Chapter 9 - Legislatures and Legislators
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:
Legislature provides a forum for different classes to express their views and
Originally only consultative with monarchs
Evolved to become constraints on executive power
What does Representation Entail?
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
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
Combines proportional representation (2% in Israel, 0.67% in the
o How large should constituencies be?
o Who should draw the boundaries?
State legislatures (US)
“Gerrymandering”: the drawing of electoral boundaries to favor ones own
o In the US, each state has two senators, and a number of representatives based on
Wyoming: 2 senators, 1 representative
California: 2 senators, 53 representatives
o In Canada, senators are appointed by the prime minister, and are not publicly
Each region has the same number of senators, although MPs are based on
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.
o American Style
o Legislative and executive branches are separate
o Legislature has no say in who is chosen