THE MAURITANIAN SENATE
After the coup perpetrated on 3 August 2005, the Military Council for Justice and Democracy dissolved the Parliament on 5 August, and announced that the 20 July 1991 Constitution, later completed by a "Military Council charter", vould be maintained.
A constitutional referendum took place in June 2006, general and municipal elections were held in November 2006. The senatorial elections should take place during the first quarter 2007.
I - COMPOSITION 1(*)
- 56 senators élected :
53 representing local government authorities in the country ; elected by indirect vote ;
3 representing Mauritanians living abroad.
II - ELECTORAL SYSTEM AND ELECTORAL COLLEGE
1/ Senators representing local authorities (one per constituency) :
Uninominal two-round ballot (to be elected in the first round, an absolute majority of all votes is required).
Proportional representation in the constituency of Nouakchott (modification introduced before the last elections).
Electoral constituency : monghataa (a secondary administrative district corresponding to a French department) ;
Electoral college : mayors and town councillors from the towns in the constituency.
2/ Senators representing Mauritanians living abroad :
Uninominal two-round election (to be elected in the first round, an absolute majority of all votes is required).
Proportional representation in the constituency of Nouakchott (modification introduced before the last elections).
Electoral college : the 53 senators representing the local authorities.
Term of office : six years, renewable in thirds every two years.
Most recent election : 13 may 2002.
Criteria for eligibility : 35 years of age, Mauritanian citizen, naturalised for at least ten months, no record of bribery or criminal record for electoral fraud. No undischarged bankrupts.
Criteria for ineligibility : naturalised for under ten months, corruption, record of electoral fraud, non-rehabilitated bankruptcy.
Features of incompatibility : members of the Government, individuals holding certain public offices.
III - ORGANISATION OF THE SESSIONS
A - ORDINARY SESSIONS
Two ordinary sessions a year :
- the first opens on the second Monday of November;
- the second on the second Monday of May.
No ordinary session may last longer than two months.
B - EXTRAORDINARY SESSIONS
- at the request of the President of the Republic ;
- at the request of the majority of the members of the National Assembly ;
- working to an agreed agenda.
No extraordinary session may last longer than one month.
Extraordinary sessions are open or closed by a decree of the President of the Republic.
C - SESSIONS AS OF RIGHT
The Senate meets as of right where the President of the Republic exercises the exceptional powers provided by the Constitution, during the period of application of a state of siege or a state of emergency.
D - The closing of sessions is delayed as of right in the event of a vote of confidence or a motion of censure.
E - SITTINGS
The Senate may sit behind closed doors at the request of the government or of a quarter of the members present.
IV - RELATIONS WITH THE OTHER CHAMBER AND THE EXECUTIVE
A - LEGISLATIVE POWERS
1) The right to propose legislation
This right lies both with the Government and with members of the Parliament.
Bills lodged by members of the Parliament are not admissible if their adoption might prompt a reduction in public revenue or the establishment of, or increase in, a public charge, unless they are accompanied by a bill for increasing revenue or for making equivalent savings.
2) Right of amendment
The Government and members of the Parliament have the right of amendment.
Amendments submitted by members of the Parliament are not admissible if their adoption might prompt a reduction in public revenue or the establishment of, or increase in, a public charge, unless they are accompanied by a bill for increasing revenue or for making equivalent savings.
3) Legislative procedure
a) Lodging of bills
Bills are normally lodged in the respective offices of the two chambers, but draft laws dealing with finance are submitted in the first instance to the National Assembly.
b) Procedure for examination
Debate on a draft law before the first chamber to which it has been referred focuses on the text presented by the Government.
Draft legislation and private bills are, at the request of the Government or of the chamber to which it has been referred, forwarded for examination to commissions specially set up for that purpose.
Government and private bills for which no such request has been made are forwarded to standing commissions, of which there are only five.
All government and private bills are examined by both chambers with a view to them adopting identical wording.
A chamber that is forwarded a bill that has been voted on by the other chamber studies the text that it has been sent.
In the event of disagreement, and if the Government declares that the matter is urgent, the bill may, after a single reading by both chambers, be submitted to a joint commission charged with proposing a text setting out the provisions that remain for discussion.
This text may be submitted to both chambers for adoption; if so, no amendment is permissible.
If the joint commission fails to propose an agreed text, or if the wording is not adopted by both chambers, the Government may, after an additional reading by both chambers, ask the National Assembly to give a definitive ruling.
Proposals and amendments submitted by members of the Parliament may be declared inadmissible if they focus on an issue relating to legislative power, or are contrary to authorisation granted by Parliament to the Government to legislate by ordinances.
If the Parliament breaches the rules for inadmissibility laid down by the Government, the President of the Republic may refer the matter to the Constitutional Council, which will give a ruling within eight days.
After the debate begins, the Government may oppose examination of any amendment that has not previously been submitted to the commission.
At the Government's request, the chamber to which the matter has been referred may reach its decision by a single vote on all or part of the bill being discussed, and only keep amendments that have been proposed or accepted by it.
c) Measures relating to organic laws
These are presented for discussion and voting by the chamber to which the matter has been referred within 15 days of being submitted.
If there is a joint commission, the bill may only be adopted by the National Assembly at the final reading by an absolute majority of the members.
Organic laws relating to the Senate must be voted on by both chambers in identical terms.
They may only be promulgated after the Constitutional Council has declared that they conform with the Constitution.
d) Measures relating to draft finance legislation
Draft finance legislation receives a first reading in the National Assembly as soon as the November session begins.
If the National Assembly does not come to a decision on the first reading within 30 days of the bill being submitted, the Government refers it to the Senate, which must give a ruling within 15 days. A joint commission is then set up.
If the Parliament has not voted on the budget by the end of the session, or else has not balanced the budget, the Government sends the draft back to the National Assembly meeting in extraordinary session.
The National Assembly must make a ruling within eight days. If the budget has not been voted on within this time, the President of the Republic himself introduces it by edict on the basis of the previous year's revenue.
4) Enabling legislation
With the agreement of the President of the Republic, the Government may, for the purposes of implementing its programme, ask the Parliament for permission by edict to take brief measures that normally lie within the purview of the law.
5) Opinion of the Economic and Social Council
The Economic and Social Council may appoint one of its members to deliver its opinions to the parliamentary chambers on government and private bills that have been submitted to it.
B - SUPERVISORY POWERS
1) Monitoring implementation of the finance law
The parliament monitors implementation of the State budget and attached budgets.
At the end of each semester, the Parliament is presented with a statement of the previous semester's expenditure.
The year's final accounts are presented during the following year's budget session, and they are approved by a law.
A revenue court assists the Parliament and the Government in monitoring implementation of the finance law.
- written questions ;
- oral questions ;
- oral questions followed by debate.
One sitting a week (on Thursdays) is given over to questions from members of the Parliament and for Government answers.
3) Parliament's right to information
The Government is obliged to give the Parliament any explanations it may be asked to provide on its management and its activities.
4) Declaration of general policy
The Prime Minister may ask the Senate for approval for a declaration of general policy.
5) Commissions of Enquiry
The Senate may set up ad hoc commissions to undertake enquiries on specific subjects.
6) In International matters
Peace, unifying and commercial treaties, ans treaties or agreements in respect of international organisation, or committing State funds, treaties amending provisions of legislative nature, treaties in respect of persons and Stage borders may only be ratified pursuant to an enactment.
V - SPECIAL MEASURES
A - REVIEW OF THE CONSTITUTION
The right to propose legislation lies both with the President of the Republic and with members of the Parliament.
To be determined by a referendum, a bill must have been :
- signed by at least one third of the members in one of the chambers ;
-voted through by a majority of two thirds of the deputies and two thirds of the senators.
The President of the Republic may decide to present it to the Parliament meeting in congress : a majority of three fifths of votes cast is required for it to be adopted.
B - CIRCUMSTANCES IN WHICH THE POST OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC FALLS VACANT
The President of the Senate deputises for the President of the Republic when the latter is not in post or because of impeachment.
He may not terminate the duties of members of the Government considered to have resigned, and who continue to fulfil their current duties.
He may neither seek the people's views by a referendum nor dissolve the National Assembly.
No constitutional changes may be made while he is deputising for the President of the Republic.
C - EXCEPTIONAL POWERS
When the institutions of the Republic are under immediate threat, the President of the Republic takes all measures that are required in the circumstances after official consultation with the Prime Minister, with Presidents of the chambers and the Constitutional Council.
D - DECLARATION OF WAR, STATE OF SIEGE AND STATE OF EMERGENCY
1) Declaration of war is authorised by the Parliament.
2) A state of siege and a state of emergency are decreed by the President of the Republic for a maximum period of 30 days ; this may be extended by the Parliament. The Parliament meets as of right if it is not in session.
E - REFERENCE TO THE CONSTITUTIONAL COUNCIL by the President of the Senate or by one third of the senators :
- concerning laws prior to promulgation ;
- concerning international treaties and agreements that contain a clause contrary to the Constitution: authorisation to ratify or approve them may only be given after the Constitution has been reviewed.
F - UPPER COURT OF JUSTICE
1) The Upper Court of Justice consists of members elected in equal proportions by the National Assembly and the Senate from their number after each general or partial election.
2) In the event of high treason, the President of the Republic may be charged by both chambers on the basis of public votes and by an absolute majority of the members. Sentence is passed on him by the Upper Court of Justice.
3) This procedure applies to the Prime Minister and members of the Government in the event of a plot against the security of the State.
G - REGIONAL AND SUB-REGIONAL PARLIAMENTS
The Senate elects its titular and substitute representatives in regional and sub-regional parliaments during the first session after each partial election.
H - POWER OF NOMINATION
The President of the Senate nominates :
- one of the Constitutional Council's six members ;
- one member of the Higher Council of the Judiciary ;
- one member of the Communications regulatory body.
I - PETITIONS
Petitions must be addressed to the President of the Senate. They may also be submitted by a Senator making a note of having done so and signing it.
1 Constitution of 20 July 1991.
First elections to the Senate on 3 and 10 April 1992.