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ISSUE N4, DECEMBER 2001
Page 9 of 9

C O N T E N T S
OF THE ISSUE

white cube Special Guest: Mr. Mosé Tjitendero
white cube Editorial: Albert, Marlene, Melina, Gilberto and the others
white cube Event: UN/IPU Day
white cube Dossier: MPs and the protection of refugees
white cube Activities: Parliaments and the budgetary process including from a gender perspective
white cube Historical Focus: Passy and Cremer sign the decision to launch the First Inter-Parliamentary Conference
white cube IPU and WTO
white cube IPU Field work IPU and UN join hands to usher East Timor into statehood
white cube Parliamentary Developments

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The World of Parliaments
 Parliamentary Developments

Benin

On 24 July 2001, the National Assembly adopted, by 43 votes to 37, a new law amending the Charter of Political Parties. This law requires 120 founding members (10 per department) for the establishment of a political party and forbids defections from parties by stipulating that MPs elected on the ticket of a political party who resign during their term of office will lose their seat and be replaced by their substitute.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

On 21 August 2001, the House of Representatives adopted a new Election Law. The new law was hailed by the international community as it paved the way for the admission of Bosnia and Herzegovina into the Council of Europe. There was, however, some criticism as the law, in line with what is established in the Constitution, only allows voters to cast ballots for members of their own ethnic group in elections for the three-member presidency. It also requires that persons living illegally in others' homes vote in the place where they lived before the conflict began in 1992. With this provision, the Election Law aims to minimize the impact of the war, during which over half of the population was displaced.

East Timor

An estimated 93 per cent of the 425,000 registered electors cast votes on 30 August 2001 to choose an 88-member Constituent Assembly with the task of framing a Constitution in preparation for full independence in 2002. Since the withdrawal of Indonesia in the bloody aftermath of the August 1999 referendum on the status of East Timor, the territory had been governed under the auspices of the UN Transitional Administration for East Timor. East Timor is scheduled to accede to statehood on 20 May 2002.

Greece

In April 2001, the Constitution was amended to introduce a new article in the chapter relating to Organization of the Administration. This new article provides that wherever an independent authority is stipulated by the Constitution, its members are appointed for a fixed term of office and enjoy personal and functional independence.

Guinea

Some 98 percent of the voters at a referendum on 11 November 2001 supported the amendment of the Constitution, while 1.64 percent vote against, according to the official results. The participation rate reported by the government was 87 percent, while opposition sources estimated turnout at less than 20 percent. Of the six articles submitted to the vote, articles 24 and 89 were the most controversial. The first one lengthens the presidential term of office from five to seven years and allows presidents to stay in office indefinitely. Article 89 stipulates that local government officials are to be nominated by the President instead of being elected.

India

On 25 November 2001, at a conference on "Discipline and decorum in Parliament and state legislatures", presiding officers, chief ministers, parliamentary affairs ministers, and leaders and whips of parties unanimously agreed upon an exhaustive resolution incorporating a strict code of conduct for members of Parliament. The conference was convened by Lok Sabha Speaker Balayogi in the wake of widespread concern over growing disruption of legislative proceedings by unruly members, and was attended by over 300 leaders including Prime Minister Vajpayee and opposition leader Sonia Gandhi. The resolution requires that MPs refrain from storming the well of the House, speaking out of turn, questioning the Speaker's ruling and generally interrupting any member while he/she is speaking. It also bars them from calling out slogans and from tearing off documents in the House in protest. Members found violating this code can be admonished, reprimanded, censured, asked to withdraw from the House or even suspended for a specific period.

Italy

Final results from the 7 October 2001 referendum showed clear support for shifting power from the central government to the country's regions. Some 70 percent of voters backed the proposals put forward by the previous centre-left government that give the 20 regional authority bodies more say over taxation, education and environmental policy. The result was valid despite a low turnout - only 24 percent of the nearly 50 million eligible voters. The referendum was Italy's first on constitutional change for almost 50 years.

