Article 106 of the Constitution of 14th april 1996 provides "Legislative power shall be exercised by a Parliament consisting of the National Assembly and the Senate".
The Senate represents the decentralised territorial authorities.
The decentralised organisation has not yet been set up, therefore the Senate has not yet been established and its powers have been devolved to the National Assembly.
Nevertheless, local elections shall be held in June 2002, and senatorial elections shall take place in the autumn. Therefore, the Senate should be created by the end of the year 2002.
I - COMPOSITION
The number of senators will be set by an organic law.
II - ELECTORAL SYSTEM
- Election via indirect universal suffrage by an electoral college consisting of regional, departmental and municipal councillors
- Term of office: six years, renewable by a third every two years. The first third to be renewed will be decided by drawing lots
- Age at which allowed to stand: 40
An organic law will set the compensation and the system of ineligibility and incompatibilities.
It will also set the conditions in which those replacing senators due to vacant seats until the next renewal will be elected.
III - SESSIONS SYSTEM
A - ORDINARY SESSIONS
The Parliament meets in full in two ordinary sessions per year.
The first session opens on March 5th. The second session opens on October 5th. If one of these dates is a public holiday, the opening takes place the next working day. Each session should not exceed 90 days.
B - EXTRAORDINARY SESSIONS
The Parliament meets for an extraordinary session on request from the Prime Minister or the majority of the members that make up the National Assembly to debate a set agenda. Outside of normal meetings of Parliament, extraordinary sessions are opened and closed by Presidential decree.
C - QUORUM
If, at the opening of a session, the quorum of two thirds of members is not reached, the session is postponed until the third working day that follows. In this case, deliberations are not valid unless at least half of the members of the Senate are present.
IV - RELATIONSHIP WITH THE OTHER CHAMBER AND THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH
A - LEGISLATIVE POWER
The Constitution specifies which matters fall within the domain of the law. Matters other than those within the domain of the law have a regulatory character.
1) Legislative initiative
The initiative in terms of laws lies jointly with the Government and the members of Parliament.
2) Right to amendment
The members of Parliament and the Government have the right to make amendments.
Proposals and amendments from members of Parliament may not be received if the consequence of their adoption would be a reduction in public resources or the creation of or an increase in public spending, unless they are accompanied by a proposal to increase revenues or savings by an equivalent amount.
3) Legislative procedure
Bills are submitted to the Office of one of the two chambers. Finance bills are to be submitted to the National Assembly first.
a) Ordinary procedure
The discussion of bills in the first chamber to which they are referred is based on the draft presented by the Government. A chamber to which a draft passed by the other chamber is referred deliberates on the draft transmitted to it.
Bills and non-government bills are sent to one of the permanent committees. On request from the government or the chamber to which the bill is referred, the bill can be sent to a special committee for examination.
When a chamber has entrusted the examination of a bill to a committee, the Government may, after the debate has been opened, oppose the examination of all amendments not previously submitted to the committee.
All bills or non-government bills are successively examined in both chambers of Parliament so that the draft adopted is identical.
If so requested by the Government, the chamber to which the bill is referred rules on all or part of the draft under discussion by a single vote retaining only those amendments proposed or accepted by the chamber in question.
When, following disagreement between the two chambers, a bill or a non-government bill has not been adopted after two readings by each chamber, or, if the Government has declared it urgent, after a single reading, the Government may convene a meeting of a mixed joint committee responsible for proposing a draft for the articles still under discussion.
The draft prepared by the mixed committee may be submitted by the Government to the two chambers for approval. No amendment is admissible without Government agreement.
If the mixed committee is unable to adopt a common draft, the Government may, after a new reading by the National Assembly and the Senate, ask the National Assembly to give a firm ruling. In this case, the National Assembly can either take the draft prepared by the mixed committee or the last draft passed by the chamber itself, completed by any amendments made by the Senate.
