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BOLIVIA

Cámara de Senadores (Chamber of Senators)

I - COMPOSITION

 

 36 members elected by universal direct suffrage.

 

II - ELECTORAL SYSTEM

 

9 plurinominal electoral districts (3 seats) corresponding to the country's departments.

 

Voting system:

 

Majority list system.

 

The majority party gets 2 seats and the second-placed party 1 seat.

 

Term of mandate: 5 years.

 

Last election: 6 December 2009.

 

Eligibility requirements: 35 years or older, born into Bolivian citizenship, fulfillment of military obligations, literacy, full possession of civil rights.

Ineligibility: Arrest or imprisonment

Incompatabilities: Government minister, diplomat, civil servant or employee, military or police officer on duty, contractor for public works or services, manager or administrator for state related company or enterprise, certain ecclesiastics

Candidacy requirements: Nomination by political parties, coalition of parties, or duly-recognized civil institutions

 

The parliamentary mandate is incompatible with a ministerial post.

 

III - RUNNING OF SESSIONS

 

The sessions of the two chambers open and close at the same time.

 

A - ORDINARY SESSIONS

 

Two per year. The first runs 60 days from the 3rd Monday in August, the second 30 days from the first Monday of the second fortnight in January.

 

These sessions can be extended up to 120 days on the initiative of Congress (joint sitting of both chambers, the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies) or the President of the Republic.

 

B - EXTRAORDINARY SESSION

 

The Congress may be called in extraordinary session, on a specific agenda, on the initiative of the President of the Republic or at the request of the majority of its members.

 

IV - RELATIONS WITH THE CHAMBER OF DEPUTIES AND THE EXECUTIVE

 

A - LEGISLATIVE POWER

 

1) Legislative initiative

 

Senators have the right to initiate legislation in conjunction with the deputies and the executive.

 

The State budget is submitted to Congress by the executive.

 

2) Right of amendment

 

Yes.

 

3) Legislative procedure

 

Any bill passed by one chamber is submitted to the other chamber.

 

When a bill as it stands is passed by both chambers, it is referred to the Head of State for enactment within a period of 10 days.

 

If it is amended, the initial chamber examines it again. In this case, the amended bill is either passed by an absolute majority or, failing agreement, it is examined by the two chambers sitting in Congress. The latter then has 20 days to reach a decision.

 

A text totally rejected by either chamber cannot be resubmitted during the same annual session.

 

4) Right of veto

 

The President of the Republic has an right of review with respect to laws. To proceed further, the chambers must alter the "reviewed" text and both must pass it with a two-thirds majority.

 

However, the President may not use his observation right for the so-called essential reform laws leading to the constitutional reform process.

 

B - MONITORING POWER

 

1) The Senate's right to information

 

On a parliamentarian's initiative, either chamber may direct verbal or written requests for information to ministers.

 

2) Commissions of enquiry

 

The Senate may, on its members' initiative, set up commissions of enquiry on any topic of national interest.

 

3) Questions - Censure

 

Either chamber may, at a parliamentarian's instigation, question ministers, individually or collectively, and pass a vote of censure by an absolute majority of the parliamentarians present.

 

The vote of censure implies that the minister concerned tenders his resignation to the President of the Republic who decides on any action to be taken.

 

C - RELATIONS WITH THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC

 

1) Deputizing for the President

 

In the absence of the President of the Republic and the Vice-President, it is the responsibility of the President of the Senate to act as deputy.

 

2) Opening session of Congress

 

Every year the President of the Republic opens the session of Congress before an assembly of both chambers. On this occasion he makes a State of the Nation address.

 

3) Leaving the national territory

 

The President of the Republic may leave the national territory with the assent of Congress.

 

4) Specific duty

 

Congress rules on the lawfulness of the election of the President of the Republic and the Vice-President, and swears them in.

 

V - SPECIAL PROVISIONS

 

A - CONSTITUENT POWER

 

1) Initiative

 

The Constitution may be amended on the proposal of 2/3 of the senators (in conjunction with 2/3 of the deputies).

 

2) Procedure

 

The proposal is discussed and voted on in 2 readings in each chamber of the national Congress and is deemed carried if it polls 2/3 of the members' votes in each chamber.

 

B - JURISDICTIONAL POWERS

 

1) In relation to the President of the Republic and the Vice-President

 

Congress is competent to try them (in a public trial); it may accept or reject their resignation.

 

2) In relation to some magistrates

 

The Senate takes cognizance of the charges brought by the Chamber of Deputies against the President of the Supreme Court of Justice and the Attorney General who may be tried in single proceedings, by a 2/3 majority of the senators present, in accordance with the "Responsibilities Act".

 

C - APPOINTMENTS

 

1) The Senate has exclusive competence for:

 

a) Approving or rejecting - by secret ballot - the promotions proposed by the executive to the rank of Air Commodore, Major General, Brigadier, Rear Admiral and Vice-Admiral of the Nation's armed forces.

 

b) Approving or rejecting the appointments of ambassadors and plenipotentiaries nominated by the President of the Republic.

 

c) Electing by an absolute majority of votes the magistrates of the District Courts, the National Labour Court and the National Mines Court from a list of three persons nominated by the Supreme Court.

 

d) Proposing three names to the President of the Republic for the election of the Comptroller General of the Republic and the Superintendent of Banks.

 

2) Congress elects by a 2/3 majority of its members:

 

ð the officers (judges) of the Supreme Court;

 

ð the magistrates of the Constitutional Court;

 

ð the councillors of the Council of Judges;

 

ðthe Attorney General;

 

ð the People's Advocate.

 

D - EXCEPTIONAL CIRCUMSTANCES

 

1) Declaration of war

 

The President of the Republic may declare war with the assent of Congress.

 

2) State of siege

 

In the event of serious internal unrest or international war, the President of the Republic may, with the approval of Cabinet, declare a state of siege in one or more districts of the national territory for a limited period of time. It is the responsibility of Congress to assess the timeliness of such a step and, if required, to extend the duration of the state of siege beyond 90 days.