Legislatures paolo r graziano political science ay 2011 2011 lecture 12
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Legislatures Paolo R. Graziano Political Science AY 2011-2011 Lecture 12. Legislatures. Legislatures are multimember representative bodies which are at the heart of any given political regime. Legislatures provide main source of legitimation for (input) democracies

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Legislatures Paolo R. Graziano Political Science AY 2011-2011 Lecture 12

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Legislatures paolo r graziano political science ay 2011 2011 lecture 12

LegislaturesPaolo R. GrazianoPolitical Science AY 2011-2011Lecture 12


Legislatures

Legislatures

  • Legislatures are multimember representative bodies which are at the heart of any given political regime.

  • Legislatures provide main source of legitimation for (input) democracies

  • Formal locus of policy making

  • Variance with respect to:

    • structure

    • functions


Structure i

Structure (I)

  • Size: number of members. Big assemblies are weaker, not stronger due to

    • member veto power

    • ‘personalistic’ local politics

  • Number of chambers: legislatures may be:

    • unicameral (more effective, at least in principle)

    • bicameral (more balanced- unless weak bicameralism)


Structure ii selection of the second chamber

Structure (II) – selection of the second chamber

  • direct election – ex. USA

  • indirect election – ex. France

  • appointment – ex. Canada


Functions

Functions

  • representation

  • deliberation

  • legislation (including budgetary functions)

  • making governments

  • scrutiny


Representation

Representation

  • basic democratic function: voters’ preference representation

  • societal diversity needs to be represented institutionally

  • electoral systems may interfere with the representation function of the legislatures

  • in order to guarantee representation of minorities, reserved seats may be offered (ex. Maori in New Zealand).

  • differential party discipline


Deliberation

Deliberation

  • Legislatures as institutional arena for public debates of national concern

  • Differential organization of deliberation:

    • debating legislatures (ex. UK)

    • committee-based legislatures (ex. US)

  • Differential partisanship

    • partisan legislatures (often combined with debating legislatures)

    • bipartisan legislatures (often combined with committee-based legislatures)


Legislation

Legislation

  • Important but not exclusive function

  • Relevance depends on the nature of party-legislatures relations:

    • concentrated or party-dominated parliaments (ex. UK)

    • fragmented or committee-dominated parliaments (ex. US)

  • Authorizing expenditure as (almost) autonomous public policy cycles


Parliamentary governments

Parliamentary governments

  • In parliamentary governments, the legislatures also ‘make the governments’ since:

    • the governing parties emerge from the assembly

    • the executive is responsible before the legislature

    • parliamentary majority is directly linked with the executive


Scrutiny

Scrutiny

  • Particularly relevant in parliamentary governments, it may be obtained through:

    • questions – (oral and written) queries to ministries

    • interpellations – more formal request of information

    • emergency debates – high profile request of governmental information followed by a parliamentary debate

    • votes of confidence – formal approval/dismissal of government and/or individual ministers

    • committee investigations (also in presidential governments) – ex. 9/11 Commission


The committees

The committees

  • standing committees are the most important legislatures’ committees

  • select and mediation committees are ad hoc committees (and therefore less relevant)

  • Specific functions:

    • enhance parliamentary competence

    • reduce partisan conflicts and create mutual trust

    • provide qualified staff to legislatures’ members


Membership

Membership

  • the rise of professional politicians…

  • …and the political class.

  • Beyond partisan differences, professional politicians may share interests (connected to their political status) and specific policy goals

  • Main goal of professional politician: (re-) election, not (only) representation.


Legislatures in nondemocratic regimes

Legislatures in nondemocratic regimes

  • lack of autonomy vis-à-vis government and/or President

  • mainly symbolic functions

  • they may be used in order to incorporate moderate opponents into the regime – first step towards democratization?

  • possible pool of potential recruits to the elite


Conclusion

Conclusion

  • Legislatures perform vital functions…

  • …which go beyond mere representation.

  • As institutional fora, they are also a key target of partisan competition…

  • …and have contributed to the creation of a political class.


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