Separation of Executive, Legislative, and Judicial Powers
In 1992, a national referendum approved a new constitution that permits multiparty politics. According to the constitution, Djibouti is a republic governed by a president, who is the head of the state. The prime minister is the head of the government and of the Council of Ministers, and is appointed by and accountable to the president. The president is an Issa (Somali), and the prime minister is an Afar; cabinet posts are also roughly divided between these two groups and of the 65 members of parliament, 33 are Issa and 32 Afar. The president of the Supreme Court is an Issa.
The president of the republic is elected by direct universal election for a six-year term of office and for a maximum of two terms. Candidates for the presidency must be presented by a regularly constituted political party and represented by at least 25 members of the Chamber of Deputies, which is the legislative branch. The constitution specifies that when the office of the president falls vacant, the president of the Supreme Court assumes power as the head of state for a minimum of 20 days and a maximum of 35 days, during which period a new president is elected.
The 1981 constitution established a single-party system, but the new one, passed by a national referendum on September 4, 1992, allows a multi-party system with a maximum of four parties. The restriction on the number of parties was lifted in September 2002.
The constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of language, race, sex, or religion. It ensures the right to own property and guarantees freedoms of religion, speech, association, and organized labor. The constitution also provides for the inviolability of the family, home, correspondence, and communications. It states that the accused is innocent until proven guilty, and has the right to legal counsel and to be examined by a doctor if imprisoned. The law also requires that the authorities obtain a warrant before conducting searches on private property. Trials are public.
Articles 75 to 82 of the Constitution establish the Constitutional Council. It has juridical competence in three areas. Firstly, it is empowered with judicial review to insure the constitutionality of legislation and governmental decisions. Secondly, it hears legal cases related to electoral processes. The council is also to be consulted by the president in cases where he deems exceptional measures necessary for the protection of the nation. In such a case the council's opinion is published in the Journal Officiel.
Constitutional Amendments and Procedures
Amendments to the constitution must be proposed by one-third of the members of the National Assembly. Following approval by the assembly, a referendum is held, with a simple majority sufficing to pass the amendment. The president may intervene to prevent the referendum from taking place. In such a case the referendum can still be held if two-thirds of the members of the National Assembly must vote in favor. No amendments are permitted that would affect the sovereignty or territorial integrity of Djibouti, or that would alter its republican form of government.