Whatis a Parliament? What does it do? First of all, to better understandthe ideas presented in this paper, we have to know what a Parliament actuallyis and what functions does it fulfil.All democracies in the world have aparliament. But what is a parliament and what functions does it have arequestions that have been answered over the time.
In a broad sense, parliamentsare the authentic representatives of the will of the people. Its origins reachas far as the middle ages, where monarchs would meet the nobles and judge themost important cases. An old roman principle: quod omnes similiter tangit, abomnibus comprebetur (what concerns everyone requires the consent of everyone).This principle is still applicable, when we talk about democratic regimes andparliaments in the modern sense, more exactly special created authorities toexpress the political will of the people, which benefits the sovereignauthority to approve laws. Modern parliaments which function in a democraticregime represent the ‘headquarters’ of that democratic regime. The central roleof a parliament is, ultimately, to prevent the tyranny of the executive.The first and foremost function of aparliament in a democratic system is the representativeone. Representation is a transfer of governing attributes from the people toits state authorities.
In contemporary days it is hard to imagine a directdemocracy, after the Athenian model, so the next best choice is therepresentative democracy system, where a small number of individuals representthe entire society in the framework of a public authority defined by law, thefundamental law. Concretely, in a contemporary democracy, representation ismade possible through the political parties. The victorious candidates own alarge part of their election to the parties that support them and they vote inthe parliament aligned with what the leadership of the party decide. Fromextreme cases (India) tomoderate ones (France and Germany),the party’s will is the rule for the elected members of the parliament.
Another classical function ofparliaments is law enactment. Aslong as the 17th centuryit is considered that the function of the parliament is to enact laws. Theprincipal argument is this: if the people are sovereign, then itsrepresentatives should be firstly interested about the general conduct rules(‘Executives are needed to keep the country going, but legislatures could andshould decide on the general rules.’1).Regarding this function, there are certain problems that appear in practice. Inthe modern consolidated democracies, parliaments are not the only authoritiesthat can adopt general rules compulsory for the state citizens. The executivepower, via governments or presidents can impose rules via constitutional mechanismslike presidential decree.
But, once again, the parliament is the principal lawgiver. The deliberative function is the third one. It can be realized in twoways: debates in the chambers (the case of the House of Commons in GreatBritain Parliament, where debates over the important subjects are realized inthe plenum) or debates in commissions or committees (as in the AmericanCongress case, where debates and deliberations are realized in the commissionsorganized in the parliament).The three classical functionspresented here are completed by another three, indispensable for a parliamentthat is part of a democratic state. Firstly, it authorizes the budget, theparliament being the authority that approves or denies the budget project builtby the executive. Another important function is the fact that the parliamentcan approve and dismiss the government or the prime-minister by granting, ornot, the vote of confidence.
In other words, the governments have their originsin the parliament and must maintain the political support of the parliament inorder to not be dismissed. The last one is the control of the governmentactivity and policies. There are mechanisms for the democratic stateparliaments through which the members of the executive are held accountable infront of the parliaments or its members (questions, interpellations, motions). The advantages of thebicameral and unicameral structures of the parliament Before we can form an opinionregarding which structure is better we must first clarify, based on thespecialty literature, what are the advantages of each. Theadvantages of bicameral parliament:Thinking about the main advantagesof a bicameral parliament, we ought to look into the fact that theconcentration of power in the parliament is avoided, as the chambers wouldprevent each other from becoming despotic or from supporting an authoritarian regime.
Another aspect is represented by thefact that it would raise the quality of the legislative act as the two chamberswould analyze the laws successively. This way, even if there are delays in thelegislative process, a second opinion of the other chamber ensures anaccentuated critical perception over the law project.Also, the control over the executiveis more efficient if there are two chambers. Moreover, bicameralism minimizesthe tyranny of the majority2. Inaddition to this, the second room, through its possibility of postponing theadoption of laws, offers a protection against the excess of laws. The secondroom is the modern option of the House of Lords. It can debate certainimportant subjects for society in a less partisan way than the first chamber.
‘From a political point of view,bicameralism joins the principle of national representation with the principleof territorial representation’3. Whenmost of the world states are trying to find a way to decentralize the politic,bicameralism is a valid choice. This would assure an independent representationon the central level.Many states have started a processof democratization and consolidation. These processes require the implicationof every component of the society. Bicameralism is the most suited to play arole of cohesion and to act as a guarantee of stability in the transitionperiods. Bicameralism is a modern way ofassuring the principle of power separation in a democratic state.
Thedevelopment of the majority vote system impose the necessity of a secondchamber to temperate the power of the government based on the rule of majorityfrom the first chamber. ‘Bicameralism is to be preferred to unicameralism onthe reason that the two chambers denote security and because the concentrationof the legislative power in a single chamber is not only dangerous, but alsounjustified: because two eyes are better than one and because it is desiredthat every decision process be controlled and restricted.’4Last but not least, it is moresuited in big states, while unicameralism is to be preferred in smaller states(surface and number of residents). The advantages ofunicameral parliament: Firstly, unicameralism is based on amajoritarian logic. A parliament that is based on the direct choice of thepeople reflects the will of the people and cannot be obstructed in neither wayby any structures that are not elected directly by the people and does notrepresent the people.
‘If a second chamber dissents from the first, it ismischievous; and if it agrees, it is superfluous.’5Another thing would be that a singlechamber is much more efficient from an economic point of view (low expenses)and from a decisional point of view (faster law enactment). Two chambers meansrivalry, competition for prevail or for equality, and this can bring damage tothe wellbeing of the parliamentary institution.As long as the members of the twochambers are elected through concordant electoral systems, the organicseparation of the two chambers becomes artificial (both of them have the samevocation).
National and regional representation (argument in favor ofbicameralism) are efficient only when the principle of territorialrepresentation is secured and the application of the principle is justified.Also, the interdependency of the twochambers leads to divergences and, in the end, to questionable solutions. Unicameralismdeterminates the limitation of multipartism through the reduced offer that canbe made to the political clientele and it is definitely suited with the idea ofa nation’s unity. A single nation, a single parliamentary chamber.We have, by all no means, greateraccountability. Since legislators cannot blame the other chamber if legislationfails to pass, or if citizen’s interests are ignored.
Fewer elected officialsfor the population to monitor. All these arguments were and areobjectionable. Those who believe in unicameralism would identify cases in whichan argument for bicameralism can be dismissed and vice-versa. This does notmean that these arguments are useless. They are based on the empirical andcompared analysis of the parliamentarian practice in different countries andrepresent strong arguments in the debate of the options expressed about thestructure of the parliament. Moreover, these arguments offer atleast three conclusions:Firstly, the option for choosing abicameral or unicameral parliament is, in fact, a larger option.
That ofchoosing between the majoritarian democratic model or the consensual democraticmodel;Secondly, the arguments in favor oragainst a certain parliamentarian structure are heterogeneous. These are based,in principal, on a series of empirical comparative studies and statistics thattake into account the institutional and political experiences of certainstates;Thirdly, the arguments in favor ofbicameralism are more numerous and consistent than the arguments in favor ofunicameralism; A part of the arguments in favor of unicameralism are, in fact,critics for bicameralism. Conclusion Significant variation exists among countrieswith respect to the structure of theirlegislatures.While smaller, unitary countries typically use unicameral legislatures, andlarger,federalistcountries usually employ a bicameral model, these presumptions are not set instone.Each nation possesses its own unique motivationsto adopt either a unicameral or bicameral model. These reasons are many, andderive from historical, cultural, or demographiccharacteristicsthat may apply solely to that country.
Existing institutional and political factorssuchas electoral methods and party systems have a significant influence on thisprocess as well.Moreover, political personalities play a vitalrole in shaping legislative design. Finally, power, protection of interests,and compromise will undoubtedly contribute to cameral design. The thing is,there is no perfect or better way. Both of the types are equally good, but, inthe end, it depends from case to case.
Bibliography: · Arend Lijphart, Democracies:Patterns of Majoritarian and Consensus Government in Twenty-one Countries (NewHaven, CN: Yale University Press, 1984);· George Tsebelis and JeannetteMoney, Bicameralism (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1997);· Rod Hague and MartinHaarop, Comparative Government and Politics (Palgrave Macmillan; 8th edition edition, 17 Mar. 2010);· GiovanniSartori, Comparative ConstitutionalEngineering (PalgraveMacmillan, September 1994);· Arend Lijphart, Patterns of Democracy:Government Forms and Performance in Thirty-Six Countries (Yale UniversityPress July 11, 1999);· Robert Rogers and Rhodri Walters, HowParliament Works (Routledge; 7 edition, 27 Mar. 2015) 1 Jean Blondel, Comparative Legislatures2 William H. Riker, The Justification of Bicameralism3 Ion Deleanu, ?i proceduri constitu?ionale – în dreptul român ?i în dreptul comparat4 Giovanni Sartori, Comparative Constitutional Engineering5 Abbe Sieyes