Jordan

In July 2001, the Government issued the Provisional Election Law, paving the way for the July 2002 parliamentary elections. These had been scheduled for November 2001, but in April 2001 King Abdullah had extended the term of the House of Representatives. The new law allocates a party list countrywide, including 40 new seats, in addition to electing 80 members of parliament on the basis of the "one-person, one-vote principle". As a result, the citizen will cast two votes, one for a candidate on their constituency and another for the list. The new law also lowers the minimum voting age from 19 to 18 and provides that the number of seats set aside for constituencies with high population density like Amman and al-Zarqa will be increased.

Kiribati

On 13 June 2001, Parliament took the decision to set up two Committees. The first has the task of reviewing the Rules of Procedure, while the second is responsible for revising the salaries and allowances of the members of Parliament and submiting a bill to Parliament with a view to amending the Act governing the salaries and allowances of MPs.

Malawi

In June 2001, by 131 votes to 39, the National Assembly passed a new law on defections by members of Parliament . The new instrument states that an MP who defects from a party will lose his or her constituency seat, and that a by-election will then be held for the vacant seat.

Slovakia

On 23 February 2001, the National Council of the Slovak Republic approved an amendment to the 1993 Constitution which came into force on 1 July 2001. The stated objective of these changes was to strengthen the position of citizens as the source of all power in the State, to strengthen machinery for protecting constitutionality, to deepen and broaden possibilities for direct democracy, and to make the established regulatory constitutional relationships transparent and precise. The amendment creates the necessary conditions for fulfilling the obligations of the Slovak Republic deriving from ratified international agreements; strengthens the position of the judicial authority and broadens the jurisdiction of the Constitutional Court; as well as creates the constitutional framework for the future functioning of the Public Defender of Rights. Lastly, it removes illegitimate advantages of the Members of the National Council in the area of their constitutional protection as well as spells out the jurisdiction of the Supreme Audit Office.

Sri Lanka

On 25 September 2001, Parliament adopted, by a two-thirds majority, a bill to establish a Constitutional Council. The 10-member council is intended to remove political influence from key institutions and is empowered to appoint independent commissions for public service, the judiciary, the police and elections.

The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

A package of 15 constitutional amendments aimed at giving the large Albanian minority more rights passed with a two-thirds majority on 16 November 2001 after weeks of haggling and delay. The amendments were specified in the Ohrid peace agreement, which was signed in August 2001 and ended seven months of violence between ethnic Albanian rebels and government forces. The vote to ratify the new Constitution came after the amendments were approved one by one by a large majority, 94 to 14. The amendments include provisions regulating the use and status of the Albanian language, provisions regarding the equitable representation of ethnic Albanians in State institutions, and the new wording of the preamble to the Constitution. The original wording setting that "Macedonia is the national state of the Macedonian people" was revised because the 23 percent Albanian minority felt that it made them second-class citizens. The Albanians were named alongside the Turks and other minorities as "nationalities." The new wording avoids any reference to minorities or nationalities, thus giving them a more equal status.

Turkey

On 3 October 2001, Parliament adopted, by 474 votes to 16, 34 changes to the Constitution. The Constitution was drafted after a military coup in 1980. Among the reforms is an article abolishing capital punishment except in times of war and for acts of terrorism and another allowing the Kurdish minority to use their own language in broadcasting and publication. However, the Government will still be able to ban Kurdish broadcasts if it views them as a threat to national security. Other key amendments will make it harder to ban political parties and will increase the number of civilians on the National Security Council, a body dominated by the military. These amendments were aimed at improving Turkey's chances of joining the European Union, as entry to the EU is barred to any country which allows the death penalty.

The reform package also contained two other amendments that were rejected. The first would have revised eligibility criteria to allow people convicted of "ideological or anarchic acts" to run for Parliament while barring those convicted of "terrorist acts", whereas the other amendment aimed at facilitating the lifting of parliamentary immunity.

Zimbabwe

Parliament passed the Political Parties (Finance) Act Number 4 of 2001, the main legal impact of which is to prohibit foreign donations to political parties and candidates contesting the parliamentary elections.

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