On Sunday, Poles elected their representatives to the Senate of the Republic of Poland. Out of 100 possible seats, 66 were won by the candidates of the Senate pact established between KO, Third Way and New Left. What is the role of the Senate? What do senators do? What salary do they receive? We explain.
On Tuesday, the National Electoral Commission announced the official results of the parliamentary elections. In the Sejm elections, Law and Justice won 35.38 percent of the votes, Civic Coalition 30.70 percent, Third Road 14.40 percent, New Left 8.61 percent, and Confederation 7.16 percent. In the case of the Senate, PiS won 34.81 percent. votes, KO 28.91%, Trzecia Droga 11.5%, Konfederacja 6.75%, and Nowa Lewica 5.29%.
The candidates of the Senate pact, created by KO, Third Way and New Left, supported by independent senators, won 66 seats. KO will have 41 senators, Trzecia Droga 11, Left 9, and independent senators 5. Law and Justice candidates won 34 seats. What will senators be responsible for? What are the duties and powers of the Senate?
What does the Senate do?
The Senate, next to the Sejm, is one of the two bodies of power that create the law in force in Poland. The bills passed by the Sejm are sent to the Senate. He may approve, reject or submit corrections to them. If the Senate approves the bill submitted to it, it is signed by the president. However, if members of the Senate decide to introduce amendments or reject it, it is sent back to the Sejm. The Sejm may then accept or reject the senators’ amendments. In the second case, however, it is necessary to obtain an absolute majority of votes.
The deadline by which senators must decide on a bill depends on its type. In the case of ordinary acts, it is 30 days, the budget act – 20, urgent acts – 14, and acts amending the constitution – 60. Importantly, these deadlines are not exceedable – if the Senate does not respond to the act submitted to it, it is adopted in the form proposed by the Sejm.
Senators also have the right to legislative initiative, i.e. submitting drafts of new laws or implementing amendments to existing legal acts. The report may be submitted by a Senate committee or a group of at least 10 senators. The Senate also approves the president’s orders to hold a nationwide referendum. He may also apply to organize it himself. The upper house of parliament also participates in granting consent to the ratification of international agreements or the introduction of changes to the constitution. It also considers petitions that citizens may submit to it. In accordance with the provisions of the constitution, the Speaker of the Senate, together with a group of 30 senators, is also responsible for compliance with the provisions of the Constitution.
However, this is not the end of the Senate’s tasks. He chooses and cancels:
– 2 senators of the National Council of the Judiciary, – 2 members of the College of the Institute of National Remembrance, – 1 member of the National Broadcasting Council, – 1 member of the State Commission for Pedophilia, – 3 members of the Monetary Policy Council.
The Senate also approves the decisions of the Sejm on the appointment of: – the Commissioner for Human Rights, – lay judges of the Supreme Court, – the President of the Supreme Audit Office, – the Ombudsman for Children, – the President of the Office for Personal Data Protection, – the President of the Institute of National Remembrance.
Members of the upper house of parliament also consider reports of state and judicial bodies, such as: the Constitutional Tribunal or the National Broadcasting Council.
Who can become a senator?
Any person who is over 30 years old, has the right to vote and has collected signatures of support from two thousand voters can run for senator. Elections to the Senate of the Republic of Poland are held in 100 single-member districts. From each of them, one candidate emerges for whom the largest number of votes was cast. The term of office of the Senate is 4 years, ending with the dissolution of the Sejm.
How much do senators earn? Salary, allowance, severance pay
One of the basic rights of Senate members is the right to receive remuneration. They are received by senators who are not employed during their mandate, do not run a business and do not receive a pension or disability pension. Its current amount is PLN 12,826.64 gross. Selected members of the upper house of parliament serving as: chairman or deputy chairman of a Senate committee, chairman of a standing subcommittee, secretary of the Senate or member of the Legislative Committee can also count on bonuses ranging from 10 to 20 percent of their salary (PLN 1,283-2,565 gross). If a senator combines several of these positions, the total allowances paid to him cannot be higher than 35 percent of his salary (PLN 4,489).
Additionally – regardless of whether a senator receives a salary or not – he is also entitled to a parliamentary allowance. Currently, it is PLN 4,008.33 gross. This amount is intended to cover the costs associated with exercising the mandate. Senators can also use free public transport, rail and bus travel, as well as plane flights within the country. If they do not live permanently in Warsaw, they can also count on funding from the Senate Chancellery to pay for accommodation in the capital.
At the end of the term, senators are also paid a severance pay in the amount of three salaries, i.e. PLN 38,479.92. However, it is only received by those parliamentarians who were not elected for the next term.
Senator’s immunity – what is it?
When it comes to non-financial rights of senators, the most important of them is immunity, also known as the right to inviolability. There are two types of immunity: permanent and temporary immunity. According to the first of them, a senator cannot be held criminally liable for actions he or she undertook in the performance of his or her parliamentary functions (e.g. voting, speeches, submitted motions) during his or her mandate and after its expiry. However, if his actions harm other people, the Sejm and Senate may waive his immunity.
In turn, temporary immunity applies to parliamentarians only while they are serving as senators. Under it, they cannot be held criminally liable without the consent of the Sejm and Senate during the term of office, unless they themselves consent to it. This means that without the consent of the Sejm and Senate, a parliamentarian cannot be detained or arrested, except when he is caught red-handed and detention is necessary. Then the Speaker of the Sejm or Senate is immediately notified of the detention of the deputy or senator and may order his immediate release.
What are senators not allowed to do?
While exercising their mandate, senators cannot perform the functions of: a member of the Sejm, a member of the European Parliament, the president of the National Bank of Poland, the president of the Supreme Audit Office, the Ombudsman and the Ombudsman for Children and their deputies, the president of the Institute of National Remembrance, the Inspector General for Personal Data Protection, an ambassador .
It is also prohibited to serve as a member of the upper house of parliament with membership in the Monetary Policy Council, the National Broadcasting Council or employment in the offices of the Sejm, the Senate, the President of the Republic of Poland or in the government administration (except for ministers and deputy ministers). It is also impossible to simultaneously sit in the Senate and serve as a councilor, city president, commune head, mayor, judge, prosecutor, civil servant, active military service soldier, policeman or state security officer.
Senators are also subject to special restrictions on conducting business activities. Talking about prohibition of combining a mandate with work (or performing other activities) in state institutions or companies with at least 10% share of the State Treasury or local government unit (commune, district, voivodeship). Additionally, they must inform the Speaker of the Senate about all their gainful activities. The exception is activities subject to copyright: writing books, articles and similar activities.
Parliamentarians are also obliged to present their financial obligations at the beginning of each calendar year, as well as at the beginning and end of their term of office.
senat.gov.pl, senat.edu.pl, TVN24.pl
Main photo source: M. Marchlewska – Wilczak / Chancellery of the Senate