What kind of national council after the Congress?

By Fesseha Nair

Practising parliamentary Democracy in the opposition camp while struggling against the dictatorship

The Eritrean Commission for democratic change is commissioned to prepare national congress where all forces for democratic change participate. The aim of this congress is to energize the struggle and accelerate the fall of current dictatorship and build pact between all the stakeholders. It is to open the door for negotiations and then to manage effectively the process of transition. The commission’s assignment is broad and large so that it needs knowledge and skills to meet the needs of the Eritrean people in its diverse issues and interests.

In this article , I will briefly discuss on the organization, composition and function of the Eritrean National Council for Democratic Change/ ENCDC.


The Eritrean National Council is the Council of Resistance against the dictatorship and serves as a shadow parliament of the Eritrean Opposition forces working for democratic transition in Eritrea. A shadow Parliament is an alternative parliament to the non-functioning transitional parliament of the dictatorship in Eritrea. Eritrea is today a polis state ruled by one man without parliament and constitution. In a democratic political system, the parliament or the legislature is the authoritative institution for the expression and resolution of policy conflict. Its authority is obtained from its representatives in a state and its constitutional status as the supreme law-enacting body.  But, what about the Shadow parliament that will be formed by the congress? The authority of the Shadow parliament will be derived from the representatives of the participants of the broad national congress. The Shadow parliament will act as the main representative body of the opposition forces for democratic change in Eritrea reflecting the society’s divergent opinions at the political level. It is thus able expressing and resolving the wide range of conflicts within the Eritrean society. The Shadow Parliament creates the conditions for the emergence of cooperative antagonists, thus even though they disagree on public policies but they agree on structure and rules providing them the basis for the expression of their conflicts.

Practising such norms and procedures can give them necessary skills for the future when they get the mandate from the public.

The opposition forces for democratic change can practice how to resolve conflicts at the legislative arena. The Shadow parliament is the platform where a new democratic system is introduced while struggling against the dictatorship.

The formation of “Shadow Parliaments” were experienced in many countries during their struggle against dictators or colonialists.

Composition of the Shadow Parliament

The composition of the Shadow Parliament depends on the Size and Number of the opposition forces who participated at the congress. The assumed congress that will be convened by the Eritrean National Commission for democratic change will be open and wide that all with goodwill be invited to participate, if the case is so, then the composition will be diverse including all forces for democratic change, namely political organizations, civil society organizations, trade unions, women and youth associations, independents, elders and veterans. The composition will be all inclusive, for example, if the number of the congress participants is to be over 1500 the council members can be 251 representing all proportionally.

The election of the Shadow Parliament during the congress must be proposed by the electorate commission and be presented at the congress, or the ombudsman can nominate their representatives and then be elected at the congress. Members of the shadow parliament should have sufficient educational and professional skills to be capable legislators.

How can the Shadow Parliament organised and function?

The elected or appointed shadow parliament can organize its functions by the mechanism of forming committees ranging from 10 to 15 in every legislature. This mechanism makes the members of the shadow parliament more active and engaged in their specific affairs. For example, a shadow parliaments committee for foreign relations work with the issues of foreign policies. It proposes policies or legislations and brings it to the shadow parliament for final voting on the floor. Different committees are formed to address specific topical subjects.

The Eritrean National Council of Resistance can divide its members in committees.  As I early mentioned the shadow parliament can elect an executive government and the executive body must also form committees on specific topical subjects. For example, the foreign executive must have a committee working within the foreign policies.

The shadow parliament and the shadow executive can assemble in plenary session two times a year. The shadow parliament must have its own rules and procedures by which legislation is proposed and decided. Rules are very important they prescribe and define the relationship between majority and minority. Rules permit the majority to act within defined procedures and thus within defined limits. The advantage of stable rules of procedure is that all members of the shadow parliament can know and work within the same framework. Decisions can be passed by voting or consensus depending on their importance.

The shadow parliament should elect a presiding officer.

( Speaker, president ) vice- president who heads the parliament and oversees the rules and procedures. One or more central governing bodies will assist the president officer in creating the committee structure in issuing bills to committees the legislature schedule and resolving disputes over both the schedules and procedures.

The Shadow Parliament will require full time professional support staff to function both efficiency and expertise. A staff will be required for the clerical functions of recording debates and votes during the meetings. The Shadow Parliament should provide training courses to its members how parliament democracy works. The seat of the shadow parliament will be decided at the congress.

The Shadow Executive elected by the Shadow parliament must be from the political organizations working fulltime in politics, while the Shadow Parliament members are free time politicians. Members of the Shadow Executive are at the same time members of the Shadow parliament.( British Model)  The Shadow Executive and the Shadow parliament should work collectively and as equals to avoid authoritarianism.


This article is to lead for discussion on the expected formation of an institution of the legislature as an instrument of conflict resolving in the Eritrean National forces for democratic change. Designing for these institutions is crucial at this time if the opposition is to succeed in transition to democracy. Many can ask, how can the Eritrean opposition build such institutions at this time while they are still struggling against the dictator. Transition from dictatorship to democracy in Eritrea is now ready, the tyranny in Eritrea have lost national and international legitimacy and to gain this legitimacy the opposition must show their maturity by showing the international, regional and national communities that they are ready to transfer the power to the people.


  1. 1. Attila. 1995. The Experience of the first democratic parliaments in East Central Europe.
  2. 2. Olson, David M. 1995. “ Parliament by Design” , East European constitutional Review.
  3. 3. Malcolm Shaw, Committees in Legislatures

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