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From the beginning of the "I find your lack of faith disturbing" scene in "A New Hope":

"The rebellion will continue to get support in the Imperial Senate.."

"The Imperial Senate will no longer be of any concern to us. I have just received word that the emperor has dissolved the council permanently. The last remnants of the old Republic have been swept away."

There was a twenty-odd year different between the films right? How did the Senate stick around so long, and;

  • If it had any power, why didn't it use it to prevent, you know, the murder of millions of innocent people and the construction of something called a "Death Star"?

  • If it didn't have any power, why did it have to be dissolved at all, and why take twenty years to do it?

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This might be better suited for scifi.stackexchange.com considering canonical answers are likely to come from other Star Wars works (not the movies themselves). –  Ian Pugsley Jan 11 '12 at 20:01
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I'd rather have a solid theory based on an analysis of the films than some contrived answer that a science-fiction author came up with. –  Andrew Latham Jan 11 '12 at 20:04

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Based on the movies alone (from your comment about not wanting to include other Star Wars works)

We are not given a great deal to go on apart from the fact that the Galactic Republic seems to have its power vested in a Senate of officials from planets in the Republic and special interest groups like the Trade Federation. This Senate then elected a Chancellor who is the leader of the Republic and Head of Government.

It seems likely that given the vast size of the Republic, that this form of government has existed for a long time and therefore the mechanisms and institutions of governing the Republic are used to reporting to the Chancellor and Senate.

It seems it might just have taken 20 years of slow change from the Senate/Chancellor system to direct rule of the Emperor via the Regional Governors mentioned in 'A New Hope'. One can surmise from the 'last remnants' comment, that this was a final step and perhaps the Senate had very little power at this stage. Why did the Emperor do it this way? Perhaps he surmised that a more dramatic change would be harder to manage and more risky than slow inevitable takeover. Palpatine seems to work mostly by deceit and corruption rather than outright aggression.

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Never let'em see you coming until it's too late. No one in the front ranks of government have true power. That is always shielded. Most recent examples: Dick Cheney, Karl Rove. –  wbogacz Jan 11 '12 at 20:38

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