The Legislative Branch
The national legislature is a bicameral chamber consisting of a lower House of Representatives and an upper Senate. Collectively, both chambers are referred to as Parliament, however, the House and the Senate are prohibited by the constitution from convening in a joint assembly, except in the non-deliberative exception of the annual State of the Grand Republic address by the President. Nevertheless, the two chambers are referred to as Parliament collectively, despite being near exclusive in their workings.
The House of Representatives
The House of Representatives is the lower chamber of Parliament, and consists of five hundred members from each of the four hundred ninety five townships in Albithica, as well as the five districts in Albith. Members are elected every odd number year on December 1st to be sworn in office every even number year on January 1st, consequently making a representative’s term two years in length, with no term limits. The House is presided over by the Speaker of the House, who is elected by the Senate during a Presidential election year to serve for ten years. The House is meant to represent the "will of the nation."
The House of Representatives has the sole power of legislative initiative. This ability to draft potential laws resides solely on the House of Representatives; the Senate is prohibited from drafting new bills by the Constitution. There are numerous rules, bylaws, and procedures that the House has adopted, and listing them all would detract from the purpose of this expose. However, the general process of the passage of bills in the House is necessary to understand the inner workings of the Albithican government.
Any five representatives can propose a bill in the House. When a bill is proposed, the proposal is reviewed by the relevant House Committees, where committee members critique the bill and give advice for edits and revisions. Although the the five drafters can simply ignore the advice sessions and make no changes to the bill, it has become customary for bill drafters to seriously consider the comments made by the committee, and to make appropriate changes. Once the review sessions have ended, and the drafters have make their alterations, the bill enters a short “validation” phase where the bill’s validity is discussed by the whole House. At the end of the discussion, the Speaker moves for a vote to “bring the bill into the consideration of the House”. If at least one hundred members vote in favor of considering the bill (1/5th of the House), the bill is “in consideration”. If the required quorum is not reached, the bill is “rejected from consideration”.
After a bill has achieved consideration, it is presented to the House for adoption. House rules dictate that any considered bill must have a debate. During this period, representatives can voice their support or opposition to the bill, as well as offer amendments to the bill, which can be applied with a simple majority vote. Once the debate ends, Representatives vote on the bill. In order for a bill to pass, it requires a 3/5ths majority vote (three hundred Representatives in favor).
The House also has the sole ability to amend the Constitution. Amendments require a unanimous vote in the House, which spurs from the idea that if the Constitution, the supreme and fundamental law of the land, is to be amended, it requires the complete agreement of the nation. The House can also impeach the President with a 4/5ths vote if it is believed the President has violated the Constitution.
The House has committees that mirror the ministries in the national government. These committees are chaired by long-standing and respected representatives, and consists of ten other representatives, for a total of twelve committees of eleven members. These committees generate reports concerning their scope of government, and frequently hold publicized "Enquiries" with their respective government minister for the purpose of keeping the process of government transparent to the public. On rare occasions when a Minister has been censured, a committee might hold a Censure Hearing, which are essentially more combative and extensive enquiries. The House must approve Committee proposed Enquiries, Hearings, and fact-finding reports with a 2/5ths vote.
Committees review drafted bills before they are proposed for consideration, offering suggestions for revisions before the draft is proposed. If a bill has been sent back from the Senate, the relevant committee takes custodianship of the bill instead of the original drafters, making necessary alterations before presenting the bill to the House again for consideration.
The Senate is the upper chamber of Parliament, and consists of thirty Senators. There are three Senators from each County, and their respective County Congresses elect one senator every odd number year on December 1st to be sworn into office on January 1st of every even number year. A Senator’s term of office is six years, with a limit of one term. The Senator’s terms are staggered in such a way that 1/3rd of the Senate seats are up for election every two years, with each County Congress electing a new Senator every two years. The Senate is presided over by the Vice President, who has the added unique ability to vote in case of ties. The Senate is meant to embody the "values of the nation."
The Senate, despite being part of the legislative branch, does not possess the power of legislative initiative, but this does not diminish its power. While the they do not have any authority over the Judicial branch, the upper chamber has enormous authority over the Executive branch, as well as reviewing all bills passed by the House. We will discuss the latter first.
The Senate’s primary duty is to consider and review bills passed by the House. Senators are elected from their constituent County Congresses, not from the general voter population. The Senate also evolves gradually, with only 1/3rd of the seats in the chamber changing every two years, as opposed to all the seats in the House being up for election every two years. This is to ensure that the Senate acts as a “sober second thought” in regards to legislation, emancipating them, for the most part, from the passionate, but fickle, will of the general population. When a bill passes the House, the Senate holds a Reading of the bill. Usually, Senators have already read the bill, so the bill is rarely read out loud. During a Reading, Senators can inquire about certain aspects of a bill, but this happens infrequently as well, due to the prevailing custom of Senators making decisions based on their own conscious and convictions, rather than the input of their colleagues. These two factors have made the Reading more of a formality than a function, but it is still considered a milestone moment in the legislative process. After a Reading concludes, a vote for passage is held. If a simple majority of Senators (over fifteen) vote in favor, the bill passes the Senate. If the vote fails to reach a simple majority, one of two things can happen depending on the number of votes in favor it gained. If a bill receives at least 1/3rd (10 Senators) in favor, but not a simple majority, the bill is sent back to the House to be "revisited". If a bill fails to reach 1/3rd support as well, it is discarded.
Another duty of the Senate is through its’ subsidiary organization, the Senatorial Auditing Bureau; simply referred to as the Bureau. The Bureau audits various Executive ministries to ensure that the government is held accountable, as well as making sure that the government is not overreaching the bounds of established law. The Bureau generates frequents reports for the Senate to use in their consideration.
The Senate also ratifies all Presidential Directives proposed by the President with a 2/3rds vote (twenty Senators). Any active Directive can be reviewed and nullified at any time with a simple majority vote.
The Senate has a massive, if not blunt, power over the composition of the government. Any potential Prime Minister that is nominated by the President (usually at the beginning of the President’s term in office) must be approved by the Senate with a simple majority before he is to take office. Along with this, the Senate has the authority to essentially dismiss the government by moving for a vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister. A vote of no confidence requires a 2/3rds vote. If a vote of no confidence passes, the government cabinet is immediately dismissed. The President would then need to nominate a new Prime Minister, who will need to be approved by the Senate, who then will need to nominate new Ministers. The Senate has never moved for a vote of no confidence since the adoption of the current Constitution, but has threatened to do so on rare occasions.
The Senate can also issue censures on cabinet ministers with a simple majority, which is essentially strong disapproval. Although a censure does very little on its own aside from expressing disapproval, the President can only dismiss a Minister if they have been censured, so a censure by the Senate is typically intended to bring about the respective Minister's dismissal or resignation.
The Executive Branch
As stated before, the Grand Republic of Albithica operates on a semi-presidential structure, with a popularly elected President who serves as the head of state with the limited ability to influence and shape government policy and action, and a Prime Minister, who is responsible to the Senate.
The President of Albithica is the head of state of the Grand Republic. The President serves for a term of ten years, being elected in the last year of the decade on December 1st to be inaugurated on January 1st of the first year of the next decade. (For example, Henry Bradford was elected on December 1st, 2009, and was inaugurated on January 1st of 2010.) Presidents are limited to one term. The Constitution gives very little intrinsic power to the President, with the office’s main authorities being that of signing or vetoing legislation passed by Parliament, delivering an annual State of the Grand Republic address, charged with defending the “national sovereignty” of Albithica, as well as having the sole ability to appoint Justices to the Supreme Court if there is a vacancy. However, the Constitution grants the extrinsic power of proposing Presidential Directives to be ratified by the Senate. The President is meant to encapsulate the "spirit of the nation".
Presidential Directives have three categories; Determinations, Instructions, and Promulgation. Determinations create official stances for the Grand Republic on various issues and events, and the Government is compelled to adopt policy and actions to accordance with the determination. Instructions order the Prime Minister to adopt a specific policy. Promulgations are slightly different. The President has the authority, as Head of State, to enter the Grand Republic into international agreements and treaties, but any such engagement must be ratified by the Senate. Hence, Presidential Promulgations share aspects of Directives, and is categorized as such.
The President confirms the Prime Ministers nominations for the government ministers, and can dismiss these ministers if they have been censured by the Senate. The President also has the sole ability to appoint Justices to the Supreme Court in case of vacancies, as long as the appointees meet the Constitutional requirements to be a Justice. Peculiarly, the President’s administration oversees Albithica’s intelligence organization, the National Intelligence Agency, or simply the Agency. This power is granted to the President to safeguard the nation’s “national security and sovereignty.” As for the President’s check on the legislative, he has complete authority to sign bills into law, or to veto them outright. As Head of State, it is considered the President’s judgement if a parliamentary bill ought to be the law of the land. However, if the Senate voted unanimously in favor of a bill, any veto by the President is overridden. To date, this has never happened. The President uses his veto power sparingly, and only in situations where he has very strong moral convictions, ethical reservations, or ideological restraints where he cannot support the bill "out of good conscious". Constant vetoing of bills is viewed as an "obstruction of legislation", which is something the Constitution forbids, making the continuous veto of bills an impeachable offense.
The Prime Minister and Cabinet
The Prime Minister is the head of government. He is nominated by the President, and confirmed by the Senate. While he is symbolically accountable to the President, he is more accountable to the Senate, which can dismiss him and the cabinet with a vote of no confidence. He oversees the day to day operation of the government, and is the chief decider for most government policy and actions. The Home Office is essentially the administrative head of the Albithican government, with numerous offices designed to facilitate the cooperation between the various ministries, coordinate the implementation of public policy, and executes bills signed into law by the President. Cabinet ministers represent the various aspects of government, and the cabinet collectively assists in the decision making of the Prime Minister. Ministers can propose ministerial policy, but the Prime Minister must approve it. Although the cabinet is collectively responsible to the Senate, individual Ministers ultimately can be dismissed by the President if the Senate censures them, which makes Cabinet Ministers dual accountable to both the President and the Senate. The Prime Minister confirms all Department Secretary appointments made by the government Ministers, and can also dismiss the Secretaries for misconduct. As a customary rule, the Prime Minister consults the President on government issues on a regular basis, and generally heeds the President’s advice in most situations. In this regard, there is a general confusion that implicates the Prime Minister is simply a glorified Chief of Staff, but this is largely untrue. The Prime Minister can act against the President’s advice, which has happened on many occasions. If the President advises a course of action, but the Senate is vehemently opposed to such an action, the Prime Minister will most likely follow the wishes of the Senate.
The Judicial Branch
The Judicial Branch of the Grand Republic is remarkably centralized, and the local, country, and national levels of the Judiciary are very much dependent on each other. For the purpose of the topic at hand, the national Judiciary will be discussed.
The Supreme Court
The highest court of the land, the Supreme Court consist of nine Justices appointed for life, including a Chief Justice who heads proceedings. The Supreme Court’s powers are very broad and mostly consist of checking the powers of the lower courts through rulings on injunctions and filling vacancies on the various Grand Courts. The Supreme Court has a very important ability of reviewing legislation passed by Parliament for violations to the Constitution (or contradictions to standing law). If the Court finds that a bill is unconstitutional or legally contradictory, they can issue a Decree that nullifies a bill before it reaches the President. This is the Supreme Court’s power over Parliament. The power to impeach the President also resides with the Supreme Court, if the President is found to have violated the Constitution or overstep his legal bounds. Importantly, the Court hears all cases against the government that have passed a preliminary Grand Jury hearing, and decides on these cases accordingly.
The Supreme Court’s decisions, Decrees, and Rulings can massively shape Constitutional interpretation and common law. Rulings effectively check that the County and Local governments adhere to the constitution and established law. Decrees not only nullify unconstitutional bills from being passed, but they have the ability to prevent further bills of the same caliber from passing as well. Decisions establish official interpretations of the Constitution in regards to grievances against the government. How encompassing these decisions, rulings, and decrees depends on the consensus of the Supreme Court’s consenting opinion. A Per Curiam opinion (an opinion that is shared by all the Justices) is considered a Landmark precedent, and is fully encompassing, with no possibility of exception. A Landmark precedent can only be overturned by another judgement of the court with a Per Curiam opinion. A Majority opinion is when the majority of the court shares the same opinion. This establishes a legal precedent, which primarily relates the the case at hand, but can also extend to future cases that are within the scope of the judgement. A plurality opinion, which is when there are several concurring opinions in consent with the court’s overall judgement, but none have a majority. This judgement relates solely to the case at hand, and does not establish a precedent for future cases. There are also dissenting opinions made by Justices who disagree with the overall Court’s judgement. These opinions do not have legal weight. Concurring opinions are simply judicial opinions that agree with the overall consenting judgement of the Court, but is not shared by the majority of the Court.