What and Germany), the party’s will is the



is a Parliament? What does it do?


First of all, to better understand
the ideas presented in this paper, we have to know what a Parliament actually
is and what functions does it fulfil.

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All democracies in the world have a
parliament. But what is a parliament and what functions does it have are
questions that have been answered over the time. In a broad sense, parliaments
are the authentic representatives of the will of the people. Its origins reach
as far as the middle ages, where monarchs would meet the nobles and judge the
most important cases. An old roman principle: quod omnes similiter tangit, ab
omnibus comprebetur (what concerns everyone requires the consent of everyone).
This principle is still applicable, when we talk about democratic regimes and
parliaments in the modern sense, more exactly special created authorities to
express the political will of the people, which benefits the sovereign
authority to approve laws. Modern parliaments which function in a democratic
regime represent the ‘headquarters’ of that democratic regime. The central role
of a parliament is, ultimately, to prevent the tyranny of the executive.

The first and foremost function of a
parliament in a democratic system is the representative
one. Representation is a transfer of governing attributes from the people to
its state authorities. In contemporary days it is hard to imagine a direct
democracy, after the Athenian model, so the next best choice is the
representative democracy system, where a small number of individuals represent
the entire society in the framework of a public authority defined by law, the
fundamental law. Concretely, in a contemporary democracy, representation is
made possible through the political parties. The victorious candidates own a
large part of their election to the parties that support them and they vote in
the parliament aligned with what the leadership of the party decide. From
extreme cases (India) to
moderate ones (France and Germany),
the party’s will is the rule for the elected members of the parliament.

Another classical function of
parliaments is law enactment. As
long as the 17th century
it is considered that the function of the parliament is to enact laws. The
principal argument is this: if the people are sovereign, then its
representatives should be firstly interested about the general conduct rules
(‘Executives are needed to keep the country going, but legislatures could and
should decide on the general rules.’1).
Regarding this function, there are certain problems that appear in practice. In
the modern consolidated democracies, parliaments are not the only authorities
that can adopt general rules compulsory for the state citizens. The executive
power, via governments or presidents can impose rules via constitutional mechanisms
like presidential decree. But, once again, the parliament is the principal law

The deliberative function is the third one. It can be realized in two
ways: debates in the chambers (the case of the House of Commons in Great
Britain Parliament, where debates over the important subjects are realized in
the plenum) or debates in commissions or committees (as in the American
Congress case, where debates and deliberations are realized in the commissions
organized in the parliament).

The three classical functions
presented here are completed by another three, indispensable for a parliament
that is part of a democratic state. Firstly, it authorizes the budget, the
parliament being the authority that approves or denies the budget project built
by the executive. Another important function is the fact that the parliament
can approve and dismiss the government or the prime-minister by granting, or
not, the vote of confidence. In other words, the governments have their origins
in the parliament and must maintain the political support of the parliament in
order to not be dismissed. The last one is the control of the government
activity and policies. There are mechanisms for the democratic state
parliaments through which the members of the executive are held accountable in
front of the parliaments or its members (questions, interpellations, motions).


The advantages of the
bicameral and unicameral structures of the parliament


Before we can form an opinion
regarding which structure is better we must first clarify, based on the
specialty literature, what are the advantages of each.


advantages of bicameral parliament:

Thinking about the main advantages
of a bicameral parliament, we ought to look into the fact that the
concentration of power in the parliament is avoided, as the chambers would
prevent each other from becoming despotic or from supporting an authoritarian regime.

Another aspect is represented by the
fact that it would raise the quality of the legislative act as the two chambers
would analyze the laws successively. This way, even if there are delays in the
legislative process, a second opinion of the other chamber ensures an
accentuated critical perception over the law project.

Also, the control over the executive
is more efficient if there are two chambers. Moreover, bicameralism minimizes
the tyranny of the majority2. In
addition to this, the second room, through its possibility of postponing the
adoption of laws, offers a protection against the excess of laws. The second
room is the modern option of the House of Lords. It can debate certain
important 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 principle
of territorial representation’3. When
most of the world states are trying to find a way to decentralize the politic,
bicameralism is a valid choice. This would assure an independent representation
on the central level.

Many states have started a process
of democratization and consolidation. These processes require the implication
of every component of the society. Bicameralism is the most suited to play a
role of cohesion and to act as a guarantee of stability in the transition

Bicameralism is a modern way of
assuring the principle of power separation in a democratic state. The
development of the majority vote system impose the necessity of a second
chamber to temperate the power of the government based on the rule of majority
from the first chamber. ‘Bicameralism is to be preferred to unicameralism on
the reason that the two chambers denote security and because the concentration
of the legislative power in a single chamber is not only dangerous, but also
unjustified: because two eyes are better than one and because it is desired
that every decision process be controlled and restricted.’4

Last but not least, it is more
suited in big states, while unicameralism is to be preferred in smaller states
(surface and number of residents).


The advantages of
unicameral parliament:

 Firstly, unicameralism is based on a
majoritarian logic. A parliament that is based on the direct choice of the
people reflects the will of the people and cannot be obstructed in neither way
by any structures that are not elected directly by the people and does not
represent the people. ‘If a second chamber dissents from the first, it is
mischievous; and if it agrees, it is superfluous.’5

Another thing would be that a single
chamber is much more efficient from an economic point of view (low expenses)
and from a decisional point of view (faster law enactment). Two chambers means
rivalry, competition for prevail or for equality, and this can bring damage to
the wellbeing of the parliamentary institution.

As long as the members of the two
chambers are elected through concordant electoral systems, the organic
separation of the two chambers becomes artificial (both of them have the same
vocation). National and regional representation (argument in favor of
bicameralism) are efficient only when the principle of territorial
representation is secured and the application of the principle is justified.

Also, the interdependency of the two
chambers leads to divergences and, in the end, to questionable solutions. Unicameralism
determinates the limitation of multipartism through the reduced offer that can
be made to the political clientele and it is definitely suited with the idea of
a nation’s unity. A single nation, a single parliamentary chamber.

We have, by all no means, greater
accountability. Since legislators cannot blame the other chamber if legislation
fails to pass, or if citizen’s interests are ignored. Fewer elected officials
for the population to monitor.


All these arguments were and are
objectionable. Those who believe in unicameralism would identify cases in which
an argument for bicameralism can be dismissed and vice-versa. This does not
mean that these arguments are useless. They are based on the empirical and
compared analysis of the parliamentarian practice in different countries and
represent strong arguments in the debate of the options expressed about the
structure of the parliament.


Moreover, these arguments offer at
least three conclusions:

Firstly, the option for choosing a
bicameral or unicameral parliament is, in fact, a larger option. That of
choosing between the majoritarian democratic model or the consensual democratic

Secondly, the arguments in favor or
against a certain parliamentarian structure are heterogeneous. These are based,
in principal, on a series of empirical comparative studies and statistics that
take into account the institutional and political experiences of certain

Thirdly, the arguments in favor of
bicameralism are more numerous and consistent than the arguments in favor of
unicameralism; A part of the arguments in favor of unicameralism are, in fact,
critics for bicameralism.




Significant variation exists among countries
with respect to the structure of their

While smaller, unitary countries typically use unicameral legislatures, and

countries usually employ a bicameral model, these presumptions are not set in

Each nation possesses its own unique motivations
to adopt either a unicameral or bicameral model. These reasons are many, and
derive from historical, cultural, or demographic

that may apply solely to that country. Existing institutional and political factors

as electoral methods and party systems have a significant influence on this
process as well.

Moreover, political personalities play a vital
role 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, in
the end, it depends from case to case.

















Arend Lijphart, Democracies:
Patterns of Majoritarian and Consensus Government in Twenty-one Countries (New
Haven, CN: Yale University Press, 1984);

George Tsebelis and Jeannette
Money, Bicameralism (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1997);

Rod Hague and Martin
Haarop, Comparative Government and Politics (Palgrave Macmillan; 8th edition edition, 17 Mar. 2010);

Sartori, Comparative Constitutional
Engineering (Palgrave
Macmillan, September 1994);

Arend Lijphart, Patterns of Democracy:
Government Forms and Performance in Thirty-Six Countries (Yale University
Press July 11, 1999);

Robert Rogers and Rhodri Walters, How
Parliament Works (Routledge; 7 edition, 27 Mar. 2015)







1 Jean Blondel, Comparative Legislatures

2 William H. Riker, The Justification of Bicameralism

3 Ion Deleanu, ?i proceduri constitu?ionale – în dreptul român ?i în dreptul comparat

4 Giovanni Sartori, Comparative Constitutional Engineering

5 Abbe Sieyes