|Uruguay Country Studies index|
Uruguay - The Legislature
The bicameral General Assembly enacted laws and regulated the administration of justice. The General Assembly consisted of the thirty-member Senate--thirty senators and the vice president of the republic, who presided over it as well as the General Assembly and had both a voice and a vote in Senate deliberations- -and the ninety-nine-member Chamber of Representatives. If the vice president ever assumed the presidency, the senator heading the list of the party that received the most votes in the last election would succeed to the presidency of the Senate.
Members of both legislative bodies were directly elected every five years by a system of proportional representation. The Chamber of Representatives represented the nineteen administrative subdivisions of the country, with each department (intendencia) having at least two representatives. The members of the Senate were also elected by the people, but with the entire nation representing a single electoral district. Members of the General Assembly had to be natural citizens or legal citizens with seven years' exercise of their rights. Senators had to be at least thirty years of age, and representatives had to be at least twenty-five years of age. Uruguay did not have a residency requirement for election to the Senate or the Chamber of Representatives. Consequently, almost all of the country's politicians have lived and worked in Montevideo. Military and civil service personnel or public officials could not be candidates for either chamber of the General Assembly unless they resigned their positions at least three months before the election. In 1988 there were no female members of the General Assembly, but several served as alternates.
The Chamber of Representatives could impeach any member of either chamber, the president, the vice president, cabinet ministers, judges of the Supreme Court of Justice, and other judges. The Senate was responsible for trying these impeachment cases and could deprive a person of a post by a two-thirds vote of its membership. In addition, the Senate, in session from midMarch to mid-December, spent much time considering nominations for, appointments to, and removals from office submitted by the executive. In other respects, the Senate and the Chamber of Representatives had equal powers and duties. Members of either of the two chambers could initiate a bill. Both chambers had to approve a proposed bill before it could be sent to the executive power to be published. The latter branch, however, had ten days to make objections to or observations on the bill. If the president objected only to part of a bill, the General Assembly could enact the other part.
Among the most important duties of the Chamber of Representatives--in joint session with the Senate--were the election of the members of the Supreme Court of Justice and three quasi-judicial autonomous entities: the Accounts Tribunal, the Contentious-Administrative Tribunal, and the Electoral Court. These ordinary administrative courts heard cases involving the functioning of state administration. In addition, the Chamber of Representatives was empowered to grant pardons and settle disputes concerning legislation on which the two chambers disagreed. The Chamber of Representatives also had the exclusive right to impeach members of both chambers, the president and vice president of the republic, the cabinet ministers, and members of the courts for violations of the constitution or other serious offenses. Impeachment proceedings had to be tried before the Senate.
The Accounts Tribunal, which was a functionally autonomous appendage of the General Assembly, was responsible for determining taxes and reporting on the accounts and budgets of all the state organs. It was authorized to intervene in all matters relating to the financial activities of the state organs, departmental governments, and autonomous agencies, and it was authorized to report to the appropriate authority all irregularities in the management of public funds or infractions of budgetary and accounting laws. It was authorized to certify the legality of expenditures and payments and append pertinent objections whenever necessary. In the departmental governments and autonomous agencies, officials acting under the supervision of the tribunal performed the same duties. The tribunal's opinions covered all the organs of the state, including departmental governments. An annual report had to be submitted to the General Assembly. The Accounts Tribunal consisted of seven members appointed by a two-thirds vote of the full membership of the General Assembly. Their elective qualifications were the same as those of a senator. Their term of office ended when the succeeding General Assembly made new appointments, but they could be reelected.
The Contentious-Administrative Tribunal heard pleas for the nullification of final administrative acts that were considered contrary to law or an abuse of authority made by the administration, state organs, departmental governments, autonomous entities, and decentralized services. It also had jurisdiction over the final administrative acts of the governments of the departments and of the autonomous entities. Its functions were only to appraise the act itself and to confirm or annul it, without alteration. Its decisions had effect only in the cases before it. The Contentious-Administrative Tribunal could act in cases of conflict of jurisdiction based on legislation and on differences that arose among the executive, the departmental governments, and the autonomous entities.
The qualifications necessary for election to the ContentiousAdministrative Tribunal, the manner of appointment, the remuneration, and the term of office were the same as those established for the members of the Supreme Court of Justice. The tribunal was composed of five judges appointed by the General Assembly for ten-year terms. It also had an "attorney general for administrative claims" (appointed by the president), whose qualifications, remuneration, and term of office were decided by the tribunal. The attorney general was heard at the final hearing of all matters within the jurisdiction of the tribunal.
The Electoral Court, a quasi-judicial autonomous entity, supervised national, departmental, and municipal elections and had competence over all electoral acts and procedures. It ruled in the last instance on appeals and complaints; it also judged the election of all the elective posts and the holding of a plebiscite (on constitutional issues) or referendum (on political issues). Of the Electoral Court's nine members, the General Assembly appointed five and their alternates by a two-thirds vote in joint session and elected the other four members and their alternates equally from the two political parties having the highest number of votes. The court had eighteen alternates in addition to the nine full members. Members served four years until the succeeding legislature selected their replacements.
More about the Government of Uruguay.
You can read more regarding this subject on the following websites:
Uruguay Country Studies index
Country Studies main page