposition have diverged for a long time on the form and nature of the proposed framework. Both sides accept the principle of including civil society organizations, but disagree about the composition of the new structure. Indeed the division of the opposition would make it difficult to select its representatives for this new body. To further complicate this situation, some parties that supported President Déby for reelection in the last presidential elections are now perceived as allies of the ruling party, although they still claim that they are opposition parties. An agreement was believed to have been reached, but last minute changes in leadership positions and rejections by the main coalition of opposition parties, (the Coalition of Political Parties for the defense of the Constitution (CPDC), derailed the entire process. Nevertheless, discussions to establish a Framework for National Political Dialogue continue.
Enforcement of the law granting official status to the political opposition
The law granting official status to the political opposition is one of the main reforms to the political structure of Chad. It was passed by the National Assembly on July 20, 2009 and signed into law by the President of the Republic, on August 4, 2009, under the registration number 020/PR/2009. The law guarantees to all political parties the right to be an opposition party (Article 2) and also grants a status for the opposition defined as “all parties or coalition of political parties which do not participate in the cabinet” (Article 3).
The law defining the status of the opposition clarifies the overall political situation. There are political parties that label themselves as part of the opposition or ruling majority according to their changing political interests. This circumstantial positioning is no longer possible. A party is either in the opposition or in the government, but it cannot be in both at the same time. To be a member of the opposition, a party must make a declaration of membership (Article 6). The political opposition is from now on represented by its leader, the President of the opposition party with the largest number of members at the National Assembly (Article 7). If two or more parties have the same number of members at the National Assembly, the leader of the party that received the largest number of valid votes will be the leader of the opposition. The leader of the opposition is treated with the respect commanded by his/her rank in all official ceremonies and receives privileges determined by presidential decree if he/she is not a member of the National Assembly (Article 8). The opposition is consulted by the Head of State or the Prime Minister as necessary, on all issues of national interest, or foreign policy (Article 10). These consultations may be initiated by state authorities or following a request made by the opposition. These consultations may also lead to the appointment of a national unity cabinet following a specific agreement or if the political situation of the country requires that such a cabinet be formed (Article 16).
This legislation has been passed and signed into law, but it has never been enforced because no presidential decree for its implementation has ever been issued. Several emissaries have been sent abroad to compare notes with colleagues in West African countries that have implemented a similar system, but no progress has been made. In fact, the majority has sought to divert this process by attempting to pass a law granting an official status to the presidential majority. Saleh Kebzabo, leader of the opposition party with the largest number of members at the National Assembly, has been waiting for two years for a presidential decree that would officially grant him the title of leader of the opposition, a title by which he is already recognized.
Introduction of biometrics and demilitarization of the public administration
The introduction of a biometric system to produce electoral lists, was agreed upon in the August 13, 2007 Political Agreement and translated into law by the Electoral Code. However, for technical and financial reasons, it was not implemented in the 2011 or 2012 elections. The opposition decided that it must be a prerequisite for the next elections and while in principle it has been accepted, the people continue to wait for it to happen.
Political leaders, mainly in the opposition, continue to demand the de-politicization and demilitarization of public administration. This demand was followed up by the second legislature which produced a report strongly recommending that military personnel and politicians be removed from civil servant positions that are in charge of public administrative services. Most of the governors and prefects (heads of administration in the sous-préfectures) are either senior military officers or senior members of the ruling party who do not care much about administrative duties. The oft noted inefficiencies of Chadian public administration are partly due to the clientelistic nature of this system.
In 2012, the Government of Chad and various trade unions, especially the Union des Syndicats du Tchad (UST), opposed each other in a long dispute. The main issues were about salary increases because of Chad’s high and increasing cost of living. This dispute led to the arrest and conviction of the main leaders of the UST and the censorship of the country’s main independent newspaper, despite that freedom of expression is a right enshrined in the Constitution. There was also a signification escalation in verbal attacks between the Government and the opposition, the former accusing the latter of manipulating unions. Following several openings made by a new cabinet, a relatively peaceful climate returned, but the issues raised by these disputes persist and must be addressed.
Members of the National Assembly belonging to the majority undertook new constitutional amendments not limited to: prohibiting the Head of State from simultaneously being the head of a political party, the life appointment of sitting judges, and the creation of a Public Finances Court. Despite the arguments of the opposition, of judges, and of leaders of human rights organizations, the amendments were passed.
Members of the National Assembly representing the opposition then submitted a dispute which led to the Constitutional Court rejecting all of the amendments. Those who opposed the amendments saluted the Constitutional Court’s ruling.
This post is also available in: Français (French)