In Episode IV, word spreads that the Emperor has just disbanded the Imperial Senate and that power would pass to regional governors. It seems a done deal at this point, as if the Emperor just had to wave his hand and poof, the Senate was automatically disbanded as a matter of law. On the other hand, much of the politics we see in the Prequels is about Palpatine's rise to power from a mostly-powerless Senator, to a Chancellor who is still subordinate to the Senate itself, and finally to a Chancellor with sufficient "emergency powers" to raise a Clone army and declare a transition to an Empire.

It seems unusual that the Senate survived almost twenty years beyond the declaration of the "First Galactic Empire", when presumably it had been a thorn in Palpatine's side since forever.

At what point did Palpatine gain the de jure legal or political authority to disband the Senate at will? Was this part of the package of emergency powers that he received in Episode II, or was this an additional power that he gained later as he coerced the Senate into making him even more powerful? If the dissolution of the Senate was not a unilateral act by the Emperor, how did the dissolution take place? Did the Senate vote itself out of existence on the "recommendation" of the Emperor? Was this a grassroots movement by Imperial citizens?

I am aware that Palpatine is a very powerful Sith darksider who is also an expert in charming and coercing people to do what he wants. I'm asking about the specific legal or political process by which the Senate was finally disbanded.

  • When he transferred power from the Senate to regional Moffs (enforced by the Imperial Army and Star Fleet), the Senate basically became pointless and toothless
    – Valorum
    Jan 27, 2020 at 15:21
  • @Valorum I know, but I'm asking by what authority he had the right to do that. Was that something he could have done as early as the start of the Clone Wars using his Emergency War Powers, or did he gain a "dissolve the Senate" power later? Did he never actually have the power to do that himself, but he charmed or coerced enough Senators to vote the Senate out of existence? Did the Senate never cease in a de jure sense, but sufficient Senators were killed or intimidated that it ceased to function in any practical sense? Jan 27, 2020 at 15:25
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    @TheLethalCarrot on the contrary, according to the prequels he does seem to care very much for the law, at least in terms of making sure that his rise to power is "legal" and that he has enough dirt on the Jedi to have them outlawed. It doesn't seem in his character to say "poof, the Senate is dissolved, ha ha" without having at least some legal or political theory behind it. In D&D terms he is almost the epitome of Lawful Evil - he doesn't do things arbitrarily or capriciously, but believes very much in Order and Working the System to get what he wants. Jan 27, 2020 at 15:31
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    @RobertColumbia you’re forgetting that in the prequels he was still rising to power and trying to remain hidden from the Jedi. Once he has that power and the Jedi are all but extinct things aren’t exactly the same.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Jan 27, 2020 at 15:34
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    @RobertColumbia - He only uses laws where they help him. When they don't suit him, he's happy to commit murder and genocide.
    – Valorum
    Jan 27, 2020 at 18:31

2 Answers 2


The Senate were disbanded by Imperial Decree when the Empire completed the Death Star, replacing the old Senatorial order with the new 'Tarkin Doctrine' of direct rule by the twenty regional Moffs, backed up by the threat of planetary annihilation for those that disagreed.

He shuffled this technical data feed out of view and pulled up the news coming out of the capital. The disbanding of the Senate demanded the attention of the media, and the holonews outlets were obediently repeating the narrative that the Empire’s advisers had prepared. Rebel traitors had infiltrated the Senate. Such infiltration resulted in a devastating terrorist strike on a major Imperial military installation on Scarif. For the duration of the emergency, the Emperor needed absolute control to bring a swift end to this threat and root out insurgents who had access to the heart of the Imperial bureaucracy.

Verge of Greatness: From a Certain Point of View

It would appear that the Emperor had had the puppet Senate vote him some sort of Enabling Authority at some earlier point, presumably along with the power that made him Supreme Chancellor. He then used that authority to declare the Senate dissolved without needing their further consent.

Aa to why he kept them around at all, it would appear that the Senate was more useful remaining in existence while he consolidated his grip on power. Palatine was content to allow their continued presence because they did what he told them to and didn't oppose him in any real fashion.

On Coruscant a servile Senate applauds the Emperor’s every decree, and the populations of the Core Worlds bask in a sense of renewed prosperity


And eventually he decided that they were surplus to requirement even as puppets and just dissolved them entirely.

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    This answer is more or less stating the obvious facts and reasons behind the decision to dissolve the Senate. I'm asking about the actual process. Was this a power he had legally had for years that he finally brought out years later when it was finally useful to use it? Did the Senate itself consent to a sunset period that expired at the beginning of Episode IV? Did Palpatine just wave his hand and Mind Trick a majority of senators into voting for dissolution? Jan 27, 2020 at 15:37
  • @RobertColumbia As I said in my answer, there might not have even been a specific legal process, he might have just said so and if you don't like it you get blown up. Jan 27, 2020 at 15:43
  • @RobertColumbia - It would appear that they were dissolved by decree (possibly temporarily, but not really)
    – Valorum
    Jan 27, 2020 at 18:57
  • If he dissolved the Senate with a "decree", the presumably that decree was issued based on some sort of enabling legislation granting the Chancellor/Emperor the authority to issue such decrees, analogous to how Jar Jar helped him get the authority to deploy the Clone Army. The question is what that enabling legislation was - was it part of his original "emergency powers" package or did he get it later? If later, then when? Jan 27, 2020 at 21:09
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    @RobertColumbia For me, it seems obvious that what Palpatine did here worked just like what Hitler did. Having extensive (uncontrolled) emergency powers basically means you can legally dissolve the senate/parliament by decree without any further process being necessary. Jan 28, 2020 at 9:50

I don't know that there was a particular legal process he went through, or if it was more like he signed a paper and called it the law. The scene makes it pretty clear that the reason why he'd done this was because the Death Star was finally operational. Now that they had even planet-destroying weapons no one could possibly hope to defeat the Empire, and they'd prove it by destroying the rebel base. Once this is done no one will dare rebel again lest their entire planet be destroyed, as Grand Moff Tarkin put it

fear will keep the local systems in line.

However, this plan didn't work out so well because instead of destroying the rebel base, the Death Star was destroyed by the rebellion. The Empire was in a really bad spot because they had just taken such a bold move (eradicating the senate) but now not only was their superweapon destroyed, but this showed everyone that they were venerable, if they'd lost this battle surely they could lose more.

I'm guessing that at this point the rebellion began to grow considerably since the galaxy had been given a new hope (hence the name) and their fleet is much larger on Episode 6 than on Episode 4 so it's likely they grew a lot in the time span anyway.

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