Uruguay was a republic with three separate branches of government. The 1967 constitution institutionalized a strong presidency, subject to legislative and judicial checks. The electorate exercised sovereignty directly through elections, initiatives, or referendums and indirectly through representative powers established by the constitution.
Executive power was exercised by the president of the republic, acting with the advice of the Council of Ministers. The vice president of the republic served as the president of the General Assembly and the Senate. The president and vice president were elected for five-year terms by a simple majority of the people through a unique voting system. Candidates had to be at least thirty-five years of age, native born, and in full possession of their civil rights. After a period following their election, the president and vice president were sworn in before both chambers of the General Assembly and took office on March 1. Neither could be reelected until five years after the completion of their terms.
The president's duties included publishing all laws and enforcing them, informing the General Assembly of the state of the republic and of proposed improvements and reforms, making objections to or observations on bills sent by the General Assembly, proposing bills to the chambers or amendments to laws previously enacted, conferring civilian and military offices, and removing civil servants (with the consent of the Senate) for "inefficiency, dereliction of duty, or malfeasance." The key civilian appointments made by the president were cabinet members.
A 1986 constitutional amendment returned to the presidency the power to command the armed forces and appoint the armed forces commander. The chief executive granted promotions to members of the armed forces, with the consent of the Senate for promotions to colonel or higher ranks. The president also was responsible for maintaining internal order and external security. Although the constitution did not give the president sweeping powers in cases of emergency, Article 168 empowered the chief executive "to take prompt measures of security in grave and unforeseen cases of foreign attack or internal disorder." In such an event, the president was required to explain his action to a joint session of the General Assembly or, if it was in recess, to the Permanent Commission within twenty-four hours.
Other presidential powers included decreeing the severance of diplomatic relations with another country and declaring war if arbitration or other pacific means to avoid it were unsuccessful. The president appointed ambassadors and other foreign service diplomatic personnel. The chief executive could not leave the country for more than forty-eight hours without authorization from the Senate. The president could not be impeached unless found guilty of violations of articles of the constitution or other serious offenses.
The Council of Ministers included the cabinet ministers (appointed by the president) and the president of the Central Bank of Uruguay. Each appointee had to be approved by a simple majority in each chamber of the General Assembly. Cabinet members had to be native-born citizens in full possession of their civil rights and at least thirty years of age. They could be removed from office by impeachment proceedings initiated by the Chamber of Representatives and approved by the Senate.
When all the cabinet ministers or their deputies met and acted jointly, the body was known as the Council of Ministers. Presided over by the president of the republic, who had a vote, the Council of Ministers was responsible for all acts of government and administration. In addition, a number of autonomous entities ( autonomous agencies or state enterprises) and decentralized services were important in government administration.
The principal duties of the cabinet members were to enforce the constitution, laws, decrees, and resolutions; to formulate and submit for the consideration of superior authority any laws, decrees, and resolutions they deemed appropriate; to effect-- within the limits of their functions--the payment of the national debt; to propose the appointment or discharge of employees of their ministries; and to perform any other functions entrusted to them by laws or by measures adopted by the executive power. They could attend the sessions of either chamber of the General Assembly and their respective standing committees, and they could take part in debate, but they could not vote.
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