The bill is put to the vote in identical terms in both chambers and pre-eminence cannot be given to the National Assembly.
b) Special arrangements for budgetary matters
The finance bill is submitted to the Offices of the two chambers at the latest the day before the opening of the second ordinary session. Parliament has 80 days at the most to vote on it. If, due to force majeure, it has not been submitted, the ordinary session is followed by an extraordinary session whose length is at least equal to the time required to vote on the draft.
If the finance bill is not voted on in time, it can enter into application by a ruling. This should take into account amendments voted by the Parliament and accepted by the Government. If the law cannot be enforced before the beginning of the budgetary year, the Government is authorised by decree to renew the services that have been passed.
4) Legislative competence
The Government can, in order to execute its programme, submit a request to the Parliament to be able to take measures by ruling, for a limited amount of time, that would normally be the domain of the law.
B - CONTROLLING POWER
1) Right to information
The Government has to supply all explanations requested concerning its management and activities to Parliament .
2) The Parliament has the following means of information and control vis à vis the Government's actions:
- Written questions
- Oral questions
- Select committee
- Vote of no confidence
- Committee hearings
3) Budgetary control
The Court of Audit of the Supreme Court assists the Government and the Parliament in controlling the carrying out of budgetary laws.
4) The Prime Minister may request approval of a general policy declaration on the part of the Senate.
C - AGENDA
The agenda of the chambers includes in priority and in the order set by the Government, the discussion of bills submitted by the Government.
One session per week is reserved for the examination and adoption of bills. One session per fortnight is set aside for questions from members of Parliament and answers from the Government.
D - RELATIONSHIP WITH THE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC
The President of the Republic communicates with both chambers through messages that are read for him and which are not subject to debate. Outside of sessions, Parliament is convened especially for this.
V - SPECIAL ARRANGEMENTS
A - REVISION OF THE CONSTITUTION
The initiative for revision belongs jointly to the President of the Republic, after decisions taken during the Council of Ministers, and to the members of Parliament.
To be taken into account, the bill or non-government bill for amendment must be passed in identical terms by a two-thirds majority of the members of the National Assembly and of the Senate.
Revisions to the Constitution are adopted by referendum. However, technical amendments can be undertaken with a three-fifths majority of the National Assembly and the Senate in a joint meeting.
B - PRESIDENT OF THE SENATE
1) The President of the Senate (and the Office) is elected after each partial renewal
2) Interim Presidency of the Republic
If the Presidency of the Republic is vacant, the powers of the President of the Republic are temporarily allocated to the President of the Senate, and, if the latter is unavailable, to the Vice President of the Senate.
During the interim period, the President of the Senate may not relieve the Prime Minister and the Government of their duties, nor proceed with amendments to the Constitution, nor dissolve the National Assembly.
3) If the National Assembly is dissolved or in the case of exceptional measures taken, the President of the Republic must keep the President of the Senate informed.
C - CONSTITUTIONAL CONTROL
On request from the President of the Senate or at least a tenth of Senators (in conjunction with the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister, the President of the National Assembly or at least a tenth of members of Parliament), the Constitutional Council rules on the constitutionality of laws before they are promulgated.
2) International agreements
The President of the Senate, in conjunction with the President of the Republic or the President of the National Assembly can refer the question of the compliance of an international agreement with the Constitution to the Constitutional Council.
If the Council declares that the international agreement in question includes a clause that is contrary to the Constitution, authorisation to ratify the agreement can be given only after the Constitution has been revised.
D - NOMINATIONS
The President of the Senate nominates:
- Four of the 16 members of the Supreme Court (the President of the Supreme Court is nominated by the President of the Republic after consultation with the Presidents of the National Assembly and the Senate)
- Three of the nine members of the Constitutional Council (one magistrate and two lawyers)
- One of the nine members of the High Council for Communication
E - THE HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE consists of 15 members including 4 senators.
F - DECLARATIONS OF WAR REQUIRE PARLIAMENTARY AUTHORISATION.
G - THE STATE OF SIEGE AND THE STATE OF EMERGENCY are decreed by the Council of Ministers.
The Government then informs the Offices of both chambers.
To prolong them longer than 12 days requires authorisation by both chambers.