Emblem of the Galactic Republic
19 BBY (establishment of the Galactic Empire)0 BBY, Galactic/Imperial Senate dissolved
|Fate||Reorganized into the Galactic Empire|
|Key people||Minister of Defense, Vice Chair, Senior Administrative Aide, Galactic Senate, Senatorial Council, General Ministry, Supreme court, regional courts|
|Currency||Galactic Standard Credit (Republic Dataries)|
|Founding document||Galactic Constitution|
The Galactic Republic is the name of the interplanetary State used in the fictional Star Wars universe prior to the establishment of the Galactic Empire. The form of this government, ruled by the Senate, was introduced in the Prequel Trilogy. By the time of the original Star Wars trilogy, it is referred to as the Old Republic. It was a democratic, though eventually ineffectual, constitutional republic tied up in layers of bureaucracy.
The Republic, as it was commonly known, was a republican government that was able to sustain itself for over twenty-five thousand years.
The Republic itself was formed in 25,053 BBY (Before the Battle of Yavin) when the first "Galactic Constitution" was signed on Coruscant, after the Corellian Hyperdrive connected many worlds in the Galactic Core. Whether this means that Coruscant was the original homeworld of humans or simply the most powerful world at the time is still up for debate, and there has been little said about the event other than that it occurred. The Republic was made up of several hundred thousand worlds.
The Republic began as a mutual protection and economic alliance among a number of planets in the Galactic Core. Each member world chose a Senator to represent them in the Republic Senate, a central Legislative body. Senators were ambassadors of their homeworld, and member worlds were able to maintain their government and society in accordance with local beliefs, customs, and traditions. There were a wide variety of different local governments along the political spectrum: from Monarchies to Republics to Hive-like communes. In some systems, the senator was elected to that post; in others the world government appointed the senator. Naboo's monarch appointed their senator, while the Alderaan Council of Elders elected their senator out of their own ranks, usually the heir to the Royal House of Organa and their bloodline, as the heir was also the leader of the council.
When the Republic's power and influence expanded, many new areas of the galaxy were incorporated into the Republic. A reorganization of Senatorial representation occurred 1,000 BBY during the Ruusan Reformation. The most common organization for these new territories was to group regions into Sectors of about 50 inhabited worlds. Each sector is represented by a Senatorial Delegation. When the number of sectors became too large, sectors were organized into roughly a thousand regions, each represented by one delegation to the Senate.
The Senate served as the governing body of the Galactic Republic, while the Jedi Order served as its defenders. The Senate, and therefore the seat of government, was established on the planet Coruscant, with coordinates 0-0-0 in the standard galactic coordinate system, signifying its central location in the galaxy.
The Senate, according to the Star Wars.com Encyclopedia, was an enormous building containing 1,024 floating platforms, each of which contained a senator and his or her aides. Each platform in the senate represented a "sector" of the galaxy, with one senator for that sector accompanied by a delegation of aides and advisers. Some platforms represented individual worlds bringing special pleas to the senate, others the special interest guilds such as the Trade Federation. Along with the senators, the leaders of the individual member planets apparently also had the power to vote in the Senate and introduce legislation. Each senatorial delegation had one vote.
The members of the Senate then elected a Chancellor from amongst their ranks who served as the Senate's presiding officer and as the Republic's de facto leader. The Chancellor was assisted by the Vice Chair, who is presumably elected in the same manner as the Chancellor; the same Vice Chair is present throughout the entire prequel trilogy. Based on the films, we can see that the Senate followed pseudo-parliamentary rules. In The Phantom Menace, Chancellor Finis Valorum was forced out of office by the Senate in a motion of no confidence, introduced by Queen Amidala of Naboo.
Senators received one vote in all matters, procedural and substantive. The Chancellor was elected from within the Senate for a set term. Presumably this term was up to two terms of four years, with the Senate able to give the Chancellor emergency powers as well as remove him from office when necessary, as given throughout various books and movies of the prequel trilogy. The assembly was in turn divided into individual committees, each specializing in specific fields of government administration, and which were responsible for creating legislation to be reviewed by the full assembly. The Senate had some form of judicial power as well, although the Republic's judicial branch was the Supreme Court and the Senate's power in this area may have been limited to trying its own members.
Although legislation passed by the Senate was binding to all member worlds, most of the everyday legislation followed by citizens of the Republic was created at the planetary, sectoral, or regional level. Therefore, the main functions of the Senate were to mediate disputes between members, provide for the common defense, and regulate inter-system trade. The Jedi, who answered to the Chancellor, became traveling representatives of the Senate responsible not only for protecting the Republic and its citizens, but also to serve as representatives of the Republic and as mediators for individual disputes.
The Republic's greatest failing was its lack of formal organization. Much of its operation is based on non-binding constitutional conventions, which were often ignored and undermined by corrupt and power-hungry politicians. Coalition governments were common with special interests defining the legislative agenda.
