October 23, 2003

Chairperson of Constitutional Council appointed

Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano appointed former justice minister Rui Baltazar as chairperson of the Constitutional Council, which is the institution that should decide whether statutory and legislative acts of state bodies are in line with the Mozambican constitution. It also settles conflicts between sovereign state bodies and supervises elections. It should take final decisions on any electoral complaints and validate election results. Since its decisions are final the Constitution explicitly states that there can be no appeal against.

The Constitutional Council is envisaged in the 1990 constitution, but only now it is being established. For the past 13 years, its powers have been exercised on an interim basis by the Supreme Court. The first four members of the Council are virtually in place, with Chissano appointing the chair, and the Assembly due to elect its three members on Friday, Oct 24. It is already known who these are - the majority Frelimo party is proposing one of its leading parliamentary figures, constitutional lawyer Teodato Hunguana, and the director of the law faculty at Maputo's Eduardo Mondlane University, Lucia Ribeiro. The Renamo-Electoral Union opposition coalition is proposing lawyer Orlando da Graca. These four members of the Council will jointly select a fifth.

70 year old Rui Baltazar is a veteran figure among Mozambican lawyers. He obtained his law degree in the Portuguese University of Coimbra almost half a century ago, in 1956. Baltazar became a clandestine supporter of the liberation movement, Frelimo, and used his legal skills to defend nationalists arrested by the colonial authorities. When Portugal signed the independence agreement with Frelimo in 1974, Baltazar became Minister of Justice in the transitional government. He kept the same job in the first post-independence government. In 1978 he was appointed Minister of Finance, occupying this post until 1986. From 1986 to 1990, Baltazar was Vice-Chancellor of the country's oldest and largest institution of higher education, the Eduardo Mondlane University. He left this managerial post in 1990, and worked as a lecturer in the university's law faculty. From 1994 to 2001 worked as the Mozambican ambassador to the Nordic countries, residing in Stockholm. After his return, he was appointed Chissano's advisor on SADC (Southern African Development Community) matters, the post he has held till his announcement. (Agencia de Informação de Moçambique, Maputo)

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