Blog

Why does two-thirds matter?

Swapo has enjoyed a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly since 1994 and in the National Council since 1993.

In theory, if Swapo has two-thirds majorities in both the National Council and the National Assembly it can change the Constitution without the agreement of the other parties (Article 132). Since Independence there have been three constitutional amendment acts – most controversially in 1998 to allow for a third term for President Sam Nujoma and in 2014 to enlarge parliament and create a vice-presidency position.

The significance of the two-thirds majority at elections is, however, mainly psychological. The opposition believe that if Swapo falls below the two-thirds mark it would indicate that the ruling party is in decline and that they might be only one or two elections away from gaining a majority and forming a government. For Swapo – being above two-thirds confirms the party as a dominant force and helps reinforce the idea of ‘the Mighty Swapo’ among supporters. We have seen from countries like South Africa and Botswana that once a ruling party falls below two-thirds it tends to continue losing support at subsequent elections.
 
Otherwise, the two-thirds majority can be of significance when it comes to the passing of bills. So for example, the President has no choice but to assent to a bill that has been passed by two-thirds of the National Assembly and confirmed by the National Council. The National Assembly can also pass a bill by a two-thirds majority even if the National Council has objections to the draft law.
 
The two-thirds majority can also be used to approve certain far-reaching decisions such as:
– declaration of a state of emergency
– removal of the president from office
– reversing presidential appointments
– holding sessions of the National Assembly in camera
– removal from office of the Auditor-General

The two-thirds majority has not been used to take such actions since independence.
Swapo has mostly been cautious about using its two-thirds majority to change the constitution although the wisdom of the 1998 third term amendment is still debated while civil society felt there was not enough consultation regarding the 2014 changes.

IPPR has argued that major changes to the constitution should at least be the subject of national consultations and possibly referenda rather than simply being at the whim of the ruling party.

Date.

12 Nov 2019

Share.