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Chapter 9 - Legislatures and Legislators - Political Science 101

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University of Alberta
Political Science
POL S101
Davina Rousell

Chapter 9 - Legislatures and Legislators Legislatures  Crucial to any political system, especially democratic ones  Serve as checks on executive power  Can be comparatively examined through institutional arrangements or functions performed in chosen political system (parliament or pres.) Three primary functions: 1) Representational 2) Governmental 3) Procedural 1) Representational  Legislature provides a forum for different classes to express their views and opinions  Originally only consultative with monarchs  Evolved to become constraints on executive power What does Representation Entail?  Numerical representation?  Should the numbers of women in the legislature correspond to the number of women in society?  How should ethnic or religious minorities be represented?  Is it the population or the elites who are represented?  To what extent is a representative expected only to voice opinions of his or her constituency?  Is he or she subject to recall?  To what extent is the representative trusted to express his or her own opinions?  Is he or she granted parliamentary immunity? 1) Descriptive Representation  When it comes to the representation of women there is the idea that because of the experiences of women (the way they are brought up / issues they go through) it is important to have a critical mass of women representatives in parliament. Because it would help to pass and promote women friendly policies. 2) Substantive Representation  It doesn’t matter if we have 50 women or 100 women out of 150 in parliament , it matters if we have feminists in parliament. Feminists in this context are those who think about, and promote policies that value women in society. Constituencies o In most cases, representatives are elected from a particular geographic district o In places like Israel, Peru and the Netherlands, the whole country is a single constituency  Combines proportional representation (2% in Israel, 0.67% in the Netherlands) o How large should constituencies be? o Who should draw the boundaries?  Elections Canada  State legislatures (US) “Gerrymandering”: the drawing of electoral boundaries to favor ones own party. Bicameral Representation o In the US, each state has two senators, and a number of representatives based on its population  Wyoming: 2 senators, 1 representative  California: 2 senators, 53 representatives o In Canada, senators are appointed by the prime minister, and are not publicly accountable  Each region has the same number of senators, although MPs are based on population. Parliamentarianism  Canada, New Zealand, Australia, UK  Fusion of legislative and executive functions  Prime Minister usually the leader of the majority party  In the absence of a clear majority, the state will have either a coalition government or a minority government. Presidentialism o American Style o Legislative and executive branches are separate o Legislature has no say in who is chosen
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