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Asamblea Legislativa (Legislative Assembly)

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Parliament name (generic / translated) Asamblea Legislativa / Legislative Assembly
Structure of parliament Unicameral
Type of political regime presidential
Notes The executive power is exercised, on behalf of the people, by the President of the Republic and the cabinet ministers under his/her authority (Article 130 of the Constitution).
Head of the executive President of the Republic
Notes The President is both Head of State and Head of the executive. There are two Vice-Presidents who replace the President during his permanent absence, in the order of their election. During his temporary absence, the President may call upon either Vice-President to replace him.
Method for appointing the executive The President and Vice-Presidents are elected simultaneously by direct universal suffrage and by a majority vote of more than forty percent of the total number of validly cast votes (Article 138 of the Constitution). Elections are held on the first Sunday of February of the year in which these officials are to be elected. It then lies in the exclusive power of the occupant of the Presidency to freely appoint and remove cabinet ministers.
Term of office of the executive and coincidence with the term of the legislature The presidential term lasts four years (Article 134 of the Constitution) and coincides with the term of the legislature.
Incompatibility of the functions of member of the executive and member of Parliament Yes The office of parliamentarian is not compatible with the exercise of any other public office, by popular election or otherwise, with the exception of government minister.
Dissolution of Parliament Not applicable
  • Circumstances
Not applicable

  • Modalities
Not applicable

Accountability of Government to Parliament Yes The government is accountable to the parliament and is required to report regularly on its activities.
Modalities of oversight
  • Oral and written questions of parliamentarians
Parliamentarians can put questions to ministers (Article 121, paragraph 24 of the Constitution).
  • Government reports to Parliament
Every 1 May, the President reports to the parliament on the state of affairs. Cabinet ministers submit to the parliament every year, within the first 15 days of the first period of regular sessions, a report on matters that concern their ministries (Article 144 of the Constitution).
  • Vote of confidence on Government programs and/or legislative proposals
Not available
Motions of censure and votes of no confidence (sub-report)
  • Circumstances
Parliamentarians can censure ministers if, in the opinion of the parliament, they are guilty of illegal or unconstitutional acts or serious errors that have caused or may cause obvious damage to the public interest (Article 121, paragraph 24 of the Constitution).
  • Modalites
A reasoned motion of censure can be tabled in written form and by one or several deputies to the Bureau of the Assembly. The Bureau fixes the date - between five and ten days after the motion has been tabled - on which the motion will be debated. The parliament can censure officials by a vote of two thirds of the attending members.
  • Consequences
The verdict of a motion of censure by the parliament is considered final with no legal review possible. However, a censured official will be asked to explain him or herself, and does not necessarily have to resign from his or her position. During the period from 1990 to 2001, six motions of censure were tabled by opposition parties, and one was carried.
Dismissal and/or impeachment of Government and other public officials (sub-report)
  • Circumstances and persons concerned
The parliament has the exclusive power to admit or refuse any impeachment made against the person exercising the Presidency of the Republic, the Vice-Presidents, members of the Supreme Court and diplomatic representatives (Article 121, paragraph 9 of the Constitution).
  • Modalites and procedure
By a vote of two thirds of its members, the parliament declares whether or not there are grounds for legal action against the officials mentioned and places them, if there are grounds, at the disposal of the Supreme Court for prosecution.
  • Consequences
The Assembly can order the suspension of the Presidency of the Republic, the Vice-Presidents, members of the Supreme Court and diplomatic representatives, if they are to be prosecuted for common crimes.
  • Have these procedures been applied?
Oversight over the actions of the Government administration Yes The government is accountable to the parliament and is required to report regularly on its activities.
Means and modalities of oversight
  • Hearings in Committees
The parliament exercises oversight over the actions of the government administration by holding hearings in committees.
  • Committees of inquiry and missions to Government departments
The parliament can appoint committees from among its membership to investigate any matter entrusted to them by the parliament and submit the appropriate report (Article 121, paragraph 23 of the Constitution). Such committees have free access to all official agencies to conduct their investigations and collect any data they deem necessary. They may receive any kind of evidence and summon before them any person to be heard.
  • Oral and written questions of parliamentarians
Parliamentarians can put questions to cabinet ministers (Article 121, paragraph 24 of the Constitution). The time set aside for questions depends on the time remaining in the legislative session. Question time starts after six in the evening, and if it exceeds one hour, is scheduled to continue on the next sitting day.
