THE LESOTHO SENATE
N.B. - The governmental and administrative situation has been confused since disturbances in late 1998 ; these arose out of the May 1998 elections, whose results were contested by the opposition.
An "Interim Political Authority" (IPA), made up of 24 members representing the majority and opposition parties, has been established. It has been given the task of preparing for the next general election, and making electoral and institutional proposals. With regard to the parliamentary system, the IPA proposes either a reform of the Senate including the election of its members (they are currently appointed), or an increase in the number of Assembly members and the abolition of the Senate.
I - COMPOSITION
33 senators :
. 22 traditional Chiefs ;
. 11 senators appointed by the King on the advice of the Council of State.
II - SYSTEM OF NOMINATION
Term of office : 5 years.
Most recent election : 26 May 2002.
Criteria for eligibility : minimum 21 years of age, citizen of Lesotho, knowledge of Sesotho or English.
Criteria for ineligibility : non-discharged bankrupt, party to an administrative contract, holder of an electoral function, or guilty of electoral fraud.
Features of incompatibility : members of the security forces, police and prison service. The King may, on the advice of the Prime Minister, choose Ministers from among the Senators he has appointed.
A traditional Chief may, after informing the President of the Senate, designate another person to replace him as Senator on a permanent basis or at certain sittings. He may similarly designate someone else or remove him.
III - ORGANISATION OF SESSIONS
All sessions of the Parliament take place in Lesotho at a time and place determined by the King providing that :
- the interval between the time fixed for the meeting of the Parliament and the final extension of the meeting does not exceed 12 months ;
- following the dissolution of Parliament, the time fixed for the meeting of the National Assembly is no more than 14 days after the election of National Assembly members, and the Senate meets at an appropriate moment after the appointment of one or more senators appointed by the traditional Chiefs.
IV - RELATIONS WITH THE OTHER CHAMBER AND THE EXECUTIVE
The Parliament consists of the King, the Senate and the National Assembly.
A - LEGISLATIVE POWERS
The Parliament is the sole guardian of legislative power.
Parliament has the power to make laws by bringing draft legislation before the two chambers and through the King's consent.
1) The right to propose legislation
None. This right lies exclusively with the National Assembly, except when taxes are being increased and with the Government's agreement.
2) Right of amendment
Yes. However, unless the Government gives its consent, no chamber of the Parliament may adopt an amendment that increases taxes.
3) Legislative procedure
Limitations of the Senate's powers :
When a draft law has been adopted by the National Assembly, it is immediately forwarded to the Senate.
If the same wording is adopted by both chambers, it is presented to the King for his consent.
If it is not adopted by the Senate within 48 hours, or if it is adopted by the Senate with amendments that the National Assembly has not yet approved, the bill thus amended is adopted by both chambers unless the National Assembly decides otherwise, and it is presented to the King for his consent.
When a draft law, other than one dealing with loans, has been adopted by the National Assembly and, after being forwarded to the Senate at least 30 days before the end of the session, has not been adopted by within 30 days after being forwarded (or it has been adopted by the Senate with amendments for which the National Assembly has not given its approval within 30 days of being sent to the Senate), the bill thus amended is adopted by both chambers unless the National Assembly decides otherwise, and it is sent to the King for his consent.
B - ADJOURNMENT AND DISSOLUTION OF PARLIAMENT
The King may adjourn or dissolve parliament at any time.
C - RIGHT OF ACCESS TO THE GOVERNMENT
A minister or secretary of State who is a member of the National Assembly may attend meetings of the Senate and take part in its deliberations, but is not deemed to be a member of the Senate and therefore does not have voting rights; the same applies to ministers and secretaries of State who are senators in the National Assembly.
V - SPECIAL MEASURES
A - CHANGES TO THE CONSTITUTION
The Parliament has the power to change the Constitution.
For adoption, a constitutional draft law must be debated in both chambers and adopted by two thirds of the members of the Parliament. It is therefore not determined by a referendum, and is then sent to the King for approval.
B - PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE
The President of the Senate is elected from among its members, or from among other people who meet the same eligibility criteria, providing they are not ministers or secretaries of State. The same procedure applies to the Vice-president. The President of the Senate may be removed by a two-thirds vote of senators.
The President of the Senate is elected for a five-year term.
He is the third highest-ranking person in the State hierarchy. He takes precedence over the Speaker of the National Assembly.
The President of the Senate and the Speaker of the National Assembly chair joint meetings of the two chambers alternately.
C - The General Prosecutor may attend meetings of the National Assembly and take part in the deliberations of both chambers, but he has no voting rights.