Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

S. Africa's Ruling Party Presents Draft Program Leaked Version of Constitution Is Strikingly Similar to ANC Position

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

S. Africa's Ruling Party Presents Draft Program Leaked Version of Constitution Is Strikingly Similar to ANC Position

Article excerpt

THE ruling National Party has proposed a new constitution for South Africa which would create a multiparty democracy, outlaw all racial discrimination, and ensure representation for the main parties in both the Cabinet and the executive.

According to the draft proposals - the result of 18 months of intense debate and preparation - the current post of president would be replaced by an executive council of between three to five members who would appoint a multiparty Cabinet.

The proposals break with tradition by proposing a federal system based on nine semiautonomous regions and establishing a system of proportional representation - rather than voting districts - as the basis for one house of a two-house Parliament. Positions similar

The draft proposals for a new constitution - to be presented at a rare Federal Congress of the National Party next week - are strikingly similar to the position of the African National Congress as reflected in proposals discussed at its national conference in Durban last month (July 2-6).

Once approved by the party, the proposals will form the National Party's mandate at an all-party conference which could be held before the end of the year. The purpose of the conference, which will include all legitimate parties, is to endorse a set of constitutional principles, agree on the form of an interim government and the forum that will draw up the new constitution.

Political scientists say the proposals amount to a federal system in everything but name. A "federal system" is a politically loaded term in South African politics, especially in the National Party, because it has traditionaly been the stand of the liberal opposition and has been strenuously resisted by successive National Party governments. It is the favored system of the liberal Democratic Party. But the ANC has always backed a unitary state - where power is centralized - as federalism smacks of compromise in radical blacks circles. …

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