CONGO (Brazzaville) : the Senate
After the troubles of the '90s, the signature of two peace agreements, and the work carried out through the "National dialogue without exclusive" and the "National Convention for Peace", new institutions were finally established and elections were held in 2002.
On 15 August 2001 , the President of the Congo announced that a constitutional referendum will be held on 20 January 2002 .
The draft of the Constitution - which was adopted by the transitional Parliament on 2 September 2001 - proposes the establishment of a Presidential regime, with a bicameral parliament.
It was approved by 84.26% of votes cast to 11.29% of votes by the referendum on 20 January 2002 .
The Senate shall represent the local authorities. It shall play, as well as its legislative role, the function of a moderator and Council of the Nation.
The establishment of the Parliament, and the performances of the newly elected President of the Republic, Mr. Denis Sassou N'Guesso, marked the end of the transition period.
I - COMPOSITION
§66 members elected indirectly by local authorities' councils.
II - ELECTORAL SYSTEM
Term of office: 6 years, one-half being renewed every 3 years.
Age of eligibility: 45 years old.
Incompatibility with any other public position.
An elected senator presented by a political party or group, who resigns from his party or political group during his term of office, shall lose his position as a senator.
First election: 11 July 2002
III - SESSIONS SYSTEM
A - ORDINARY SESSIONS
Three per year convened by the President of the Senate:
- the first opens on 2 March,
- the second opens on 2 July,
- the third opens on 15 October,
each one for a maximum period of 60 days.
B - EXTRAORDINARY SESSIONS
- convened by the president of the Senate according to a determined agenda, on the initiative of either the President of the Republic or the absolute majority of senators.
- close when the agenda has been exhausted, and at most 15 days after their opening.
C. SESSION AS OF RIGHT
- after each election. If this meeting does not happen during an ordinary session, then an extraordinary session shall open as of right for a period of 15 days.
IV - RELATIONS WITH THE OTHER ASSEMBLY AND THE EXECUTIVE
A - LEGISLATIVE POWER
1) Legislative initiative
- Yes, together with the President of the Republic and deputies.
- Private bills entailing either an increase or a reduction in public expenditure shall be accompanied with the proposal of equivalent revenue or savings.
2) Right to amendment
- Yes, together with the President of the Republic and deputies.
- Amendments entailing either an increase or a reduction in public expenditure shall be accompanied with the proposal of equivalent revenue or savings.
3) Legislative procedure
Both chambers shall examine successively any Government or private bill, with the view to adopting an identical text.
Government and private bills shall be sent to one of the standing commissions which number is determined by each chamber's rules of procedures. On request of the President of the Republic or the chamber referred to, Government and private bills shall be sent for examination to commissions specially designed for this purpose.
When, in the event of disagreement between the two assemblies, a Government or private bill has not been adopted after one reading by each assembly, the President of the Republic may call convene a joint committee in charge of proposing a text on the provisions that remain under discussion. The text elaborated by the joint committee may be submitted by the President of the Republic to the two assemblies for their approval. No amendment shall be admissible except with the President of the Republic's agreement.
If the joint committee fails to adopt a common text, the President of the Republic may, after another reading by the National Assembly and the Senate, ask the National Assembly to give a final ruling. In this case, the National Assembly may take either the text elaborated by the joint committee, or the last text it voted and modified, if the case arises, by one or several amendments adopted by the Senate.
Before the end of the promulgation deadline - 20 days after the transmission of the text to the National Assembly's Bureau, or 5 days in case of emergency decided by the President - the President of the Republic may ask the Parliament for another examination of the bill or part of it. In this case, the bill may pass with a 2/3 majority of the members composing the National Assembly and the Senate convened in Congress.
Should the President of the Republic refuse to promulgate the law after this last voting, the Constitutional Court referred to by him, or by the president of either assembly, shall examine the constitutionality of the text. Should the Court declare the law in conformity with the Constitution, the President of the Republic shall promulgate it.
4) Special arrangements relating to organic laws
- a Government or private organic law may not be examined and voted in the first assembly referred to for 15 days after it has been lodged,
- if there is no agreement between the two assemblies, the text may be finally adopted by the National Assembly only with an absolute majority of the members.