  • Role of Parliament in the appointment of senior Government officials
The Assembly appoints Judges and substitute Judges of the Supreme Court, as well as the Auditor General and substitute Auditor General.
  • Activity reports of the Government administration and of public services or establishments
Cabinet ministers submit to the parliament every year, within the first fifteen days of the first period of regular sessions, a report on matters that concern their ministries (Article 144 of the Constitution). Autonomous institutions also report to Parliament annually.
  • Representation of Parliament in governing bodies of the Government administration
Not applicable
Existence of an ombudsman Yes
  • Method for appointing the executive
The parliament appoints the Ombudsman for a period of four years, renewable once, by a vote of the absolute majority of members present.
  • Relationship to Parliament
The Ombudsman defends the rights and interests of the citizens and ensures that all public actors respect the legal obligations. He or she exercises his or her functions independently and has to present an annual report on his or her activities to the parliament.
Consultation of Parliament in the preparation of the national budget No The executive prepares the ordinary budget through a specialised department, the head of which is appointed by the President for a term of six years (Article 177 of the Constitution).
Modalities of oversight
  • Examination of the budget / finance act by Parliament
The parliament has exclusive powers to vote the regular and extraordinary budgets of the Republic (Article 121, paragraph 11 of the Constitution). The specialised department responsible for preparing the budget has the authority to reduce or delete any items in the proposed budgets drawn up by the cabinet ministers, the parliament, the Supreme Court and the supreme electoral tribunal (Article 177 of the Constitution). In the event of any conflict, the President makes the final decision. The expenditures budgeted by the supreme electoral tribunal for election purposes cannot be rejected by the department. The executive prepares for each fiscal year the proposed extraordinary budgets, for the expenditure of revenues derived from the use of public credit or from any other extraordinary source. The parliament may not increase the expenditures budgeted by the executive unless it also provides for new revenues to be collected, upon prior opinion of the office of the Comptroller General as to the fiscal effectiveness thereof.
  • Reports on the budget / finance act by Committees
The parliament exercises budgetary oversight through the reports from the finance committee.
Fields overseen
  • Defence budget
Not applicable
  • Budget of special departments
The parliament exercises oversight over all public funds.
  • Role of Parliament in national development plans
The parliament is informed of national development plans through the President's annual address and oversees their implementation.
Parliament's deadline for the examination and adoption of the budget / finance act The draft ordinary budget must be submitted to the parliament not later than 1 September of each year. The budget law must be finally enacted before 30 November of the same year (Article 178 of the Constitution).
Consequences of failure by Parliament to adopt the budget / finance act If by 29 November of every year, at 23h30, the discussion on the budget has not been concluded in the second reading, the draft is voted upon without further discussions.
Budgetary autonomy of Parliament Yes The parliament has its own budget, determined in the same way as all other budgetary programmes and included in the national budget.
Evaluation of Government spending
Parliament approves Government expenditures annually Yes The executive must submit to the office of the Comptroller General the liquidation of the regular and any extraordinary budgets, not later than 1 March following expiration of the year in question (Article 181 of the Constitution). The office submits it to the parliament, together with its opinion, not later than 1 May. The final approval or disapproval of the items is the responsibility of the parliament.
Parliamentary oversight of public companies No Public companies are regulated through special laws and are under the supervision of the Comptroller General.
Modalities of oversight
  • Body for auditing the Government's books and method for appointing
The office of the Comptroller General is an auxiliary institution of the parliament in its monitoring of public finances; but it has full functional and administrative independence in the performance of its duties (Article 183 of the Constitution). A Comptroller and an assistant Comptroller are in charge of this body. Both officials are appointed by the parliament for a term of eight years, two years after the commencement of a presidential term. They can be re-elected indefinitely and enjoy the immunities and prerogatives of parliamentary privilege. The Comptroller and the assistant Comptroller are responsible to the parliament for the performance of their duties and may be removed by it by a vote of no less than two thirds of the entire membership, if their incompetence or misconduct is proven.
  • Reports of the public auditor's office
The powers and duties of the Comptroller's office are (i) to supervise the execution and settlement of the ordinary and extraordinary budgets; (ii) to examine and approve or reject the budgets of the municipal governments and the autonomous institutions, and oversee their implementation and settlement; (iii) to submit a report on an annual basis to the parliament, at its first regular session, covering the preceding fiscal year, including details of the work of the Comptroller's office and any opinions or suggestions he or she may deem necessary for improved management of public funds; and (iv) to examine, audit and close the accounts of state institutions and public officials (Article 184 of the Constitution).
