Immediately prior to independence, the Comoros had partial autonomy and were governed by a 31-member Council of Ministers responsible to a Chamber of Deputies. The territory was represented in the French parliament by one senator and by two delegates to the National Assembly. A high commissioner represented the French president. After independence was declared, the Chamber of Deputies was reconstituted as a National Assembly. After the August 1975 coup, the National Assembly was abolished; supreme power was subsequently vested in the National Council of the Institutions, headed by President 'Ali Soilih.
The constitution of 1978, the first for the Comoros, established a Federal Islamic republic. Under this document, as amended in 1982, the president was elected to a six-year term, and there was an elected federal assembly of 42 members. A new constitution was adopted in June 1992, and again in December 2001. The president and 42-member federal assembly are elected by universal suffrage for five-year terms (the president may not serve more than two terms). A 15-member Senate is chosen by regional councils for six-year terms. The prime minister is appointed by the president, as is the cabinet—the Council of Ministers. The constitution stipulates that only parties that win six seats in the federal assembly (two from each island) are permitted to be in the opposition, but if no party accomplishes that, the second most successful party will be in the opposition.
Following the secession and subsequent breakup of the republic in 1997, the Islands created a union consisting of semi-autonomous islands led by their own presidents in addition to the president of the federal government, who retains control over defense, economic policy, and foreign affairs. The three island presidents are also vice presidents of the union. Differences in constitutional interpretation over issues such as rights to revenue generation remained unresolved by late June 2003, and threatened to delay legislative elections indefinitely. The next presidential elections were scheduled for April 2007.