It may be promulgated only after being declared in conformity with the Constitution by the Constitutional Court .
5) Legislative referendum
The President of the Republic may, after consulting the presidents of both assemblies, submit to a referendum any Government bill relating to the organisation of public authorities, to the preservation of fundamental rights and liberties, to the economic and social action of the State or allowing the ratification of a treaty.
The President of the Republic shall previously refer to the constitutional Court for the constitutionality of the text.
In case the conformity is not established, the referendum cannot take place.
6) Enabling legislation
To execute his program, the President of the Republic may ask the Parliament for authorisation for a limited period and determined matters.
Ordinances are rendered null and void if the draft ratification bill is not presented to Parliament by the date fixed by the Enabling Law.
If the request for enabling legislation is not accepted, then the President of the Republic may use ordinances according to the Constitutional Court 's decision.
B - CONTROLLING POWER
1) Means of information and control
- questions to a minister,
- oral and written questions of current interest,
- hearings by the commissions,
- parliamentary inquiries
2) International field
a) the Parliament authorise the ratification of peace treaties, defence treaties, commerce treaties, treaties relating to natural resources, agreements relating to the international organisation, those involving public finances, modifying law provisions, those relating to the state of people, and those involving transfer, exchange or addition of territory.
b) the Parliament is informed of any negotiation ending in an international agreement not submitted to ratification.
C - RELATIONS WITH THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC
The President may, at any moment, send messages to the Senate (or to the National Assembly), which do not give rise to any discussion.
Once a year, he addresses the Parliament in Congress with a message on the state of the Nation.
V - SPECIAL ARRANGEMENTS
A - REVISION OF THE CONSTITUTION
1) The initiative belongs to the President of the Republic together with members of Parliament.
2) When it comes from Parliament, the revision proposal shall be voted by 2/3 of the members of both assemblies convened in Congress, after receiving a conformity agreement from the Constitutional Court .
3) In any case, the revision is definitive only if approved by referendum.
B - SPECIAL COMPETENCE OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE
1) Interim for the President of the Republic
In the event of the interim for the President of the Republic because of death, resignation or any other cause of definitive impeachment, the duties of the President of the Republic shall be temporarily carried out by the President of the Senate for a maximal duration of 90 days.
The President of the Senate shall not be allowed to be candidate to the presidential election.
2) The President of the Senate, in the event of death or definitive impeachment of one of the candidates to the presidential election, may refer to the Constitutional Court for the prorogation of deadlines fixed by the Constitution for the elections.
3) The President of the Senate is consulted by the President of the Republic before the implementation of exceptional measures when there is a serious and imminent threat regarding the Republic institutions, the independence of the Nation, the integrity of the national territory or the fulfilment of international agreements, and when the normal functioning of public authorities is threatened or interrupted.
4) The President of the Senate shall propose 2 out of the 9 members of the Constitutional Court for nomination by the President of the Republic
5) The President of the Senate may refer to the Social and Economic Council for any economic- or social-related problem.
C - DECLARATION OF WAR
- Authorised by the Parliament convened in Congress.
- When, after exceptional circumstances, the Parliament cannot sit properly, the declaration of war shall be decided during the Council of Ministers by the President of the Republic who immediately informs the Nation.
D - STATE OF SIEGE AND STATE OF EMERGENCY
- The extension of the state of siege and the state of emergency beyond 15 days shall be authorised by the Parliament sitting as of right in Congress if it does not sit in ordinary session.
- When, after exceptional circumstances, the Parliament cannot sit, the President of the Republic may decide to maintain the state of emergency or state of siege.
E - THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE
The High Court of Justice is composed by an equal number of deputies and senators as well as members of the Supreme Court, all of them elected by their peers.
May be indicted before the High Court :
- the President of the Republic in the event of high treason,
- deputies, senators, ministers, members of the Supreme Court and Constitutional Court, for actions qualified as crimes or offences accomplished in the exercise of their duties.
By the Parliament convened in Congress, giving a ruling with a 2/3 majority through a secret vote.