  • Specialised committee
The government accounts for its spending to the parliament on a monthly and half-yearly basis. In addition, the special standing committee on public spending exercises oversight, on the advice of the Comptroller General, over annual accounts.
Foreign Relations Committee (sub-report)
  • Functions of the Committee
The parliament exercises oversight over foreign policy through the special standing committee on international relations and foreign trade.
  • Powers of the Committee
The committee reviews international treaties and conventions, and submits reports as well as other related information for plenary sittings. It also serves as liaison between the national parliament and other parliaments or parliamentary associations.
  • Composition of the Committee
The composition of the Committees reflects the numerical strength of each party in Parliament.
  • Bilateral visits of Parliament, inter-parliamentary conferences and information missions abroad
The parliament exercises oversight over foreign policy through bilateral visits, participation in inter-parliamentary conferences and information missions abroad.
  • Plenary debates on foreign policy issues
The parliament exercises oversight over foreign policy by organising plenary debates on foreign policy issues.
Involvement of Parliament
  • Participation of Parliament in inter-governmental meetings
The parliament can take the initiative to send parliamentary delegations to intergovernmental meetings.
  • Modalities and procedures for ratifying international treaties and agreements (sub-report)
The parliament approves or denounces international conventions, public treaties and concordats (Article 121, paragraph 4 of the Constitution). Public treaties and international conventions which confer or transfer certain powers to a community legal order for the purpose of achieving common regional objectives require the approval of the parliament by a vote of not less than two thirds of its entire membership. Lesser-rank protocols derived from public treaties or international conventions approved by the parliament when these instruments expressly authorise such protocols do not require legislative approval.
  • Other mechanisms for participation in foreign policy by Parliament
There are no other parliamentary oversight mechanisms in addition to the above.
National Defence Committee (sub-report)
  • Functions of the Committee
Not applicable
  • Powers of the Committee
Not applicable
  • Composition of the Committee
Not applicable
Parliamentary oversight of public arms manufacturing companies Not applicable
Circumstances and involvement
  • Modalities and procedures in case of war, an armed attack or a state of emergency
The parliament authorises the executive to declare a "state of national defence" and to reach peace agreements (Article 121, paragraph 6 of the Constitution).
  • Role of Parliament in sending troops abroad
The parliament gives or withholds its consent to the entrance of foreign troops into the national territory and for the stay of warships or aircraft at ports or airfields (Article 121, paragraph 5 of the Constitution).
  • Other mechanisms for participation in national defence policy by Parliament
The army as a permanent institution has been abolished in Costa Rica (Article 12 of the Constitution). There are police forces necessary for surveillance and the preservation of public order. Military forces may only be organized under a continental agreement or for national defence. In either case, they must always be subordinate to the civilian authorities and may not deliberate or make statements or representations individually or collectively.
Circumstances The executive can declare a state of emergency, by decree, in the case of natural disasters. The parliament has no role to play in the declaration of such a state.
Can parliament take the initiative to declare a state of emergency No
Consequences of a state of emergency for Parliament The executive must report to the parliament, at its next meeting, on any measures taken to safeguard public order or maintain the security of the state. A state of emergency does not affect the existence and functioning of the parliament.
Modalities of oversight
  • Body ruling on the constitutionality of laws
A specialised body / constitutional Court A Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court, established in 1989, reviews the constitutionality of legislation and executive decrees and all habeas corpus warrants.
  • Means and procedures
The Constitutional Chamber issues an advisory opinion on constitutional and legal drafts. The Chamber can be consulted after the first and before the second reading of bills. For constitutional measures, the consultation can take place after the vote on the first reading, in the first legislature, but before the final vote. However, if the parliament has a fixed time limit for voting a bill, consultation should take place at an earlier time. In this case, the parliament votes on the bill even if it has not received the opinion itself, and does so too when the Constitutional Chamber has not respected the fixed deadlines for consultation. The Constitutional Chamber can request the remission of all pertinent files for a consultation. A consultation interrupts the legislative process and the vote on the bill in its second reading
Evaluation of laws No Not applicable

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