THE HAITIAN SENATE
Since 2004, the legislative power has been vacant considering the expiration ot the mandate of the National Assembly and of a part of the Senate.
The senatorial elections should initially had taken place on November 2005 but they took place on February 2006 for the first round and on April 2006 for the second round.
I - STRUCTURE
27 senators, three per department.
II - ELECTORAL SYSTEM
Method of election: direct elections by absolute majority, with a second ballot if necessary.
Term of office: 6 years, with a third of members re-elected every 2 years.
Last elections: 7 February and 21 April 2006.
Eligibility: 30 years of age, a Haitian citizen by birth, enjoying full civil and political rights and having resided in the department in question for at least four consecutive years, being a land owner or professional within that department.
Ineligibility: convicted of a sentence involving loss of civil rights for a crime of ordinary law.
Incompatibilities: administrators of public funds, government contractors, representatives or agents of government contractors or companies or corporations that have government contracts, delegates, vice-delegates, judges and officers of the Public Prosecutor's Office, unless they resign at least six months prior to the date of elections, members of the Government, director-generals of government departments, unless they resign at least one year prior to the date of elections, any State-remunerated position, with the exception of teachers.
III -PARLIAMENTARY SESSIONS
A - PERMANENT SESSION
The Senate sits in permanent session (the House of Deputies sits in two sessions per year).
It meets three days per week (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday), Mondays and Fridays being set aside for committee meetings.
Apart from during the legislative session, it may adjourn. When it adjourns, it leaves a standing committee in charge of dealing with ongoing issues. This committee cannot issue decrees, save that of convening the Senate. In case of emergency, the Executive can also convene the Senate before the end of its adjournment.
B - AGENDA
A Conference of Presidents jointly establishes the agenda for a one-month period of sittings. The agenda includes, in order of priority: the day's business followed by current business.
The assembly may only legitimately sit if it has a quorum of 14 senators, including the President.
IV - RELATIONSHIP WITH THE OTHER CHAMBER AND THE EXECUTIVE
The Senate and the House of Deputies together form the National Assembly.
A -LEGISLATIVE POWERS
Neither of the two chambers may sit or take any resolutions without the presence of a majority of its members. All proceedings must have the approval of a majority of the members present.
1) Legislative initiative
This is held by both Houses, along with the Executive.
Budgetary and fiscal initiative is the responsibility of the Executive, however.
2) Right of amendment
Each House has the right of amendment. Amendments approved by one chamber cannot be incorporated into a bill until the other House has approved them in the same form and under identical terms.
3) Legislative procedure
a) Ordinary procedure
In the event of disagreement regarding a law, a decision on it is postponed until the following session. If at the following session no agreement is reached, each House shall appoint, by taking a vote on a list of an equal number of members, a parliamentary committee to decide on the final text that will be submitted to the two assemblies, beginning with the one that originally voted on the law. If these additional deliberations produce no result, the bill or proposed law is withdrawn.
In the event of disagreement between the Legislature and the Executive, the disagreement is referred to the Conciliation Committee. If the Committee fails to reach a decision, the disagreement is referred to the Supreme Court. Its decision is final and binding on both parties.
b) Budgetary procedure
Draft laws in the area of budgetary and fiscal matters are initially introduced to the Bureau of the House of Deputies.
In the event of disagreement, each House appoints, by taking a vote on a list of an equal number of members, a parliamentary committee to make a final decision on the disagreement.
4) Right of veto
The President of the Republic has the right to make objections to all or part of a draft law or bill before it is promulgated.
If the objections are rejected by either House, the President of the Republic is obliged to promulgate the law.
B - THE POWER OF SCRUTINY
1) Each House has the right to investigate matters brought before it.
2) Every member of the two Houses has the right to question and interpellate a member of the Government or the entire Government on events and acts of the Administration. An interpellation request must be seconded by five members of the body concerned. It becomes a vote of confidence or of censure when passed by a majority of that body.
When the interpellation request ends in a vote of censure on a question concerning a Government programme or declaration of general policy, the Prime Minister must submit his Government's resignation to the President of the Republic.
This procedure may not be enforced more than once a year.
3) The Senate scrutinises the application of laws and the execution of the national budget.
4) It may establish information or fact-finding missions.
5) After its appointment, the Prime Minister and his Government present themselves before Parliament in order to gain a vote of confidence on the declaration of general policy.
C - DISSOLUTION - ADJOURNMENT
Neither the Senate nor the House of Deputies may be dissolved or adjourned, or the terms of their members extended.
V - SPECIAL ARRANGEMENTS
A - ELECTION OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE
At the commencement of each legislature and during the first sitting that follows a partial re-election of the Senate, the interim committee elects the permanent President of the Bureau in a secret vote by an absolute majority of the votes cast. If no candidate gains an absolute majority at the first ballot, a second ballot is organised between the candidates coming first and second. This second ballot determines the President by a relative majority of the votes cast. In the case of an equal number of votes being cast, the elder of the two is elected.
B - POWERS OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY
The National Assembly oversees a number of areas:
- the opening and closure of each session
- receiving the constitutional oath of the President of the Republic;
- ratifying any decision to declare war;
- approving international treaties and conventions;
- constitutional amendments;
- ratifying a decision of the Executive to change the seat of Government;
- the appropriateness of a state of siege;
- formation of the Permanent Electoral Council;
- receiving the government's annual report at the opening of each session.
The National Assembly is presided over by the President of the Senate, assisted by the President of the House of Deputies in the role of Vice-President. Sittings are public.
In the event of an emergency, the Executive may convene an extraordinary session of the National Assembly.
The National Assembly may not sit or take decisions or resolutions unless there is a majority of members present from each of the two chambers.
C - THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE
Following indictment by a two thirds majority of the members of the House of Deputies, the Senate may establish itself as a High Court of Justice. The President of the Senate leads these deliberations, assisted by the President and Vice-President of the Supreme Court. The High Court of Justice appoints a committee responsible for the investigation from amongst its members (i.e. from amongst the senators).
The following may appear before the High Court of Justice:
- the President of the Republic for the crime of high treason or any other crime or offence committed during the exercise of his duties;
- the Prime Minister, ministers and secretaries of State for the crime of high treason , malpractice or ultra vires action or any other crime or offence committed during the exercise of their duties;
- the members of the Permanent Electoral Council and the Supreme Court of Auditors and of the Administrative Appeal Courts for serious errors committed during the exercise of their duties;
- judges and officers of the Public Prosecutor's Office of the Supreme Court for malfeasance.
- the Ombudsman.
The only sentences the High Court of Justice can deliver are those of discharge, disqualification and forfeiture of the right to hold any public office for a period of from five to fifteen years or more.
E - POWERS OF APPOINTMENT
1) The President of the Republic appoints the Supreme Court judges from a list of three people proposed by the Senate for each vacancy.
2) With the Senate's approval, the President of the Republic appoints: the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, the Commander-in-Chief of the Police, ambassadors and consul generals, the Administrative Councils of Autonomous Agencies.