The Foreign Minister of the Republic of Congo [embassy website], Jean-Claude Gakosso, embraced the country’s new constitution [UN News Centre] on Saturday before the UN General Assembly [official website], which he said will improve political, economic and social governance. The new constitution, which Gakosso said was “more adapted to the requirements of the rule of law in its most commonly accepted sense,” is structured on the separation of powers, particularly entrenching the independence of the judiciary, and abolishes the death penalty, works towards equalizing education opportunities for both genders, and recognizes fundamental rights of indigenous peoples. In addition, the constitution laid the groundwork for a more participative democracy. Finally, Gakosso reiterated his belief that the new constitution will “improve the political, economic and social governance in [the Congo].”
Last year the Republic of the Congo’s electoral commission announced that voters had approved [JURIST report] an amendment to the constitution [text, PDF, in French] that would allow President Denis Sassou Nguesso to extend his term in office. The amendment, approved by the citizens of the Congo in a referendum, allows presidents to renew [JURIST report] their term twice and removes the age limit for presidential candidates, currently set at 70. Nguesso, who is 72 and serving his second term, would be ineligible for the presidency without the amendment. Before being elected to office in 2002, he also served as president from 1979 to 1992. With the referendum approved, Nguesso plans on seeking another term in office in the next election. While officials claimed a 72 percent voter turnout in the referendum, opposition leaders said turnout was under 10 percent and had called for results to be annulled [VOA report].