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|Legislatures by country|
An upper house is one of two chambers of a bicameral legislature (or one of three chambers of a tricameral legislature), the other chamber being the lower house.The house formally designated as the upper house is usually smaller and often has more restricted power than the lower house. Examples of upper houses in countries include the Australian Senate, Brazil's Senado Federal, the Canadian Senate, France's Sénat, Germany's Bundesrat, India's Rajya Sabha, Ireland's Seanad, Malaysia's Dewan Negara, the Netherlands' Eerste Kamer, Pakistan's Senate of Pakistan, Russia's Federation Council, Switzerland's Council of States, United Kingdom's House of Lords and the United States Senate.
A debate chamber is a room for people to discuss and debate. Debate chambers are used in governmental and educational bodies, such as a parliament, congress, city council, or a university, either for formal proceedings or for informal discourse, such as a deliberative assembly. When used for legislative purposes, a debate chamber may also be known as a council chamber, legislative chamber, or similar term. Some countries, such as New Zealand, use the term debating chamber as a formal name for the room that houses the national legislature.
A bicameral legislature divides the legislators into two separate assemblies, chambers, or houses. Bicameralism is distinguished from unicameralism, in which all members deliberate and vote as a single group, and from some legislatures that have three or more separate assemblies, chambers, or houses. As of 2015, fewer than half the world's national legislatures are bicameral.
Tricameralism is the practice of having three legislative or parliamentary chambers. It is contrasted with unicameralism and bicameralism, both of which are far more common.
A legislature composed of only one house (and which therefore has neither an upper house nor a lower house) is described as unicameral.
An upper house is usually different from the lower house in at least one of the following respects (though they vary among jurisdictions):
Advice and consent is an English phrase frequently used in enacting formulae of bills and in other legal or constitutional contexts. It describes either of two situations: where a weak executive branch of a government enacts something previously approved of by the legislative branch or where the legislative branch concurs and approves something previously enacted by a strong executive branch.
Impeachment is the process by which a legislative body levels charges against a government official. It does not mean removal from office; it is only a statement of charges, akin to an indictment in criminal law. Once an individual is impeached, he or she must then face the possibility of conviction by a legislative vote, which judgment entails removal from office.
A parliamentary system is a system of democratic governance of a state where the executive derives its democratic legitimacy from its ability to command the confidence of the legislature, typically a parliament, and is also held accountable to that parliament. In a parliamentary system, the head of state is usually a person distinct from the head of government. This is in contrast to a presidential system, where the head of state often is also the head of government and, most importantly, the executive does not derive its democratic legitimacy from the legislature.
A motion of no-confidence, alternatively vote of no confidence, or (unsuccessful) confidence motion, is a statement or vote which states that a person in a position of responsibility is no longer deemed fit to hold that position, perhaps because they are inadequate in some respect, are failing to carry out obligations, or are making decisions that other members feel detrimental. As a parliamentary motion, it demonstrates to the head of state that the elected parliament no longer has confidence in the appointed government. If a no confidence motion is passed against an individual minister they have to give their resignation along with the entire council of ministers.
A presidential system is a democratic and republican system of government where a head of government leads an executive branch that is separate from the legislative branch. This head of government is in most cases also the head of state, which is called president.
In parliamentary systems the upper house is frequently seen as an advisory or "revising" chamber; for this reason, its powers of direct action are often reduced in some way. Some or all of the following restrictions are often placed on upper houses:
In parliamentary democracies and among European upper houses the Italian Senate is a notable exception to these general rules, in that it has the same powers as its lower counterpart: any law can be initiated in either house and must be approved in the same form by both houses. Additionally, a Government must have the consent of both to remain in office, a position which is known as "perfect bicameralism" or "equal bicameralism".
The role of a revising chamber is to scrutinise legislation that may have been drafted over-hastily in the lower house and to suggest amendments that the lower house may nevertheless reject if it wishes to. An example is the British House of Lords. Under the Parliament Acts 1911 and 1949, the House of Lords can no longer prevent the passage of most bills, but it must be given an opportunity to debate them and propose amendments, and can thereby delay the passage of a bill with which it disagrees. Bills can only be delayed for up to one year before the Commons can use the Parliament Act, although economic bills can only be delayed for one month. It is sometimes seen as having a special role of safeguarding the uncodified Constitution of the United Kingdom and important civil liberties against ill-considered change. The British House of Lords has a number of ways to block legislation and to reject it, however, the House of Commons can eventually use the Parliament Act to force something through. The Commons will occasionally bargain and negotiate with the Lords such as when the Labour Government of 1999 tried to expel all Hereditary Peers from the Lords, and the Lords threatened to wreck the Government's entire legislative agenda and to block every bill which was sent to the chamber. This led to negotiations between Viscount Cranborne the then Shadow Leader of the House, and the Labour Government which resulted in the Weatherill Amendment to the House of Lords Act 1999 which preserved 92 Hereditary Peers in the house. The Parliament Act is not valid with all legislation and is a very rarely used backup plan.
