Article 83 of the Interim Constitution calls for a bicameral National Legislature, consisting of a 450-member National Assembly and a Council of States consisting of two representatives elected by each state legislature. The National Legislature replaces the unicameral National Assembly that had consisted of 360 members elected in December 2000 for four-year terms of office.
During the transition Article 117 calls for the 450 members of the National Assembly to be appointed according to the following power-sharing formula: National Congress Party: 52% (49% northerners, 3% southerners), Sudan People’s Liberation Movement: 28% (21% southerners and 7% northerners), other (opposition) northern forces: 14%, and other southerners: 6%. The president appoints the members of the Council of States in consultation with his vice presidents and, for the southern states, on the recommendation of the President of Government of Southern Sudan after consultation with state institutions. Article 90 says that each legislative chamber has a five year term commencing from the day of its first sitting, but Article 216 requires that elections be held by end of the fourth year of transition.
The constitution describes the functions of the National Assembly as monitoring executive performance, initiating draft constitutional amendments, passing bills and provisional decrees, questioning ministers and taking votes of confidence in them, ratifying international treaties, and passing the general budget. Article 91 gives the Council of States important legislative and oversight responsibilities concerning relations between the states and the federal government; a two-thirds majority of all its members is required for the appointment of justices to the Constitutional Court. Most legislation, except the national budget, requires passage by both chambers. Members of the National Legislature are generally immune from prosecution for any crime although the immunity can be waived by a two-thirds majority of the relevant chamber.
Sessions, Dissolution, State of Exception
The president may declare a state of emergency, which needs to be placed before the parliament within 15 days of its declaration. He may also, in special cases, make provisional decrees, which need to be ratified by the parliament. He cannot make such ordinances about constitutional freedoms, federal and state relations, international treaties amending the borders, general elections, financial or criminal provisions. Article 217 allows the president to submit any matter of national or public interest to a referendum.
The speaker presides over the sessions ensuring order and supervises the Assembly’s administrative affairs. The speaker selects a secretary general from non-members. The secretary general undertakes the preparatory and administrative affairs of the National Assembly under the supervision of the speaker. The current secretary general is Ibrahim Mohamed Ibrahim.
Committee Structures and Membership
The National Assembly elects a speaker from amongst its members in the first session. Also elected are a deputy speaker and the chairpersons of deliberations and committees. The Assembly also forms, from among its members and in accordance with its rules and regulations, permanent or ad hoc committees for the performance of its functions. The speaker presides over the sessions ensuring order and supervises the Assembly’s administrative affairs. The current speaker of the Assembly is Ahmed Ibrahim Al-Tahir. He succeeded Hassan al-Turabi, speaker of the previous National Assembly that was dissolved in December 1999.
Legislative Drafting Processes
The president of the republic, the cabinet, any minister, any committee of the National Legislature or any member of the National Legislature may initiate a proposal for legislation in the National Legislature. If a member of either chamber of the National Legislature makes the proposal, it is not brought before the full chamber until it has been referred to the relevant committee to determine whether it concerns an important public interest.
After the first presentation of a draft, the speaker sends the bill to the appropriate committee. The same bill is introduced to the floor four times before a final vote is taken on it. The speaker may also submit the draft to a competent body or an interested organization outside the parliament for feedback. A bill passed by the chamber with principal jurisdiction in the matter is to be voted by the other chamber without extensive discussion or any amendment. To go into effect, bills need to be signed by the president or, if he doesn’t do anything within 30 days, they go into effect (pocket veto). The president may return the bill to the parliament with comments. The parliament is to give due regard to those comments, but may still approve the bill by a two-thirds majority and it becomes law. The National Assembly may also pass resolutions. Where unanimity is not possible, a majority of those present passes them. Laws and resolutions passed by the parliament are published in the Gazette.
The Ministry of parliamentary Affairs is in charge of overseeing legislative activities and establishing the liaison between the executive and legislative branches.
The National Assembly is a member of both the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and Arab Inter-Parliamentary Union (AIPU).