THE LIBERIAN SENATE
Since the resignation in 2003 of the Head of the State, Mr Charles Taylor, Liberia was directed by transitory institutions.
The Comprehensive Peace Agreement of Acera concluded, on 18 August 2003 between the Government of Liberia, Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democraty (LURD), the Movement for Democraty in Liberia (MODEL) and other political partis, envisaged the organization of presidential elections in November 2005, and of the parliamentary ones in December 2005.
The elections took place in October 2005.
I - STRUCTURE
26 senators, that is, two per region.
II - ELECTORAL SYSTEM
Method of election:
List-based proportional representation system. The balance of votes is allocated in decreasing order to the parties/coalitions/alliances, according to the percentage of seats obtained.
- Term of office :
9 years, re-elected 50% at a time (at the time of the first election, the Constitution established that the two senators from each region would be classified into two categories, according to the number of votes obtained: the first category, composed of those senators who obtained the greater number of votes, would sit for a normal term of office of 9 years; however, the first term of office of the second category would be set at 6 years in order to guarantee continuity of the legislature, with subsequent terms of office being exercised for the normal period of 9 years).
- Last elections: 19th July 19971(*).
- Eligibility: to be eligible you must be over 30, and a Liberian citizen by birth.
- Incompatibility: members of the Government.
- Conditions for presentation: through political parties/coalitions/alliances. Every list must be composed of 26 names, and must include the national place of residence of the candidates during the period of nomination and the electoral campaign.
III -PARLIAMENTARY SESSIONS
The two chambers always sit in the same town.
A - ORDINARY SESSION
An annual session, commencing on the second working Tuesday of January.
B - EXTRAORDINARY SESSIONS
The President, on his/her own initiative or at the request of at least a quarter of the total members of the two chambers of the Legislature (Senate and Chamber of Representatives), may convene an extraordinary session of the two chambers in order to consider urgent issues or those of national concern.
When the extraordinary session is requested by members of the Parliament, the notice to attend must be issued not more than 48 hours following receipt of the request.
C - EXTENSION OF THE ORDINARY SESSION
The conditions under which the President may extend the length of an ordinary session are the same as those for convening an extraordinary session of the Legislature.
D - ADJOURNMENT
Neither chamber may adjourn itself for more than five days without the consent of the other.
IV - RELATIONS WITH THE OTHER CHAMBER AND THE EXECUTIVE
A - THE LEGISLATURE
Legislative power is entrusted to the Legislature, which is made up of two chambers: the Senate and the Chamber of Representatives. The two chambers always sit in the same town. Each chamber establishes its own committees and sub-committees. Committees with competence in the area of income and appropriation are made up of one member from each region.
On the fourth working Monday of each year, the President presents the administration's legislative programme for the following session.
1) Legislative initiative
Yes, apart from financial and tax legislation (which is the competence of the Chamber of Representatives).
2) Right of amendment
3) Legislative procedure
Laws must be passed by both chambers.
Presidential right of veto
Following their adoption by each of the two chambers, bills are presented for the President's approval.
If s/he is in agreement with its approval, the bill becomes law. If not, s/he sends it back, along with his/her objections, to the chamber it came from. The President may oppose all or part of the proposed law.
His/her veto may be overridden by a two thirds majority of the members of each chamber.
If the President does not return the bill within 20 days of its transmission, it
becomes law, unless the Legislature obstructs its return by adjourning.
B - THE POWER OF SCRUTINY
1) In the area of public finances
a) The issuing of money requires the express authorisation of the Legislature.
b) The President presents an annual report on the state of public finances to the Legislature, which is also published.
c) Public borrowing must be authorised by law.
2) Power of authorisation
With the consent of the Senate, the President appoints Cabinet members and advisors.
3) In international affairs
The conclusion of international treaties and accords on the part of the President requires the agreement of a majority of the members of each chamber of the Legislature.
4) Report on the state of the Republic
Each year, the President presents a report on the state of the Republic to the Legislature. With regard to economics, this report must focus on both income and expenditure.
V - MISCELLANEOUS ARRANGEMENTS
A - AMENDMENTS TO THE CONSTITUTION
A constitutional amendment may be proposed by 2/3 of the senators (conjointly with 2/3 of the representatives or a petition submitted to the Legislature by at least 10,000 people, which gains the support of 2/3 of the members of both chambers).
The amendment must be approved in a referendum, by a 2/3 majority of registered voters. The referendum must be held at the earliest one year following the Legislature's decision.
B - JUDICIAL POWERS
The Senate is exclusively competent for hearing cases of indictment, which the House of Representatives is alone competent to deal with.
When it is the President, the Vice-President or one of the Vice-Presidents of the Supreme Court who is to be tried, the Senate is presided over by the President of the Supreme Court.
When it is the President of the Supreme Court who is to be tried, or a judge of a lesser court, the presidency is assured by the President of the Senate.
The Senate's decision must gain 2/3 of the votes of the total number of senators.
Sentence, where appropriate, may not go beyond deposition and a banning from public office (although the person involved may be tried under ordinary jurisdiction for the same offences).
C - PRESIDENCY OF THE SENATE
The Vice-President of the Republic is the President of the Senate.
S/he presides over its deliberations but has no right of vote except where a casting vote is required.
Every six years, the Senate elects a pro tempore President who presides in the absence of the President. The pro tempore President may be relieved of his/her duties by a resolution gaining the approval of 2/3 of the senators.
D - REPLACEMENT OF THE VICE-PRESIDENT
If the position of Vice-President falls vacant due to death, resignation, dismissal, incapacity or other reason, the President will immediately appoint a candidate who, with the agreement of the two chambers, will exercise the role of Vice-President until the next general election.
If the vacancy occurs before the elected President has assumed his/her duties, the same procedure will follow once s/he has taken up his/her post.
E - POWERS IN THE AREA OF DEFENCE
The Legislature has the power:
- to guarantee the defence of the country;
- to declare war and to authorise the President to conclude peace;
- to raise and meet the needs of the armed forces of the Republic;
- to establish rules for the conduct of the armed forces.
E - POWERS OF APPOINTMENT
With the consent of the Senate, the President appoints:
- the President and Vice-Presidents of the Supreme Court, along with the lower court judges;
- local government officials;
- military officers of the rank of lieutenant or its equivalent and above;
- senior police officers.
G - EXCEPTIONAL CIRCUMSTANCES
The President may, after consultation with the President of the Chamber of Representatives and the pro tempore President of the Senate, declare a state of emergency covering all or part of the territory of the Republic.
Immediately following the declaration, or within 7 days at the latest, the President must explain to the Legislature - meeting in ordinary or extraordinary session - the events and circumstances that led to the declaration of a state of emergency.
Within 72 hours, and by a common resolution passed by 2/3 of the members of each assembly, the Legislature must decide whether the declaration of a state of emergency is justified and whether the measures taken are appropriate.
If a 2/3 majority is not obtained, the state of emergency is lifted.
If the Legislature considers it necessary to lift a state of emergency or to modify the measures taken, the President must immediately execute the Legislature's decisions.
1 This new Parliament replaces the transitional legislative Assembly that was established in March 1994.