ARGENTINA : THE SENATE
I - COMPOSITION
Each province returns three senators plus three senators from the city of de Buenos Aires.
This amounts to 72 members elected by indirect suffrage (until 10 December 2001, when they will be elected by direct suffrage).
The Vice-President of the Nation is ipso facto president of the Senate, although he does not participate in the voting unless the vote is split (the senate appoints a pro tempore president). The president chairs joint sessions of both chambers.
II - ELECTORAL SYSTEM
There are 24 plurinominal constituencies (three seats), which corresponds to the country's 23 provinces, plus the federal capital, Buenos Aires.
Voting system :
1) Transitional system (for the record) :
Election by means of the single majority vote by provincial legislative assemblies, except in Buenos Aires where a special electoral college is used. This was the case only in 1995 with a common law system used in 1998.
Two seats are allocated to the party with received the majority of votes, the third seat is allocated to the next most voted party.
2) System applicable after 2001 :
Direct majority suffrage (plurinominal lists) : two seats on a majority list; one seat for the next most popular list.
Term of office : 6 years, renewable by one third of the seats every two years, and by district (constituency).
Most recent elections : October 14th 2001 (the whole Senate was re-elected according to the implementation of the new electoral system : universal direct suffrage and re-election by third every 2 years. The duration of the term of the senators - 2, 4 or 6 years - was determined by drawing lots).
Conditions for eligibility :
Age: 30 years old, Argentine citizenship for six years, income of 2000 pesos per annum and must be from or reside for more than two years in the province for which the candidate is standing.
Ineligibility : members of the clergy and governors in their own province may not stand.
The Senate decides on the validity of election of its members.
III - SESSION CALENDAR
Chambers open and close their sessions simultaneously. Neither may adjourn for more than three days without consent from the other.
A - ORDINARY SESSION
One ordinary annual session from 1 March to 30 November.
B - EXTRAORDINARY SESSION
The President of the Republic may convene Parliament for an extraordinary session or extend the ordinary session.
IV - RELATIONS WITH THE OTHER CHAMBER AND EXECUTIVE
A - LEGISLATIVE POWER
Exercised by the National Congress composed of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate, according to an egalitarian two-chamber system.
1) Legislative initiative
Belongs to senators, in conjunction with deputies and the executive power (however the Chamber of Deputies has the legislative initiative on contributions and on recruiting troops).
The national budget is submitted to Congress by the head of Government.
2) Right of amendment
3) Legislative procedure
Statutes may be submitted to one or other assembly with exceptions laid down by the Constitution (for example, laws on relations between the State and provinces are first considered by the Senate).
a) Ordinary procedure
Once voted by one chamber, a draft statute is sent to the other for review.
After reading the statute (entailing a general approval of the draft law) the assembly may delegate with the absolute majority of its members to an appropriate committee for each article. Under the same conditions, the assembly can revoke its delegation. The ordinary procedure continues once the draft has been approved by the committee.
Any statute which has been rejected in toto by one or other of the chambers may not be re-submitted during the same session.
A chamber may not completely reject a draft which it has instigated and which has subsequently been amended or supplemented by the second assembly.
The chamber that instigated a statute may either approve the supplemented or amended text or maintain the original version with an asbolute majority of members present, provided that any amendments have been approved by two-thirds of the voting members present of the other assembly. In this case, the statute is submitted to the president of the republic with amendments introduced by the other chamber unless the instigating assembly maintains the original version with a two-thirds majority of members present. It may not introduce new modifications in relation to those adopted by the second assembly.
The decision of each chamber must be formally stated. Tacit or fictitious approvals are excluded in all cases.
b) Veto by the President of the Republic
Statutes not returned to Congress within ten days of submission to the President of the Republic are considered approved by the President. When a text is rejected in part, the remaining part is not approved. However, provisions which have not been vetoed may be extended if they have normative autonomy and if partial approval does not alter the spirit of unity of the text approved by Congress. In this case, the procedure applicable to decrees of necessity and emergency decrees (see below) obtains.
If the President of the Republic rejects a draft statute in part or in whole, the text is returned with his observations to the chamber that instigated the statute. Should the chamber in question adopt the text again with a two-thirds majority, the text is then submitted to the other assembly. If the other chamber adopts the text under the same majority conditions, the draft is then enacted and sent to the president of the republic for proclamation.
In all events, voting in both chambers must be public with only ayes or noes possible. The name of the voters, their decision and the president's objections are then immediately published in the press.
