Somalia Table of Contents

The provisional government called for a new constitution to replace the 1979 document that had been the law of the land at the time of Siad Barre's overthrow. The provisional government created a Ministry of Constitutional Affairs, which was charged with planning for a constitutional convention and revising an October 1990 draft constitution that Siad Barre had proposed in an unsuccessful effort to stem opposition to his rule. As of May 1992, however, the lack of consensus among the USC-dominated government and the various guerrilla groups that controlled more than half of the nation had prevented completion of a final version of the new constitution. Consequently, those provisions of the constitution of 1979 that had not been specifically voided by the interim government remained in force.

Like its 1984 amendments, the constitution of 1979 had been approved in a popular referendum. Somalia had universal suffrage for persons over eighteen years of age, but women did not play a significant role in politics. The constitution of 1979 resembled the constitution of 1961, also approved in a nationwide referendum after the former Italian and British colonies had been unified as independent Somalia. The main difference between the two documents concerned executive power. The constitution of 1961 had provided for a parliamentary democracy, with the prime minister and Council of Ministers (cabinet) being drawn from the membership of the legislature. The legislature also elected the head of state, or president of the republic. The constitution of 1979 provided for a presidential system under which the president served as both head of state and head of government. As head of government, the president selected the members of the Council of Ministers, which he chaired. The constitution of 1979 initially called for the president to be elected to a six-year, renewable term of office by a two-thirds majority vote of the legislature. Constitutional amendments enacted in 1984 provided for direct popular election of the president to a seven-year term. The first presidential election was held in 1986. Siad Barre, the sole candidate, received 99.9 percent of the votes.

Both the 1961 and 1979 constitutions granted broad powers to the president. The constitution of 1979 authorized the president to conduct foreign affairs, declare war, invoke emergency powers, serve as commander in chief of the armed forces, and appoint one or more vice presidents, the president of the Supreme Court, up to six members of the national legislature, and the members of the Council of Ministers. Both constitutions also provided for a unicameral legislature subject to stand for election at least once every five years; the president could dissolve the legislature earlier.

More about the Government of Somalia.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress