THE PATHS OF THE SENATE: COMPARATIVE STUDIES

Organization: University of Yaounde II, Cameroon

Venue: HILTON YAOUNDE

Location: Yaounde, Cameroon

Event Date/Time: Dec 03, 2013 End Date/Time: Dec 05, 2013
Abstract Submission Date: Sep 30, 2013
Paper Submission Date: Nov 15, 2013
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Description

THE PATHS OF THE SENATE: COMPARATIVE STUDIES

 

10-11 December 2013, University of Yaounde II, Cameroon, Central/West Africa

Call for Papers

As a legislative institution which is largely neglected by scholars, especially in non-western countries, the senate is today running the risk of becoming irrelevant in many countries. While senators wield power and enjoy prestige in some countries, they are nothing less than retired politicians in other countries. This inter-disciplinary conference will, from a comparative perspective, look at the different paths of the senate, the life of senators and its place in democratic institutions. Papers may compare the nature and power of the senate across countries, the life of senators, the working mechanisms of the senate or the impact of its fabrication/demolition.

This conference is intended to explore unexplored areas, and to bring scholars and practitioners from different backgrounds and compare their findings. It will revisit the paths of the senate in order to understand the breaches, the continuities, the re-compositions and the usages of the following non-exclusive axes:

-          The job of a senator: the “path to the senate”, patterns of recruitment, senate elections appointments, genders in the senate, the career of senators, life (and death) after the senate;

-          Life in the senate: parliamentary work, functioning and dysfunction of the institution, weight and influence of the senate, politics in the senate (agenda, voting of texts, party majority, coalitions, discontinuities, usurpation, corruption, Lobbying, etc.), senate and government politics;

-          Senate territories: determining the impact of the regime, the political system and the form of the state in the functioning of the senate.

Pre-constituted Panels could also be submitted on any topic related to the senate.

Background

Despite its long history and the important role it plays in the smooth functioning of the Legislative Branch and balance of power, the senate has remained in the shadow, shielded from academic scrutiny. Legislative Studies students has taken sparing steps in examining the Parliament, but have largely focused on the lower house, pushing the senate to a conceptual “sidebar”. Apart from the American case where a long tradition has produced dozens of publications, the Senate has become an abandoned area of legislative studies. Life in the Senate, its capacity to act on the other organs of power, especially its fight over the control of foreign policies (the President and Senate being charged by the constitution to co-produce foreign treaties), the decision-making processes, its vetting of important appointments, the life of Senators after their mandate and the evolution of the institution, are areas which students of the US Senate have explored. Today, new areas of the life of the Senate are being explored with emphasis on the socio-political and historical dynamics of the institution.

In reality, the paths of the Senate lead to various places. During the era of Emperor Augustus, it enjoyed a huge prestige in the restored republic of the Sénatus Populusque Romanus. The senate was then so decisive because it shared the control of provinces with the emperor. Yesterday as today, in many countries, it is not just a recording, confirmation, or advertising chamber of government action, but a fearful indispensable incubator of liberal democracy, even when bicameralism sometimes appears unequal to the detriment of the upper chamber . While in some countries the senate is considered a consecrated institution, in others, it is appearing, albeit controversially, in political discussions (Burkina Faso) or even just recently? into the political system (Cameroon) or has even been dropped (Senegal). After setting a relatively generalized imitating process, the senate is today in danger of becoming obsolete in many countries. But historically, in bicameral settings, the senate has always played the technical role of a “chamber of reflection”.

As an institution, the senate can be studied from two classical angles. The first view is from the institutionalism school, anchored in constitutional law and looking at the formal rules defining the relations between the senate and other state organs. It also studies the daily and concrete functioning of the senate. The question can be put this way: “what is the place of the senate in a given political system?”   Based on institutional arrangements as a set of legal rules, connecting the whole to a single function, this analysis seeks to understand the articulation between political regime and political system, in order to explain the distribution of powers. The interdependence between legal constraints and political practices helps expand the analysis.

The second perspective is focused on the question: “who are senators and where are they from?” this angle considers a sociological view of the parliament by studying the nature of a senator as an elite. It helps portray the profile and mandate of the senator as an entry point into political careers. The biography of senators helps create archetypes but also provides variables which help compare them with other political professions. Particular attention can be paid to socio-demographic facts such as gender, age, cultural capital and social status. Political, partisan and socio-professional labels of senators, the patterns of their entry into, within, and out of the senate are other variables which through light on who a senator is. The question “how does one become a senator?” helps us to understand the main channels of recruitment into the senate. Does one enter through local government politics, by party militancy, or by holding administrative positions or by simple economic power? The goal would be to study the patterns and modes of entry into the senate, which will help outline an ethnography of the situation and career of senators. On this point, it will be interesting to understand what constitutes the success or failure of a senator: national or local anchor, local power tussle, party capital, position in the central political apparatus, parachute, etc.? How is the trajectory of a senator built considering the political context?

 

On the work of the senate, presentations will focus on the mastery of issues presented to the chamber as well as the efficiency of its control mechanisms. Political debates within the senate could reveal the vision of the senators on themselves, on their colleagues or on the institution. Whereas a majority of senators assume the position for prestige and honor, some harbor ambitions far beyond party obligations and discipline. Apart from belonging to a political party, the path to the senate is fuzzy and difficult in many countries, sometimes built on unfathomable criteria. The selection or election pattern of senate members could be seen as an extension of the meeting between personal ambition and political strategy. It is also the uneven trajectory of the senate, which is put to question here, especially that the institution is so often threatened by suppression yet keeps tailoring legitimation strategies which may be interesting to investigate.

Beyond these modes of explaining the dynamics of the parliament, we are also hoping to describe the space of the senate. It is about describing the territories of the senate, while evaluating its transversal connections. Comparing political regimes, systems, forms of the state, etc. is a difficult task. Comparative studies on the senate are scarce, researchers preferring to focus their attention on isolated cases or on the trajectories of individual legislators of the lower chamber. This scarcity of scientific productions is surprising considering the number of bicameral countries and the long history of constitutional law in many parts of the world (Europe, North and Latin America). The senate, more than any other political institution, provides insights on the internal dynamics of a political system,  both on its functioning and its interactions with the lower chamber (career, institutional relationships) and the executive. It is therefore important to rethink the links and mutual interactions between these organs of power. Thus, rethinking and building comparative cases between open and closed regimes in view of the dynamics of the second chamber can help enrich analysis of authoritarianism .

Please, take note

Summaries of presentations in French or English of about 250 words, including the names of authors, email and institutional affiliation should be sent to the organizers by 31 September in Word format to  

The committee will inform authors by 15 October if their papers have been accepted. The papers should be forwarded to the committee by 15 November 2013.

This is evident in specialized journals such as Pouvoirs.

Sarah A. Binder and Steven S. Smith, Politics or Principle: Filibustering in the United States Sénate, Washington, , 1997, Barbara Sinclair, The transformation of the U.S. Sénate, Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989.

Fergus Millar, “The Emperor, the Sénate and the Provinces”, The Journal of Roman Studies, Vol. 56, Parts 1 and 2 (1966), pp. 156-166; Mason Hammond, “Composition of the Sénate, A.D. 68-235”, The Journal of Roman Studies, Vol. 47, No. 1/2 (1957), pp. 74-81; P. A. Brunt, “The Role of the Sénate in the Augustan Regime”, The Classical Quarterly, New Series, Vol. 34, No. 2 (1984), pp. 423-444.

See the example of French speaking countries in Kuakuvi K., Les secondes chambres du parlement dans les Etats francophones : le cas du Burundi, de la France, du Gabon et du Sénégal, Thèse de doctorat en Droit public, Université de Gand (Belgique)/ Université de Lomé (Togo), 2012.

As from 1962, Cameroon’s President argued that « the rhythm we want to fix on our national constitution, inself set up within financial austerity appeared to be incompatible with numerous, heavy, complex and costly political institutions. These same considerations pushed us to choose unicameralism”.

On this particular point, see Dominique Darbon, “A qui profite le mime? Le mimétisme institutionnel confronté à ses représentations en Afrique”, in Meny Yves (ed.), Les politiques du mimétisme institutionnel. La greffe et le rejet, Paris, L’Harmattan, 1993.

Maurice Duverger, Institutions politiques et droit constitutionnel, Paris, PUF, 1980, p.166.

The way shown by Timothy Tackett is stimulating on this issue. Starting from a collective biography of MPs participating at the consultative assembly, he answers the question as to how they came at such an unbelievable conclusion, so scarce in the history of mankind, that the political and institutional world they have always known would be over-turned and completely reformed. What are they behavioral code, their system of values and their political culture at the dust of the Revolution?” (cf. Par la volonté du peuple. Comment les députés de 1789 sont devenus révolutionnaires, Paris, Albin Michel, 1997, 365 p.).

This is the case with the French Senate under the Fifth Republic.

See Mariana Llanos, Francisco Sanchez, “Council of Elders? The Senate and Its Members in the Southern Cone”, Latin American Research Review, Volume 41, Number 1, 2006 pp. 133-152

See for example, Sindjoun L., “Politics in Central Africa : a reflective introduction to the experience of states and region”, African Journal of Political science, 4(2), December 1999, pp. 1-15 ; Schmitter P, Karl T. L., “Les modes des transitions en Amérique latine, en Europe du Sud et de l’Est”, Revue internationale des sciences sociales, 128, 1991 ; Leca J., “La démocratisation dans le monde arabe : incertitude, vulnérabilité et légitimité”, Démocraties sans démocrates, Paris, Fayard, 1994, pp. 35-93 ; Machikou N., “Les régimes de la pacification parlementaire au Cameroun”, Polis, Revue camerounaise de Science politique 1, 2010.

 Nice sentence!

 I’m not sure what you are trying to say here

 This sentence sounded like a typical French sentence – too many words for the what is attempting to be expressed.

 

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Boulevard du 20 Mai
Yaounde
Cameroon
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Organizations

University of Yaounde II, Cameroon