If both chambers fail to agree, the draft text may not be submitted during the same annual session.
c) Specific measures
1- Modifications to the electoral or party systems must be approved by an absolute majority of assemblies' members in ten cases stipulated by the Constitution.
2- A two-thirds majority of members of each assembly is required to approve treaties regarding human rights to ensure they acquire constitutional value.
3- At the initiative of the Chamber of Deputies, Congress may submit a draft for consultation by the people. Should the outcome be in favour of adopting the statue, the draft is then enacted and automatically proclaimed. However, Congress or the President of the Republic may request that the outcome of the consultation with the people not be compulsory.
With a majority of members in each of both chambers, Congress regulates the matter, the procedure and the date of consultation.
B - ACCOUNTABILITY
1) Questioning and censure
The head of Government may be questioned by a vote of censure by the Senate (or the Chamber of Deputies) and is censured accordingly by a vote from each of both assemblies and in all cases by the absolute majority of all members comprising the assembly.
2) Senate information
The Senate may convene ministers to obtain explanations or reports.
Members of the Cabinet submit a detailed report after the session has opened concerning the state of the Nation with respect to their own departments.
3) The legislature exercises control over the State's civil service on the basis of reports by the National Inspectorate General, an autonomous body reporting to Congress.
4) Approval of integration treaties in supranational organizations requires the absolute majority of members comprising each of the two assemblies. The same vote is required to ratify termination of these treaties.
C - RELATIONS WITH THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC
1) Replacement of the President
In the event of the disappearance, death, resignation or incapacity of the President or Vice-president of the Republic, Congress appoints the person to assume executive authority until the reasons for incapacity have ended or until a new president is elected.
2) Procedure for laws by decree
Under exceptional circumstances preventing the application of constitutional procedures, the President may issue decrees affecting the rule of law with the exception of issues concerning criminal law, taxes, electoral law or the party system, against a decision counter-signed by all ministers.
Within ten days, the head of Government personally submits the decision taken with the opinion of a joint congressional commission consisting proportionally of political groups represented in each chamber. The commission must issue its report within ten days at a plenary session held in each of the two assemblies which must deliberate on the issue immediately.
3) Opening of a session of Congress
Each year, the President opens the session of Congress before both chambers meeting in unison. The President makes a state of the national speech and indicates recommends on measures he considers necessary.
4) Departure from national territory
The President may leave national territory only with congressional approval.
During parliamentary vacancies, the President may leave national territory only for reasons justified by public interest.
V - SPECIFIC MEASURES
A - PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENTS
1) In specific cases, provinces may sign international agreements and inform Congress accordingly.
2) Provinces may not establish banks with the authority to issue currency without authorization from Congress, nor may they adopt civil, criminal, commercial or mining codes once Congress has done so.
3) The Senate has jurisdiction to instigate :
a) an agreement between the nation and the provinces to draw up a system for joint participation to endow a fund through taxes ;
b) provisions facilitating the equal development of provinces and regions.
B -JUDGEMENT OF SPECIFIC PERSONALITIES
The Senate has jurisdiction to judge in open court the President of the Republic, the Vice-president, the head of Government, ministers and Supreme Court judges accused by the Chamber of Deputies of crimes and misdemeanours committed whilst in office or for ordinary crimes by means of a decision adopted by two-thirds of deputies present.
A guilty verdict must obtain a two-thirds majority of senators present.
When the person accused is the president, the Senate is presided by the President of the Supreme Court.
C - EXCEPTIONAL CIRCUMSTANCES
1) Declaration of war
The President declares war or orders reprisals with congressional approval.
2) State of emergency
The Senate has the jurisdiction in the event of foreign aggression to authorize the President to declare a state of siege in one or more parts of the Republic for a limited period. In the event of internal disorder, the President alone exercises this authority when Congress is not sitting.
D - POWERS WITH REGARD TO APPOINTMENTS
The President appoints judges to the Supreme Court with approval from the Senate (requiring a majority of two-thirds of members present).
The President appoints federal court judges from a list of candidates drawn up by the Judiciary Council with senatorial approval.
Extension of their authority beyond the age of 75 requires the same vote.
The President appoints and recalls diplomats and commercial attachés with senatorial approval.
c) Members of the armed forces
Appointments and promotions of ranking officers fall within the purview of the President with senatorial approval.
E - OMBUDSMAN
Independent organization appointed and replaced by a majority vote of two-thirds of Congress members present in each chamber.