However, the waning years of the Republic were a time of corruption and great social injustice. The Senate became divided between those who genuinely wished to uphold the values and ideals of the Republic and those who wished to further their own goals. After a series of weak and ineffectual Chancellors and a crisis involving the invasion of Naboo by the Trade Federation over a tariff passed in the Senate, the time came for strong leadership to end the corruption.
After Senator Palpatine of Naboo became Chancellor, he increased the power of the office from acting as commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic to the institution of his personal bodyguard, the Red Guard. The rights of many, including the Galactic Senate, were relinquished in the name of security. The removal of privacy screens in the Galactic Senate, which allowed senators to discuss issues before the Senate in private, resulted in many senators afraid to voice their response to a vote because of the installed surveillance hovercams listening in on every word and reporting to the Senate Security Chief. The Galactic Senate also met less often as the Chancellor was voted more emergency powers.
Politicians include Senators, the Chancellor, the Vice Chair of the Senate, the Administrative Aide, various Representatives from each system, and the members of the Jedi Council. Non-council Jedi aren't necessarily non-politicians, but the special status of the Jedi Council enabled those on it to have a substantial degree of power and moral authority. One Jedi master, Luminara Unduli, was the only non-council member to get as much power in politics as a member of the Senate.
Palpatine and Jedi Council
The Jedi function as a peace-keeping force in the Republic, giving them a significant degree of political power. The Jedi with the most authority serve on the Jedi Council, among who Yoda and Mace Windu acted as de facto leaders at the height of the Republic. Although the Chancellor did hold some degree of political authority over the Jedi, very little pressure was ever put on the Council before Palpatine took office and commanded that Anakin Skywalker become a member of the Council, despite the misgivings of the Jedi. While the council allowed Anakin to be on the council, they did not grant him the status of a Jedi master.
While the Republic had an Army and Navy for thousands of years, after the Rusaan Reformations, the Republic did not maintain a military except for a small force known as the judicial forces and the Jedi Knights as "keepers of the peace."
Several trade organizations, such as the Trade Federation and Commerce Guild, kept armies of droids in order to protect their profits and occasionally took advantage of this, such as when the Trade Federation invaded and occupied Naboo, resulting in the Battle of Naboo. Individual sectors also maintained their own security forces, such as Naboo Security Force or the CorSec from Corellia, and these were sometimes used to combat small threats. However, there was no centralized command, and the members of the Republic were loath to change this. Since most of the military power within the Republic's territory was not actually controlled by the Republic, but as depicted in Attack of the Clones, by member planets such as Naboo or organizations such as the Techno Union and the Intergalactic Banking Clan, the ability of the Senate to enforce its decrees was severely limited, and it was forced to rely on the Jedi. Conversely, however, the Trade Federation and other cartels within the Republic, some of which were represented in the Senate, held that a Republic government which lacked significant military power was just what they wanted, since it couldn't control them.
The Clone Wars changed all this. The Republic initially had no standing military to deal with the Confederacy of Independent Systems; therefore a Military Creation Act was proposed, which was strongly opposed by many of the Republic's pacifist leaders, such as Padmé Amidala of Naboo, who feared the possibility of going to war. Supporters included Orn Free Taa of Ryloth and Ask Aak of Malastare.
However, a Clone Army had already been created in secret on the planet Kamino ten years before by Master Syfo-Dias. When it became clear the Confederacy had no intention of negotiating with the Republic, the Republic adopted this army as the Grand Army of the Republic, along with AT-TE walkers, gunships and others such as the Republic Open Circle Fleet, most of which were produced by Rothana Heavy Engineering, a subsidiary of Kuat Drive Yards. The Republic's war effort was initially hindered because most of the major industrial combines in the Galaxy had, under the aegis of the Techno Union, sided with the Confederacy. The Kamino-bred clones formed the nucleus of the Republic's new army, and were swiftly augmented by clones from other sources as well as traditional recruiting; within a few years of the Battle of Geonosis, the Republic's military had expanded astronomically and had become the preeminent military force in the Galaxy. The rapid militarization of the Republic during the Clone Wars, overseen by Chancellor Palpatine, had far-reaching effects: the Senate's powers were reduced, the military became the primary arm of the government, and the Republic swiftly transitioned into Palpatine's New Order.
End of the Republic
By the time of The Phantom Menace, the Republic had grown unbearably corrupt. Palpatine became the Chancellor in 32 BBY after his predecessor, Finis Valorum, was voted out in a no confidence vote in a wave of protest against his handling of the conflict with the Trade Federation. Traditionally, the Chancellor could only serve a limited amount of time; however, Palpatine stayed in office much longer, due to the prolonged Separatist Crisis as well as the threat posed by the "Jedi Rebellion."
The crisis occurred when several of the Republic's member Star Systems and organizations united in order to separate from the Republic. This unified organization became known as the Confederacy of Independent Systems, or CIS for short. Tensions between the Republic and the Separatists eventually escalated into all-out war, and the conflicts that would later be known as the "Clone Wars" began (chronicled in Attack of the Clones).
