Senate Relations with the House of Representatives
Saturday، 01 August 2020 02:34 PM
Law No. 141 of 2020 regulating the Senate was issued, after President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi’s ratification, which was finally approved by Parliament in the last sessions. The Senate is concerned with studying and proposing what it sees could guarantee strengthening the pillars of democracy, supporting social peace and the basic foundations of society including its higher values, rights, freedoms and public duties, in addition to deepening the democratic system and expanding its fields. In this respect, we shall review its relationship with the House of Representatives.
The correct description of the nature of the competencies of the Senate is to study and give an opinion, without having a legislative role to issue a decision. However, its opinion is taken as regards the proposals for amending one or more articles of the Constitution, the draft general plan for social and economic development, treaties on peace, alliances and sovereignty rights, draft laws complementary to the Constitution, in addition to draft laws referred to it by the President of the Republic or the House of Representatives as well as any other matters which the President may refer to it related to the public policy of the state or its policy concerning Arab or foreign affairs, where the Senate has the jurisdiction to submit its opinion to the President of the Republic and the House of Representatives, while the House of Representatives has the authority in oversight and legislation. So, the Senate is not a second legislative chamber, while the House of Representatives has the sole legislative authority according to the last constitutional amendments as stated in chapter one of part V.
As for its oversight role, the right of the members of the Senate in terms of the parliamentary oversight tools is limited to requesting the discussion of a public issue to obtain clarification on the government’s policy in its regard and submitting a request for information to the government, which are mainly cooperative rather than accusation tools, according to the rules of procedure of the House of Representatives until the internal regulations of the Senate are established.
The Constitutional Oath of the President of the Republic
The President of the Republic shall take the constitutional oath before the House of Representatives. In this respect, the Senate has no competencies with regard to the procedures of assuming the presidential position and the swearing-in of the President, which shall take place before the House of Representatives. However, there is nothing to prevent from inviting the ‘Senators’ to an honorary attendance of the swearing-in session. As for the other issues related to the presidential post, such as vacancy or resignation and so on, the Senate has no jurisdiction regarding them.
According to the Constitution, the President of the Republic may, when appropriate, convoke the two councils to make a statement or convey specific messages in a joint session. In addition, the Senate as well as the House of Representatives may be called to an extraordinary session, by the President of the Republic, or upon a request from council members to consider an urgent matter.
The Relationship of the Senate and the House of Representatives with the Government
Unlike the House of Representatives, the Senate has no competencies with regards to discussing the government programme, exemption, and formation, or making ministerial amendments, or the like, or declaring a state of emergency.
According to Article (253), the Prime Minister, his deputies, ministers and other members of the government shall not be held accountable to the Senate. Therefore, this chamber cannot use the constitutional tools of interrogation, withdrawal of confidence, or asking the question, which are inherent rights of the House of Representatives. The Senate has the right to hold public hearings and review a situation only in case the government is summoned to discuss what is requested of it. In this respect, Article 254 of the Constitution referred to Article 136, the tools of regulation, which state that the Speaker and his deputies as well as the Prime Minister, his deputies, ministers and their deputies may attend the sessions and committees of the Councils. Their attendance may be obligatory if requested by the House. They may be assisted by high-ranking officials of their choice. They shall be heard whenever they request to speak; they shall answer questions pertaining to issues in discussion, but shall have no counted vote when votes are taken, without any of the senators having the right to use any monitoring tool, such as a request for briefing, urgent statement, or questioning, etc.
Article 288 of the internal regulations of the House of Representatives stipulates that Parliament may hold a joint meeting with another House of Representatives of one of the countries in support of cooperation between the two councils. The same applies a fortiori to the Senate and the House of Representatives in holding a joint meeting.
And thereby, an issue can be discussed in a joint meeting between the two councils in the presence of a political leadership according to Article 286 of the internal regulations of the House of Representatives, which now applies to the Senate and stipulates that both the President of the Republic and the Prime Minister may call a special session for an exchange of views on matters related to the interests of an issue. And since the Speaker of the House of Representatives may, in agreement with the Prime Minister, invite dignitaries and State guests to deliver a speech without an agenda, therefore he may call a joint meeting for the two councils.
Combining between the membership of both Councils
According to Article 252, the membership of the Senate and House of Representatives shall not be combined. However, if a member of parliament resigns and his resignation is accepted by the council, he or she may run for the elections of the Senate once the elections are held preceding the end of term for the current legislative session.
Whereas if a quite number of members of the House of Representatives resign reaching one third of the Council to run for the elections of the Senate, the number of members of the House of Representatives will be directly reduced and their seats will become vacant. And thus it may not be constitutionally possible to hold complementary elections if the remaining period of the House term is less than 60 days. Consequently, this could prevent the ratification of any laws that may complement the constitution or extending the state of emergency.
Women Representation in “Senate” and “House”
There is no definite quota for women stipulated in the Constitution. According to Article 102, the House of Representatives is composed of no less than four hundred and fifty members elected by direct secret public ballot. At least one quarter of the seats (25%) shall be allocated for women. Whereas, the Senate law stipulates that at least 10 percent of the seats should be occupied by women. In this respect, Article 250 of the Constitution stipulates that the members of the Senate are to be elected and appointed as regulated by law. Thus, the constitutional legislator authorized the ordinary legislator to set regulations he deems appropriate, including the form of lists and the electoral system, etc.
The Articles of the 2014 Constitution that will apply to the Senate
The provisions of the Constitution of Egypt 2014 shall apply to the Senate in the following articles:
Article 103: Nature of Membership
Article 104: Oath. A member of the House of Representatives takes the oath prior to the start of his tenure.
Article 105: Remuneration
Article 107: Validity of Membership
Article 108: Vacancy
Article 109: Restrictions on economic activity, financial disclosure
Article 110: Revoking membership
Article 111: Resignation of members
Article 112: Opinions of members
Article 113: Criminal action against members
Articles (114, 115,116): The seat of the House of Representatives, its ordinary and extraordinary sessions
Article 117: How the House of Representatives elects a speaker and two deputy speakers, and if either seat becomes vacant, how the House elects a replacement, including the House’s rules of procedure.
Article 118: Rules of procedure
Article 119: Internal order
Article 120: Public sessions
Article 121: Quorum and voting (First paragraph and second paragraph)
Article 132: Discussion of public issues
Article 133: Discussion of public issues by members
Article 136: Attendance of sessions by the prime minister, his deputies, ministers and their deputies
Article 137: Dissolution of the House of Representatives