The first written constitution was proclaimed by Emperor Haile Sillasie-I, on November 3, 1931 shortly after his coronation staged on July 16, 1931.The constitution is said to be that the gift of the Emperor on his will conferred to his people upon his coronation.
The constitution was introduced with the intention of transforming the country from old and traditional administration to modern bureaucracy .On top of that, to show the world that Ethiopia was being ruled by constitutional monarchy. The Emperor had set up a committee of 11 members who were selected from landed aristocracy. The committee was presided over by renowned aristocrat, Ras Kassa Hailu. To prepare the draft constitution, the committee used to meet on daily base and outlined the details of the constitution on the basis of the following five fundamental points:
The crown of the emperor shall be perpetually transmitted to the descendants of imperial blood, whose line descends from Haile Selassie I, and King Sahle Selassie,
The imperial government assures the union of the Ethiopian nation and territory,
Consolidates the central, imperial government of the Emperor,
The existing , absolute feudalism rule, traditionallyusedbythegovernmentof the emperor, now shall betransformed in toimperial administration havingfull discretion of powerand somehow it shall beassistedby the opinions of theHouse of the Peoples,
The parliament is able to study issues pertained to the right and the obligations of the peoples and consult the Emperor as provided by laws.
Although the Emperor had made utmost effort in order that the nobility and gentries would accept the constitution for its national advantages, public discussion was not held on the draft constitution. Even so there existed the provision of people’s rights from article 18 to 28 in many articles of the constitution, it was expressively stated that the constitution granted legal assurance for the consolidation of imperial regime. For instance, article 2 says ̋The imperial government assures the union of the territory, of the nation and of the law of Ethiopia.̏
The parliament had two advisory chambers of the imperial government: These are Chamber of the Senate and Chamber of the Deputies.
Advisors for Chamber of the Senate (Upper House) shall directly be appointed by Emperor from among the dignitaries (Mekuanent) who had been serving longer as princes or ministers, judges or army leaders. Members of the Senate were responsible to scrutinize and endorse laws and regulations prepared by imperial government which were considered to be important for the national growth and development. Also, it would comment and ratify political and economic agreements that the imperial government concluded with foreign governments.
The 1931 constitution, as a temporary measure, provides that the members of the Chamber of Deputies (Peoples’ Representatives), shall be chosen by the dignitaries (Mekuanent) and the local chiefs (Shumoch) until the people are capable of electing them. However, these advisors, as peoples’ representatives, were unable to pass political decisions on the behalf of the peoples, as they were elected by the government to fulfill formal structure. They were only required to discuss and give comments on matters referred to them by government. They had no power to censure and control the administration. Especially, they were not allowed to call and question ministries of the imperial government. Hence, the parliament became a powerless legislative organ and could not practice modern parliamentary system.
When the constitution revised in 1955, it was decided that members of the Deputies to be elected directly by the peoples. In consequence, 125 members for Chambers of Deputies and 250 members for the Senate were elected. The parliament seemed to have been transformed from advisory status to legislative organ of the imperial government. Also, standing committees were established to scrutinize issues and present resolution to the parliament.
However, even so the 1955 revised constitution stipulated that members of the Chamber of the Deputies to be elected directly by peoples, paradoxically; it became the gathering of rural gult holders (landed aristocrats) and urban feudo- bourgeoisies. Hence, it failed to be a strong political organ and a platform to oppose the Emperor absolute power and the feudalism as a system to safeguard the public interest.
The constitution revised again but it was not proclaimed when the February popular revolution erupted in 1974, consequentially, on September 12, 1974, the emperor had been pitched from power by coup, mounted by military Junta, Dergue. The Dergue, having assumed the state power, dissolved the parliament and declared the country a socialist state.
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