The Senate granted Palpatine emergency powers to deal with the Separatist Confederacy in a motion introduced by Representative Jar Jar Binks. Palpatine's first move, widely supported at the time, was to create a vast army of clone troopers to serve as the Republic's fighting force against the Confederacy. The Republic had not previously needed an army, since until then any small conflicts within the Republic could be solved with the "peacekeeping" Jedi. However, the fact that the Confederacy had access to an enormous army of droid soldiers required the Republic to construct a more formal military to fight effectively.
In the ensuing years, the Senate increasingly granted enormous amounts of power to Palpatine, who became the war's political Commander-in-Chief. Such actions were justified in the name of security, and were considered a perfectly reasonable way to increase the wartime government's efficiency. Eventually, Palpatine gained enough power that he could take virtually any action without Senate approval. In effect, he was now a dictator (though he commanded an overwhelming majority in the Senate in any case).
Tension between Palpatine and the Jedi began to grow as the war progressed. Many members of the Jedi Council remained skeptical of Palpatine's growing powers, especially at the expense of the Senate — the only body they were contractually bound to serve. In time, the Jedi began to believe that Palpatine would not surrender his power at the end of the war. This suspicion was also shared by some senators, including Padmé Amidala of Naboo, Bail Organa of Alderaan, and Mon Mothma of Chandrila. Indeed, early in the novelization of Revenge of the Sith, Palpatine has appointed regional governors over the various worlds of the Republic, buttressed by detachments of clones.
After the death of Separatist leaders Count Dooku and General Grievous, and the discovery that Palpatine was actually Darth Sidious, the Jedi made their move in accordance with contingency plans already made. They attempted to arrest Palpatine, but failed. Shortly afterward, Palpatine secretly issued Order 66, a galaxy-wide instruction for all clone troops to assassinate their Jedi commanders. This command had been secretly implanted in all of the clones when they were created.
Many of the Jedi serving as generals of the Army of the Republic quickly fell victim to the clone trooper forces. They overwhelmed the often isolated Jedi, who were taken by surprise. Because the clones were simply following the command implanted in them, there was no treachery for the Jedi to sense in the minds of the clones that served them. The Jedi remaining in the Temple on Coruscant were eliminated by a detachment of elite clone stormtroopers led by Darth Vader, once having been Anakin Skywalker, who single-handedly cut down many Jedi himself — including many children studying as Padawans there.
As the Clone Wars were winding down, however, Palpatine's once near-unanimous support began to falter. As depicted in the Revenge of the Sith novelization and deleted scenes from the film itself, a bloc of senators began to emerge, even before the Clone Wars had ended, who opposed Palpatine's authoritarian rule and resented his treatment of the Jedi and other opponents. This bloc, originally led by influential politicians such as Bail Organa, Mon Mothma, and later by Bail's adopted daughter Princess Leia Organa, eventually became the political voice of the emerging Rebel Alliance.
At the conclusion of the Clone Wars, Palpatine addressed the Senate. First he related the story of the unsuccessful assassination attempt by the Jedi. Claiming that it was a "rebellion" and that their next move would be to kill all the senators, he declared the Order to be enemies of the Republic. Then he announced that the Galactic Republic would become a Galactic Empire so strong as to never be threatened by outside forces again.
Palpatine, who had been grotesquely disfigured by Mace Windu's "assassination attempt", proclaimed himself to be the first Emperor of the galaxy. Deluded by Palpatine's charisma and skill (and perhaps also by his considerable dark side power), the majority of the Senate cheered him on loudly in approval, which provoked one of Senator Padmé Amidala's more memorable lines: "So this is how liberty dies: with thunderous applause." After more than twenty-five millennia, the Galactic Republic was no more.
The Senate continued to exist after the formation of the Empire, as the Imperial Senate, but it was a virtually powerless advisory council. Palpatine remained the final authority on all laws; at most, the Senate could simply delay and discuss legislation. Palpatine ultimately became a dictator.
Nearly two decades later, shortly before the Battle of Yavin, Palpatine found the continued existence of open political dissent a hindrance to his total control, and disbanded the Imperial Senate — sweeping away the last remnants of the Galactic Republic. He formally placed all power of governance in the hands of the regional governors of the Imperial Military, thus abolishing civilian control of government. In truth, however, the real power had rested with the regional governors for some time, as long as they did not try to cross the Emperor. The Senate Building, however, still remained visible on the Coruscant skyline at the time of the destruction of the Second Death Star at the Battle of Endor. It was during this battle that Anakin Skywalker returned to the light side of the Force and assassinated Palpatine, thus destroying the Galactic Empire's pillar of strength and bringing balance to the Force. By the time the Battle of Endor was over, the Second Death Star had been destroyed by the Rebel Alliance and the Galactic Empire had ceased to exist.
Rebirth of the Republic
- Galactic Republic in the Official StarWars.com Encyclopedia
- Galactic Republic on Wookieepedia: a Star Wars wiki