Mozambican President Armando Guebuza declared on Saturday that the establishment of the Constitutional Council, the body that rules on all constitutional matters, is a key part in the edifice of the rule of law.
Speaking on Saturday, at the inauguration of the new premises of the Constitutional Council, Guebuza said "The advantages of setting up a specific body to inspect legislative acts is of great importance in strengthening the rule of law".
The council was established under the Constitution of 1990, but for well over a decade no judges were appointed to it, and so its functions were exercised by the Supreme Court. Only in 2003 was the Constitutional Council physically established.
Its main tasks are to proclaim and validate election results, acting as the final court of appeal in election disputes, and to rule on issues of constitutional law.
Under its electoral mandate, it must also rule whether candidates in presidential elections are eligible, and whether political parties and coalitions have been legally formed. In the event of the President becoming unable to perform his duties, it is the Council that must declare his incapacity.
Outside of election periods, the task which takes up most of the Council's time is determining whether laws or other normative acts of state bodies are in line with the constitution. Key figures of state (such as the President, the Prime Minister, the chairperson of parliament, or the attorney-general) may ask the council to declare particular pieces of legislation unconstitutional.
So may a third of the members of parliament, and any 2,000 individual citizens.
The latest ruling of the Council, on 6 November, was to declare unconstitutional a decree by Guebuza establishing the Coordinating Legality and Justice Council (CCLJ), on the grounds that this exceeded his powers and violated the separation of the executive, the legislature and the judiciary.
Legal and Judicial Affairs
Guebuza showed no signs of resentment and declared that setting up the Constitutional Council allows permanent control over the legislature and other sovereign bodies, thus safeguarding the continued consolidation of the rule of law.
The chairperson of the Constitutional Council, Rui Baltazar, pledged that the Council will do all in its power not to disappoint those who deposit their trust in the highest bodies of the Mozambican state.
The premises of the council are not new, but have been completely rehabilitated, thus giving the seven judges of the Constitutional Council and their support staff adequate space from which to work.