Yemen has a bicameral parliament composed of an upper house, the Consultative Council, and a lower house, the House of Representatives. The House of Representatives (Majlis An-Nuwab) has legislative powers while the Consultative Council serves only in an advisory capacity. The Consultative Council is composed of 111 members, as of April 28, 2001, appointed by the President, and the House of Representatives is composed of 301 elected members who served four-year terms until a constitutional amendment, voted on in a referendum on February 20, 2001, extended the term of the parliament from four to six years.
The House of Representative has legislative authority. It enacts laws, sanctions general state policy and the socioeconomic plan, and approves government budgets and final accounts. It also directs and monitors the activities of the executive branch.
The Consultative Council, though primarily advisory, was given some legislative powers by the 2001 constitutional amendments. In matters that pertain to national defense, both houses meet together to vote on legislation; such bills must receive an absolute majority among all ministers present in order to pass. The president may also call both houses to assemble together in order to discuss a specific topic, in which case the same procedures apply.
Members of the parliament have the right to take a vote of confidence in the government after reviewing its programs. Questioning the prime minister or any other minister and withdrawing confidence are also important parliamentary prerogatives.
Sessions, Dissolution, State of Exception
The parliament annually holds two ordinary sessions. Extraordinary sessions may be convened by presidential decree, a decision by the Presiding Board of the Parliament, or a written request from one third of the members.
A member of the legislature represents the whole nation and guards the public interest. A member may not interfere with the work of the executive or the judicial branches. A member may not be subject to procedures of investigation, inspection, arrest, imprisonment, or punishment, except with the permission of the parliament save in the case of his being caught in the act.
The meetings of the legislature require a quorum of at least half the members, excluding those whose seats were declared vacant. Decisions are taken by an absolute majority of the attending members, except in cases where the constitution or House regulations demand a specific majority. In the case of a tie vote, further deliberations must be postponed to a future session.
Meetings of the House of Representatives are open to the public, but the House may hold closed meetings at the request of the president of the parliament, the president of the republic, the government, or at the request of at least twenty members of the House. All laws are published in the Official Gazette within two weeks of issuance. They come into force within thirty days of their publication. This period may be shortened or extended by law.
The constitution gives the president of the republic the right to dissolve parliament, although the parliament cannot be dissolved twice for the same reason. Under the current constitution as amended in 2001 the president may directly call for new legislative elections.
The Presiding Board of the Parliament is composed of the speaker and three officials elected from among the House members. The House also has a General Secretariat, presided over by a secretary general. The current president of the Majlis is Sheikh Abdullah bin Husain al-Ahmar and the secretary general is Abdullah Ahmed Sofan.
The legislature issues its own by-laws and the procedures of its working committees and determines the legitimacy of its membership. Parliamentary by-laws may not contradict the constitution or suggest its amendment. The by-laws specify all the procedures for electing the parliamentary Board, its duration, and its other functions.
Legislative Drafting Processes
A member of the House of Representatives or the government has the right to propose bills for laws. Financial laws that aim at increasing or abolishing an existing tax, or decrease or give exemption from part of it, or aim at allocating part of the state funds for a certain project may only be proposed by the government or by at least 20 percent of the representatives. Laws proposed by the members of the House are referred first to a special committee, which determines whether the proposal meets the requirements for action by the House before they are sent to the relevant committee.
The Ministry of Legal and Parliamentary Affairs coordinates legislative and executive functions.
The Yemeni parliament is a member of both the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and Arab Inter-Parliamentary Union (AIPU).