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Legislatures Week 12
Legislatures • The legislature, which represents the people and acts as their agent, is therefore at the core of the Western democratic tradition. • Legismeans ‘law’ and the Legislature is the branch of government that makes laws. Parliament is the usual term for this. In theory it is superior to the Executive, since the Executive must act according to the law.
Legislatures • The basis of parliaments is that all the people should be represented by those who make laws on their behalf and act as a check on the ruler. • The simplest way to ensure this was a geographical basis for selection to the Legislature.
Role of Assemblies • There are different names of assemblies in the world such as Congress in the US, national assembly in France, house of representatives in Japan, parliament in Singapore, congress of deputies in Spain and grand national assembly in Turkey.
Role of Assemblies • As a political term, assembly has come to be associated with representation and popular government, an assembly being viewed as a representative of the people. • Government has three distinct branches: • Legislatures make law, • Executives implement law, • Judiciaries interpret law.
Parliamentary Systems and Presidential Systems • In a parliamentary system, the executive and the leaders of the administrative bureaucracies are chosen from and are accountable to the majority in Parliament. • On the other hand presidential systems are based on strict application of the doctrine of separation of powers. • In this system executive and legislative bodies are completely independent from each other and they are separately elected. • Best example of this system is USA.
Parliamentary Systems and Presidential Systems • The main virtue of presidential system is that, by separating legislative power from executive power, they create internal tensions that help to protect individual rights and liberties. • Drawback of this system is that presidential systems may be ineffective because they offer an invitation to struggle to the executive and legislative branches of government. This can create a government gridlock.
Functions of Assemblies • Legislation • Representation • Scrutiny • Political Recruitment • Legitimacy
Structure of Assemblies • The vast majority of assemblies have either one or two chambers. • Single chamber or unicameral assemblies have been common in much of Africa, in China, and in post-communist states. It can be said that there was a clear trend towards unicameralism in the post IIW period. • However, the prevailing structure of legislatures in recent times has been bicameral. • In terms of strengthening checks and balances within assemblies, bicameralism has usually been seen as a central principle of liberal constitutionalism.
Structure of Assemblies • One of the most important drawbacks of legislative fragmentation is the possibility of conflict between the two chambers. • There is a special joint congressional committee composed of senior figures from both chambers in the US. This committee is authorized to produce a compromise agreement. Similarly there is a Bundestag-Bundesrat conciliation committee in Germany.
Committee Systems • Almost all assemblies have a committee system. • Committee systems have increasingly been portrayed as the power houses of assemblies, the very hub of the legislative process, whereas parliamentary chambers are for talking, committees are for working. • It is generally argued that if there are strong committees we can talk about strong assemblies vica versa.
Committee Systems • Assembly committees have generally three functions. • First they may carry out detailed consideration of legislative measures and financial proposals. Second, committees may be set up to scrutinize government administration and oversee the exercise of executive power. And third as hoc committees may investigate matters of public concern.
Why are Assemblies in Decline? • The principal factors that have brought about these changes are: • 1- the emergence of disciplined political parties • 2- the growth of big government • 3-the organizational weakness of assemblies • 4- the rise of interest-group and media power