The 1987 constitution established the office of president.
Theoretically, the Council of State ruled along with the
president and exercised legislative oversight in relation to
other branches of government. In reality, however, the
office of the president in particular and the executive
branch in general were the most powerful branches of
government. The president was able to act with considerable
independence from the National Shengo.
Although the constitution stipulated that the president was
accountable to the National Shengo, Mengistu demonstrated
repeatedly that there was no authority higher than his own
office. By law he was responsible for presenting members of
his executive staff and the Supreme Court to the National
Shengo for election. At the same time, the president, "when
compelling circumstances warrant it" between sessions of the
National Shengo, could appoint or relieve the prime
minister, the deputy prime minister, and other members of
the Council of Ministers; the president, the vice president,
and Supreme Court judges; the prosecutor general; the
chairman of the National Workers' Control Committee; and the
auditor general. The National Shengo was by law supposed to
act on such decrees in its next regular session, but this
appeared to be only pro forma.
The president, who could be elected to an indefinite number
of successive five-year terms, had to submit nominations for
appointment to the Council of Ministers (his cabinet) to the
National Shengo for approval. However, by the time
nominations reached the National Shengo for consideration,
their appointment was a foregone conclusion. In practice,
President Mengistu would chose individuals for particular
offices without any apparent input from the National Shengo,
the WPE, or the Council of State.
The president, who was also commander in chief of the armed
forces, was also responsible for implementing foreign and
domestic policy, concluding international treaties, and
establishing diplomatic missions. If he deemed it necessary,
the president could rule by decree.
Data as of 1991