Even without a veto, an upper house may defeat legislation. Its opposition may give the lower chamber a chance to reconsider or even abandon a controversial measure. It can also delay a bill so that it does not fit within the legislative schedule, or until a general election produces a new lower house that no longer wishes to proceed with the bill.
Nevertheless, some states have long retained powerful upper houses. For example, the consent of the upper house to legislation may be necessary (though, as noted above, this seldom extends to budgetary measures). Constitutional arrangements of states with powerful upper houses usually include a means to resolve situations where the two houses are at odds with each other.
In recent times, Parliamentary systems have tended to weaken the powers of upper houses relative to their lower counterparts. Some upper houses have been abolished completely (see below); others have had their powers reduced by constitutional or legislative amendments. Also, conventions often exist that the upper house ought not to obstruct the business of government for frivolous or merely partisan reasons. These conventions have tended to harden with a passage of time.
In presidential systems, the upper house is frequently given other powers to compensate for its restrictions:
There is a variety of ways an upper house's members are assembled: by direct or indirect election, appointment, heredity, or a mixture of these. The German Bundesrat is composed of members of the cabinets of the German states, in most cases the state premier and several ministers; they are delegated and can be recalled anytime. In a very similar way, the Council of the European Union is composed of national ministers.
Many upper houses are not directly elected but appointed: either by the head of government or in some other way. This is usually intended to produce a house of experts or otherwise distinguished citizens, who would not necessarily be returned in an election. For example, members of the Senate of Canada are appointed by the Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister.
In the past, some upper houses had seats that were hereditary, such as in the British House of Lords until 1999 and in the Japanese House of Peers until it was abolished in 1947.
It is also common that the upper house consists of delegates chosen by state governments or local officials. Members of the Rajya Sabha in India are nominated by various states and union territories, while 12 of them are nominated by the President of India. Similarly, at the state level, one-third of the members of the State Legislative Council (Vidhan Parishad) are nominated by local governments, one-third by sitting legislators, and the rest are elected by select members of the electorate. The United States Senate was chosen by the State legislatures until the passage of the Seventeenth Amendment in 1913.
The upper house may be directly elected but in different proportions to the lower house - for example, the Senate of Australia and the United States have a fixed number of elected members from each state, regardless of the population.
Many jurisdictions, such as Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Hungary, Iceland, Iran, Mauritania, New Zealand, Peru, Sweden, Turkey, Venezuela and many Indian states as well as Brazilian states and Canadian provinces, once possessed upper houses but abolished them to adopt unicameral systems. Newfoundland had a Legislative Council prior to joining Canada, as did Ontario when it was Upper Canada and Quebec from 1791 (as Lower Canada) to 1968. Nebraska is the only state in the United States with a unicameral legislature, having abolished its lower house in 1934.
The Australian state of Queensland also once had an appointed Legislative Council before abolishing it in 1922. All other Australian states continue to have bicameral systems (the two territories have always been unicameral).
Like Queensland, the German state of Bavaria had an appointed upper house, the Senate of Bavaria, from 1946 to 1999.
The Senate of the Philippines was abolished – and restored – twice: from 1935 to 1945 when a unicameral National Assembly convened, and from 1972 to 1987 when Congress was closed, and later a new constitution was approved instituting a unicameral Parliament. The Senate was re-instituted with the restoration of a bicameral Congress via a constitutional amendment in 1941, and via adoption of a new constitution in 1987.
A previous government of Ireland (the 31st Dáil) promised a national referendum on the abolition of its upper house, the Seanad Éireann, during the 24th Seanad session. By a narrow margin, the Irish public voted to retain it. Conservative-leaning Fine Gael and Left-leaning Sinn Féin both supported the abolition, while the centrist Fianna Fáil was alone among major parties in supporting the retention of the Seanad.
Indicates historical government
|Government||Upper House Unique Title||Meaning|
|Dom naroda Bosne i Hercegovine||House of Peoples|
|Yefedereshn Mekir Bet||House of Federation|
(during the Bourbon Restoration)
|Chambre des Pairs||Chamber of Peers|
|Rajya Sabha||Council of States|
|Vidhan Parishad||Legislative Council|
|Dewan Perwakilan Daerah||Regional Representative Council|
|参議院 (Sangiin)||House of Councillors|
|Főrendiház||House of Magnates|
|Câmara dos Pares or Câmara dos Digníssimos Pares do Reino||Chamber of Most Worthy Peers|
|Dewan Negara||State Hall|
|Amyotha Hluttaw||House of Nationalities|
|Golaha Guurtida||House of Elders|
|Sovet Federatsii||Federation Council|
|Državni svet||National Council|
|National Council of Provinces|
The Westminster system is a parliamentary system of government developed in the United Kingdom. This term comes from the Palace of Westminster, the seat of the British Parliament. The system is a series of procedures for operating a legislature. It is used, or was once used, in the national and subnational legislatures of most former British Empire colonies upon gaining responsible government, beginning with the first of the Canadian provinces in 1848 and the six Australian colonies between 1855 and 1890. However, some former colonies have since adopted either the presidential system or a hybrid system as their form of government.
A senate is a deliberative assembly, often the upper house or chamber of a bicameral legislature. The name comes from the ancient Roman Senate, so-called as an assembly of the senior and therefore allegedly wiser and more experienced members of the society or ruling class. Thus, the literal meaning of the word "senate" is Assembly of Elders.
A legislature is a deliberative assembly with the authority to make laws for a political entity such as a country or city. Legislatures form important parts of most governments; in the separation of powers model, they are often contrasted with the executive and judicial branches of government.
A member of parliament (MP) is the representative of the voters to a parliament. In many countries with bicameral parliaments, this category includes specifically members of the lower house, as upper houses often have a different title. Member of Congress is an equivalent term in other jurisdictions.
An act of parliament, also called primary legislation, are statutes passed by a parliament (legislature). Act of the Oireachtas is an equivalent term used in the Republic of Ireland where the legislature is commonly known by its Irish name, Oireachtas. It is also comparable to an Act of Congress in the United States.
The Senate of the Philippines is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the Philippines, the Congress; the House of Representatives is the lower house. The Senate is composed of 24 senators who are elected at-large with the country as one district under plurality-at-large voting.
The New Zealand Parliament is the legislature of New Zealand, consisting of the Queen of New Zealand (Queen-in-Parliament) and the New Zealand House of Representatives. The Queen is usually represented by a governor-general. Before 1951, there was an upper chamber, the New Zealand Legislative Council. The Parliament was established in 1854 and is one of the oldest continuously functioning legislatures in the world.
A lower house is one of two chambers of a bicameral legislature, the other chamber being the upper house.
The Parliaments of the Australian states and territories are legislative bodies within the federal framework of the Commonwealth of Australia.
The Legislative Assembly of Puerto Rico is the territorial legislature of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, responsible for the legislative branch of the government of Puerto Rico. The Assembly is a bicameral legislature consisting of an upper house, the Senate normally composed by 27 senators, and the lower house, the House of Representatives normally composed by 51 representatives. Eleven members of each house are elected at-large rather than from a specific legislative district with all members being elected for a four-year term without term limits.
The Legislative Council of New Zealand existed from 1841 until 1951. When New Zealand became a colony in 1841 the Legislative Council was established as the country's first legislature; it was reconstituted as the upper house of a bicameral legislature when New Zealand became self-governing in 1852.
The State Legislative Assembly is the lower house of a state legislature in the States and Union Territories of India. In the 29 states and 2 union territories with unicameral state legislature it is the sole legislative body. In 7 states it is the lower house of their bicameral state legislatures with the upper house being State Legislative Council. 5 Union Territories are governed directly by the Union Government of India and have no legislative body.
A Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) is a representative elected by the voters of an electoral district (constituency) to the legislature of the State government in the Indian system of government. From each constituency, the people elect one representative who then becomes a member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA). Each state has between seven and nine MLAs for every Member of Parliament (MP) that it has in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of India's bicameral parliament. There are also members in two unicameral legislatures in Union Territories: the Delhi Legislative Assembly and Puducherry Legislative Assembly.
The Senate was the upper chamber of the parliament of Ceylon established in 1947 by the Soulbury Commission. The Senate was appointed and indirectly elected rather than directly elected. It was housed in the old Legislative Council building in Colombo Fort and met for the first time on 12 November 1947. The Senate was abolished on 2 October 1971 by the eighth amendment to the Soulbury Constitution, prior to the adoption of the new Republican Constitution of Sri Lanka on 22 May 1972. In 2010 there were proposals to reintroduce the Senate.
House of Representatives is the name of legislative bodies in many countries and sub-national entitles. In many countries, the House of Representatives is the lower house of a bicameral legislature, with the corresponding upper house often called a "Senate". In some countries, the House of Representatives is the sole chamber of a unicameral legislature.
Seanad Éireann is the upper house of the Oireachtas, which also comprises the President of Ireland and Dáil Éireann.