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 difference 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?

  • 1
    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. Jan 11, 2012 at 20:04
  • The line immediately following your quote is very important: "Impossible! How will the Emperor maintain control without the bureaucracy?". Clearly they were being used as pawns by the Emperor to maintain control over the many local systems. They had no power to stop him, but he needed them until that very moment.
    – LevenTrek
    Dec 21, 2017 at 3:42

2 Answers 2


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, 2012 at 20:38

20 years is a very quick wrap up of a system of government.

The Roman senate was established in "the days after the formation of Rome" (753 BC), and survived until at least 603 AD. During that time, Rome was a Monarchy, a Republic, ruled by Emperors, and by barbarians. None of them completely dissolved the senate.

At various times, it held more or less power. After the Capital of the Holy Roman Empire was moved to Constantinople, it was basically a city council, charged with fixing potholes.

Many dictators choose to have a democratic body as the public face of government. The democratic bodies are usually either powerless to do anything important, or they are controlled by the dictator, with threats of violence and promises of reward.

A great number of countries have had democratic bodies that technically could have prevented mass deaths (on the scale of one planet in a big galaxy), but did not. I would include in this Nazi Germany, the USSR, North Korea.

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