A senator for life is a member of the senate or equivalent upper chamber of a legislature who has life tenure. , six Italian Senators out of 321, three out of the 47 Burundian Senators and all members of the British House of Lords (apart from the 26 Lords Spiritual who are expected to retire at the age of 70) have lifetime tenure (although Lords can choose to resign or retire or can be expelled in cases of misconduct). Several South American countries once granted lifetime membership to former presidents but have since abolished the practice.


In Burundi, former Presidents of the Republic serve in the Senate for life. At present there are two of these: Sylvestre Ntibantunganya and Domitien Ndayizeye.

Democratic Republic of the Congo

The 2006 constitution of the Democratic Republic of the Congo grants lifetime membership in the Senate to former Presidents of the Republic. As of 2019, Joseph Kabila is the only senator for life after serving as president from 2001 to 2019. The 1964 Congolese constitution also provided for life membership in the Senate for former Presidents.


In Italy, a ''senatore a vita'' is a member of the Italian Senate appointed by the President of the Italian Republic "for outstanding patriotic merits in the social, scientific, artistic or literary field". There may be up to five appointed senators for life at the same time. Former Presidents of the Republic are ''ex officio'' senators for life. Currently there are six senators for life (one former president and five appointed).


Former Presidents of the Republic, except for those who were impeached from office, are granted the speaking-but-non-voting position of senator for life.


The lifetime senatorship appeared in the Constitution of Russia as a result of the constitutional reform in 2020. According to the new version of the Constitution, the President has the right to appoint 30 senators for services to the country in the sphere of state and public activity, 7 of whom can be appointed for life. In addition, former presidents (except for those who were impeached from office) become senators for life, but have the right to refuse this office.


The Rwandan constitution permits former Presidents of the country to become members of the Senate if they wish, by submitting a request to the Supreme Court.

Former systems


In a manner reminiscent of the British House of Lords, members of the Canadian Senate were appointed for life. Since the Constitution Act, 1965, however, senators must retire upon reaching the age of 75. Though senators appointed before the amendment were grandfathered in by the legislation, there are no longer any lifetime senators present in the Canadian Senate. Orville Howard Phillips, the last senator for life, resigned his seat in 1999.



In France, during the Third Republic, the Senate was composed of 300 members, 75 of which were ''inamovible'' ("unremovable"). Introduced in 1875, the status was abolished for new senators in 1884, but maintained for those already in office. Émile Deshayes de Marcère, the last surviving ''sénateur inamovible'', died in 1918. Overall there had been 116 lifetime senators. In 2005, there was questioning about the status of former Presidents of the Republic. According to the constitution of the Fifth Republic, former presidents are ''de jure'' members of the Constitutional Council, which poses a problem of possible partiality. Some members of Parliament and commentators suggested that it should be replaced by a life membership in the Senate. This proposal was, however, not enacted.


The 1923 Constitution instituted the membership by right (''senator de drept'') in the Senate for: * the heir to the throne * Metropolitan bishops and diocesan bishops of the Orthodox and Greek-Catholic churches * heads of state-recognised religious bodies * the president of the Romanian Academy * former presidents of the Council of Ministers * former ministers with at least six years’ seniority * former presidents of either legislative chamber who held this function for at least eight ordinary sessions * former senators and deputies elected to at least ten legislatures, irrespective of their duration * former presidents of the High Court of Cassation and Justice * reserve and retired generals * former presidents of the National Assemblies at Chişinău, Cernăuţi and Alba Iulia, which proclaimed their respective provinces’ union with Romania in 1918 (''see Union of Bessarabia with Romania, Union of Bukovina with Romania and Union of Transylvania with Romania'') The membership by right was maintained under the 1938 Constitution and it was abolished together with the Senate on July 15, 1946, by the Communist Party-dominated government of Petru Groza. Although the current constitution of Romania re-established the bicameral Parliament in 1991, it did not reinstate the office of senator by right.

South and Central America

The constitutions of a number of countries in South America have granted former presidents the right to be senator for life (''senador vitalicio''), possibly recalling the entirely unelected Senate of Simón Bolívar's theory (see Bolivar's tricameralism). Most of these countries have since excised these provisions as they are increasingly seen as antidemocratic. The Constitution of Paraguay still has such a provision. Former presidents are permitted to speak but not vote. Probably the most familiar case is that of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet (1998–2002) whose parliamentary immunity protected him from prosecution for human rights violations until the Chilean Supreme Court revoked it in 2000. * In Venezuela, lifetime Senate seats existed from 1961 to 1999. The former Presidents who held this position were: Rómulo Betancourt (1964–1981), Raúl Leoni (1969–1972), Rafael Caldera (1974–1994, 1999), Carlos Andrés Pérez (1979–1989, 1994–1996), Luis Herrera Campins (1984–1999) and Jaime Lusinchi (1989–1999). The Venezuelan Senate was abolished with the 1999 constitution. * In Peru, the practice was extant from 1979 to 1993. Francisco Morales Bermúdez, Fernando Belaúnde Terry and Alan García Pérez were the only lifetime senators until the abolition of the senate in 1993 and the introduction of a unicameral parliament. * In Chile, under the 1980 Constitution, two ex-Presidents have become senators-for-life: Augusto Pinochet Ugarte (1998–2002) and Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle (2000–2006). The provision was abolished by constitutional reforms in 2005. * In Nicaragua, the 1974 Constitution granted lifetime membership in that country's Senate to former Presidents of the Republic.


The senators of the Empire of Brazil were appointed for lifetime (1826–1889). The emperor appointed the senator for each constituency from a list of three, indirectly elected, candidates. For details, see Senate of Brazil: History There were about 250 senators of the Empire of Brazil. For the list of senators, see :pt:Lista de senadores do Brasil


Under its 1979 Constitution, José Luis Bustamante y Rivero, Fernando Belaúnde Terry and Alan García Pérez were the only ones to hold that position, before the adoption of the Constitution of 1993, which eliminated the Senate and established a unicameral Congress.


A variation of the "senator for life" theme existed in the Somali Republic (1960–1969). While the 1960 constitution did not provide for a senate (the legislature, known as the National Assembly, was unicameral), it did grant lifetime membership in the legislature to ex-Presidents of the Republic. Aden Adde was the only person eligible to hold this position.

United States

During the Constitutional Convention of 1787, New York delegate Alexander Hamilton proposed that all members of the U.S. Senate, which was at time appointed by state legislatures and intended to check the power of the popularly elected House of Representatives, be appointed for life as a safeguard against "amazing violence and turbulence of the democratic spirit." His views did not prevail, and the final U.S. Constitution specified seven-year terms for Senators.

See also

* Lords Spiritual * Lords Temporal * Term limits * List of Senators for life in Italy


External links

Senato.it: Senatori a vita
{{in lang|it — Italian lifetime senators (XVII legislation – June 2017) *Senator * * Category:Upper houses