The 1959 constitution was suspended after the January 1966 coup, and the National Assembly was dissolved. An imperial constitution issued in December 1976 lapsed with Bokassa's fall in 1979. A new constitution was promulgated on 6 February 1981 after 97.4% of the voters had approved it in a referendum. It provided for the election of a president and National Assembly by universal adult suffrage, and it allowed multiple parties. It was suspended after the military coup of 1 September 1981. All executive and legislative power was assumed by the ruling Military Committee for National Recovery (Comité Militaire pour le Redressement National), headed by Gen. André Kolingba. This committee was disbanded in 1985. A new constitution adopted by plebiscite on 21 November 1986 established a one-party state and a 52-member National Assembly; simultaneously, Kolingba was elected unopposed to a six-year term as president. The National Assembly provided a forum for debate, but it had little substantive impact on government policy.
In 1991, Kolingba was forced to legalize opposition parties. After the Supreme Court invalidated a 1992 election, new elections were conducted successfully in September 1993. For the 1993 elections, the unicameral National Assembly was enlarged to 85 members. Kolingba was defeated. A new president, Ange-Félix Patassé, was installed and a graceful transition to multiparty democracy took place. The new coalition government was headed by the MLPC and included members of three other parties. The Economic and Regional Council advises the National Assembly. Constitutional reforms passed by referendum in 1994 and instituted in 1995 and 1996 created a stronger prime minister, a constitutional court, and created regional assemblies. On 15 March 2003, former army chief François Bozizé seized power in a coup, declared himself president, dissolved parliament, and suspended the constitution.
Prior to the March 2003 coup, the constitution provided for an independent judiciary, although it was subject to executive interference. The president could veto legislation, although the legislature could override his veto, and he could rule by decree under special conditions. Members of the National Assembly served five-year terms. Suffrage was universal at age 21. After his assumption of power, Bozizé indicated he would appoint a transitional council to replace the National Assembly, and that elections would soon be held. He did not indicate when those elections would be held, however.
The ruling MLPC emerged from the November and December 1998 elections with 47 seats out of the expanded 109-member national assembly. The RDC got 20 seats, and nine other parties and independents shared the remaining 42 seats. The opposition had a parliamentary majority, which was reversed with the defection of an opposition member of parliament to the government side and its allies. In June 1999, the new Prime Minister Anicet Goerges Dologuele of MLPC formed a 25-member cabinet in which four portfolios went to the opposition. In the previous government of national unity the opposition had 10 cabinet positions.