The Constitution

Ivory Coast Table of Contents

On October 31, 1960, the National Assembly of Côte d'Ivoire adopted the Constitution establishing an independent republic. The 1960 Constitution calls for a strong, centralized presidential system with an independent judiciary and a national legislature.

As in much of the Ivoirian political system, French influence weighed heavily in the preparation of the Constitution. HouphouëtBoigny and its other authors had received much of their formal political education and experience in France, and Houphouët-Boigny himself had served in successive French governments in the 1950s. Not unexpectedly, the 1960 Constitution was largely taken (often verbatim) from the 1958 constitution of the Fifth Republic of France. Like its French counterpart, the Ivoirian Constitution declares that all power derives from the people and is expressed through universal suffrage. It also mandates the separation of executive and legislative authority with limits on the power of the former.

In its preamble, the Constitution proclaims its dedication to liberal democratic principles and inalienable human rights as expressed in the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen and the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Under the rubric "Of the State and Sovereignty," the initial articles of the Constitution describe the symbols of the state--the flag, the motto, and the national anthem--and name French the official language. Articles 3 through 7 delineate the fundamental rights and principles pertaining to Ivoirian citizenship: universal suffrage, popular sovereignty, and equality before the law. Significantly, in light of the government's subsequent coercive support of a single political party, Article 7 of the 1960 Constitution formally allows a multiparty system.

The first chapter of the Constitution directs that the government consist of executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The three subsequent chapters of the Constitution list the powers accruing to each. The Ivoirian Constitution provides for a strong executive, although it couches the language of power in democratic terms. For example, in keeping with the articulated principle of popular sovereignty, the Constitution provides that the National Assembly shall vote laws and consent to taxes but then limits the assembly's power by specifying exactly the matters on which the legislature may act. Matters constitutionally excluded from the legislature's purview automatically fall within that of the executive and are dealt with either by decree or by regulation. The Constitution also stipulates that the executive and the National Assembly share the power to initiate legislation, but the pertinent article appears in the chapter dealing with executive--not legislative--responsibilities. In fact, for most of Côte d'Ivoire's brief history as an independent republic, nearly all legislative programs have originated with the president and have been rubber-stamped by the assembly.

The Constitution also calls for a separate judiciary. As with the legislature, however, the Constitution makes the judiciary subordinate to the individual who guarantees its independence, that is, the president. The Constitution neither establishes nor protects a judiciary independent of or opposed to the government. The Constitution does provide for the Supreme Court and a subordinate court system; nevertheless, it does not stipulate the exact structure of the judiciary, a task that officially was to be done by the National Assembly. In fact, the assembly simply approved the president's plan.

The ninth chapter of the Constitution establishes the Economic and Social Council (Conseil Economique et Social), the purpose of which is to advise the president on matters pertaining to economic development and social change. The final two chapters provide procedures for amending and adopting the Constitution.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress