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Sudan : The Council of states - Majilis Welayat


Sudan has just going out from long years of civil war.

The ruling party ad hoc committee, in charge of amending the 1998 Constitution, had submitted its conclusions to the Parliament in the spring 2002.

The committee notably suggested adding a clause to the Constitution providing for the creation of a Senate.

This institution shall play the role of a `conseil des sages'- namely an assembly of wisemen - dedicated to the examination in first reading of any draft bill.

On 9 January 2005 , a general and definitive peace agreement was signed.

According to this agreement, a 6-year transitional period began on 9 July 2005 with the signing of the new Constitution and the nomination of the President.

The new Constitution institutes a bicameral system.

 I - COMPOSITION

 - 50 members (two representatives from each of 25 states - 15 in the north, 10 in the south), indirectly elected by the state legislatures.

- 2 observers from Abyei region Council, who do not have voting rights.

Until the next elections which are to take place at the end of the third year of the interim period, the members of the Council of States are nominated by the President of the Republic, after consulting the presidency (composed of the President of the Republic and two vice-presidents, one of Southern Sudan, the other of Northern Sudan) and, for Southern Sudan, on the recommendation of the President of the government of Southern Sudan after consulting the institutions of the concerned State.

The nominations took place on 31 August 2005 .

II - ELECTORAL SYSTEM

Term of office: 5 years.

Age of eligibility: 21 years

III - SYSTEM OF SESSIONS

A - Ordinary sessions

The Council of States (as well as the National Assembly) shall decide when periods of sessions begin and end. There are two ordinary sessions a year (from the first Monday of April to the last Wednesday of June and from the first Monday of October to the last week of December).

B - Extraordinary sessions

The Council of States (as well as the National Assembly) can meet during an emergency or extraordinary session, at the request of the President of the Republic or half of its members.

 IV - RELATIONS WITH THE OTHER CHAMBER AND THE EXECUTIVE

A - Legislative power

     Origins of the national legislation:

 The Sharia is one of the sources of law applying in the States of Northern Sudan whereas in the states of Southern Sudan , traditions and religious beliefs are taken into account to represent the diversity of this part of the country.

Whenever a law is based on religion or custom, a state in which the majority of inhabitants are not adepts of this religion or custom may:

- either adopt a legislation in accordance with their religion or customs,

- or submit the law to the Council of States which may adopt it with a 2/3 majority of its members or modify it as necessary.

1) Right of initiative

                    In accordance with the Constitution, the Council of States is competent to initiate legislation about decentralization and devolution of powers.

A text adopted by the National Assembly can be submitted to a permanent joint committee to decide if it goes against the interests of the states. In this case, the text shall be sent back to the Council of States.

The President of the Republic, the presidency, the national Council of ministers, a national minister or a parliamentary committee can submit a draft bill before one of the chambers, according to their domain of competency.

A parliamentarian may table a private bill before the chamber to which he belongs, in a matter of competency of his assembly.

A private member's bill can be tabled before the competent assembly only after being sent to the appropriate committee, which determines if it involves an important matter of public interest.

2) Legislative procedure

The private member's bill is firstly submitted to the actual competent chamber, according to its title, for a first reading.

The Speaker of the Chamber then refers to the competent committee, in charge of an overall analysis of the text for the second reading.

During a plenary session, the second reading is dedicated to a general debate and a vote. Once adopted, a third reading is dedicated to a thorough examination of the text and of its tabled amendments.

The competent committee must present a report about these amendments. It is also referred to by the Speaker of the Chamber to present a report on the final project for the last reading.

3) Agreement of the President of the Republic

To become laws, the texts adopted by the Parliament must be approved by the President of the Republic.

 If the President postpones his agreement for 30 days without an explanation, the text is considered as signed.

If the President explains his disagreement, the text is submitted once again to the parliament fir consideration of the president's remarks.

The text becomes a law if it is confirmed by the parliament with a 2/3 majority of the members of both chambers. The President of the Republic's approval is then not required for the enforcement of the law.

4) Decrees

Between periods of sessions and in case of emergency, the President of the Republic may take provisional measures having the force of law, all of which must be submitted to the competent assembly as soon as possible. When the parliament ratifies such measures, they are promulgated like bills. However, if these measures are rejected by either chamber or if they are not confirmed before the end of the parliamentary period of sessions, they become obsolete and are not retroactive.

These provisional measures cannot be implemented in the following fields: the peace agreement, the declaration of rights, the decentralized organization of the State, general elections, the budget, criminal law, international conventions or agreements concerning the State borders.

Laws that have been abrogated or modified by obsolete provisional measures, become valid again from the moment the provisional measure lose its own effect.

5) Delegated legislative power

The parliament or one of its chambers may, by the passing of a law, delegate to the President of the Republic, to the National Council of ministers or to a public institution, the power to put forward secondary regulations having the force of law, provided these provisions be presented to the competent chamber and be adopted or modified by a resolution of this chamber.

B - Controlling power

 1) Questions submitted by parliamentarians

Members of each chamber, within the range of its competencies, may ask questions to a State Minister about any subject concerning his/her Ministry. The Minister must then answer as soon as possible.

2) Inquiries addressed by the chambers

Each of the two assemblies, or one of their committees, may require a declaration from a national Minister concerning matters within his/her competency.

C - RELATIONS WITH THE EXECUTIVE

1) Relations with the President of the Republic

The President of the Republic may, personally or through a message, address the parliament or each of the two chambers.

The President may also ask the parliament for some advice on any issue.

2) Each of the two vice-presidents of the Republic or the president of the government of Southern Sudan may ask to address either chamber of the parliament, which shall answer to this request as soon as possible.

3)A national minister may ask to make a declaration before one of the chambers.

4)A governor may ask to make a declaration before the Council of States.

V - MISCELLANEOUS PROVISIONS

 A - THE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT

1) Provisions concerning its composition

a) The Council of States, with a 2/3 majority of its members, shall approve the nomination of judges at the Constitutional Court by the president of the Republic.

b) The president of the Constitutional Court is relieved from his duties for incapacity or incompatible attitude with his functions by a decision of the President of the Republic approved by 2/3 of the Council of States members.

2) The Court interprets the constitutional provisions at the request of the Council of States, the President of the Republic, the national government, the government of Southern Sudan , the government of a State, or the National Assembly.

B - STATE OF EMERGENCY

1) The declaration of the state of emergency on all or part of the territory by the President of the Republic, with the approval of the first vice-president, shall be submitted to the parliament within 15 days. If the parliament is in recess, it is convened for an extraordinary session.

2)In case of approval by the parliament, all the laws and exceptional measures taken by the President of the Republic in this situation are enforceable.

3)The measures taken during a state of emergency are no longer valid:

- at the expiry of a deadline of 30 days from the declaration, when the parliament has not approved the prolongation of its duration,

- at the end of the period approved by the parliament

- through a declaration of the President of the Republic - approved by the first vice-president - suspending the state of emergency.

C - DECLARATION OF WAR

The declaration of war must be approved by the Parliament.

D - REVISION OF THE CONSTITUTION

Amendments to the Constitution must be adopted by Ÿ of the members of each of both assemblies sitting separately, and after a minimum period of 2 months from the submission of the text.

E - The Council of States shall ask governors and concerned ministers for papers about the effective implementation of decentralization and devolution of powers.

F - The Council of States shall check the National Fund for Reconstruction and Development.

 G - The Council of States shall decide on objections from the 4 non-permanent members of the National Oil Commission