Colombia’s government has undergone several changes since the mid-20th century. One of the most significant was the adoption of a new constitution in 1991. The new constitution replaced the 1886 constitution and provided for a more decentralized, pluralistic, and democratic government.
National executive power in Colombia is vested in a president who is elected by direct popular vote. Under the 1991 constitution the president is limited to a single four-year term. However, in 2005 Colombia’s Constitutional Court approved a new law that allows presidents to serve more than one term. Suffrage (the right to vote) is universal for all citizens 18 years of age or older.
The president appoints a cabinet, subject to congressional approval. Under the 1991 constitution, the departmental governors are directly elected.
Legislative power in Colombia is vested in a bicameral congress composed of a House of Representatives (161 members) and a Senate (102 members). Members are elected to four-year terms. The 1991 constitution imposes penalties for absenteeism and bars members of Congress from simultaneously holding any other public office.
Colombia has four high courts: the Supreme Court, the Constitutional Court, the State Council, and the Superior Council of the Judiciary. Supreme Court justices are elected for life, half by the Senate and half by the House of Representatives. The Supreme Court is the highest court on all matters of criminal law.
The Constitutional Court, whose justices are elected by the Senate to eight-year terms, rules on the constitutionality of legislation and also hears all cases concerning the constitution. The State Council is the highest court for cases concerning the administration of the government. The judicial system also includes superior and lower district courts and provincial and municipal judges. Although the 1991 constitution banned extradition on the basis that Colombians committing crimes in Colombia had to face Colombian justice, the government repealed this section of the constitution in 1997 under heavy pressure from the United States. The 1991 constitution also established an independent system of prosecution, ensuring that neither the executive nor legislative branches can intervene in judicial proceedings. Capital punishment is outlawed. "Colombia" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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