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FACTBOX-Angola approves new constitution

Jan 21 (Reuters) - Angola’s ruling MPLA party used its two-thirds parliamentary majority to approve a new constitution on Thursday which critics say will increase President Jose Eduardo dos Santos three-decade-long grip on power. [ID:nLDE60K0RV]

Here are the main points in the new constitution:

ELECTIONS - The new charter will allow dos Santos, who has never been elected, to remain in power without having to run in a direct ballot. Instead, the president will be chosen as the leader of the party with the biggest share of the vote in parliamentary elections. The president’s mandate runs for a maximum of two five-year terms. Elections are expected to take place in 2012.

PRESIDENTIAL POWERS - The constitution keeps the president as the head of state, the holder of the executive power and commander-in-chief of the armed forces. It replaces the prime minister with a vice president, ensuring the president will be more involved in running day-to-day affairs of state.

JUDICIARY - The president appoints judges to the Constitutional and Supreme courts. The president also appoints the head of the Court of Audits -- the high-court in Angola responsible for reviewing legal issues on public expenditure.

CABINDA - The new constitution maintains the status of Angola’s oil-producing exclave of Cabinda, where separatists from FLEC have waged more than three decades of war against the government, as part of the nation’s territory. This month FLEC fatally attacked the Togo soccer team as it travelled in Cabinda.

LAND - The land belongs to the state. Only the state has the right to grant land concessions and these concessions can only be given out to Angolan nationals or companies. This means foreign investors must have a local partner or they must set up an Angolan arm to access the land.

FLAG - The new constitution keeps the red and black Angolan flag, which also carries a golden star, a cog wheel and a machete in the middle, unchanged. Like other African nations, the nation’s flag is a slight modification of the ruling MPLA party’s flag and the opposition UNITA party has asked for it to be changed.

RELIGION - The new constitution guarantees freedom of religion in a country where the majority of the population mixes traditional African beliefs in witchcraft with Catholicism.

FREEDOM OF PRESS - The charter protects the freedom of press. The state has a huge sway over the national media - it controls two national television stations, the radio and the country’s only daily newspaper. Some Angolan journalists have in the past been arrested for criticising the government.

DEATH PENALTY - The death penalty remains banned. (Reporting by Henrique Almeida; Editing by Matthew Jones)