In which countries do senators have the opportunity to hold this post for life – Biographies and references

TASS-DOSSIER. October 31, 2020 Russian President Vladimir Putin introduced to the State Duma a draft federal law on the formation of the Federation Council, which, among other things, provides for the right of the head of state to appoint senators for life, and also introduces the procedure for acquiring this status by ex-presidents of Russia.

In which countries of the G-20 senators and members of the upper chambers have the opportunity to hold this post for life – in the TASS material.

Group 20 countries

Currently, in the countries of the Group of 20, which includes the largest economies in the world, including Russia, the post of life member of the upper house of parliament exists only in the UK and Italy. Previously, senators of France (until 1884), Brazil (1889) and Canada (1965) had this opportunity.

In Great Britain, life membership in the upper House of Lords was introduced by law of 1958. The House is formed on a non-elected basis. Its members are persons with a title of nobility, peers, as well as hierarchs of the Anglican Church. All of them, including life peers, are appointed by the monarch on the recommendation of the prime minister. The size of the chamber has not been established; it currently has 794 members, most of whom are life peers. Among the most famous British politicians to hold this post was Margaret Thatcher. She received it in 1992, after her resignation as prime minister (1979-1990).

In Italy, the post of senator for life was introduced by the constitution in 1948. The former presidents of the republic become automatically (ex officio). In addition, the head of state can himself appoint life-long senators “for outstanding patriotic services in the social, scientific, artistic or literary sphere,” but no more than five people. Currently, former Italian President Giorgio Napolitano (since 2015), former Prime Minister, Professor of Economics Mario Monti (2011), Head of the Center for Stem Cell Research at the University of Milan Elena Cattaneo (2013), architect, one of the founders of the high style -tek Renzo Piano (2013), Nobel Prize winner in physics Carlo Rubbia (2013) and former prisoner of the Auschwitz camp Liliana Segre (2018).

In France, according to the law of 1875 (during the Third Republic), 225 senators were elected by departments and colonies for nine years, and another 75 by the National Assembly (lower house) according to the list system with an absolute majority of votes for life. In 1884, it was decided to abolish the post of senator for life (it was retained by those who already had it; the last of them died in 1918). There were 116 permanent senators in France. In 2005, the country raised the issue of the status of former presidents, who, in accordance with the Constitution of the Fifth Republic of 1958, after resigning, automatically become members of the Constitutional Council. Due to potential conflicts of interest, some members of parliament have proposed replacing this position with the post of senator for life. However, this initiative was not formalized into a bill.

In Brazil, senators were appointed for life by the head of state in the years 1822-1889, when the country was an empire. In total, there were about 250 senators for life during this period. The post was abolished in 1889 when Brazil became a republic.

In Canada, members of the Senate until 1965, appointed by the Governor General on the recommendation of the Prime Minister, remained in office for life. However, after the adoption of amendments to the constitution in 1965, senators are required to leave office at the age of 75. Senators who were appointed prior to the reform were not subject to the new rule, but most of them chose to resign in accordance with the new rules. The last senator for life, Orville Howard Phillips (from Prince Edward Island province), retired in 1999 at the age of 75.

Other countries

Previously, the constitutions of many Latin American countries granted former presidents the right to hold the post of senator for life (without the right to vote), but then they were canceled, since they were recognized as undemocratic. The most famous Latin American who held this position is the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. He was a senator for life from 1998-2002, and enjoyed parliamentary immunity, protecting him from prosecution for human rights violations. In 2002, he resigned after being stripped of his parliamentary immunity by the Chilean Supreme Court. The post in Chile itself was abolished in 2005. Currently, a similar position continues to exist in Paraguay. According to article 189 of the country’s constitution, democratically elected former presidents of the republic are life-long senators without the right to vote, unless they have been stripped of their powers by impeachment.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the constitution (as last amended in 2011) provides for life senatorships for former heads of state. Currently, this post is held only by Joseph Kabila, President of the country in 2001-2019.

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