Poli Sci- Heywood, Chapter 14.docx

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Western University
Political Science
Political Science 1020E
Nigmendra Narain

Assemblies Role of Assemblies • Assembly: collection or gathering of people • As a political term, ‘assembly’ has come to be associated with representation and popular government • ‘Assembly’ is used to refer to both houses or chambers, and is used interchangeably with the terms ‘legislature’ and ‘parliament’ o To see these bodies as legislatures is to classify them according to their primary function as law-making bodies o Parliaments are debating chambers Parliamentary, presidential and semi­presidential systems • Key feature of a political system - the relationship between the assembly and the government -> between legislative and executive authority • The central feature of parliamentary systems is a fusion of legislative and executive power o Government is parliamentary, drawn from and accountable to the assembly or parliament o Delivers effective but responsible government -> maintained because the executive can govern only as long as it retains the confidence of the assembly • Parliamentary government is often associated with the problem of executive domination and with weak government and instability • Alternative to parliamentary government -> presidential government o Presidential systems are based on the strict application of the doctrine of the separation of powers • Congress has the ability to make law -> president can veto it -> Congress can override this veto with a two-thirds majority in both houses • In a ‘hybrid’ or semi-presidential system, there is a ‘dual executive’ o A separately elected president works in conjunction with a prime minister o Range from forms of ‘balanced’ semi-presidentialism - in which the parliament exercises effective constraint over the presidency, to forms of ‘asymmetrical’ semi-presidentialism -> in which the parliament lacks independence and is routinely controlled by the presidency - In Russia, this imbalance is so severe that it is ‘superpresidentialism’ • Virtue of presidential systems = by separating legislative power from executive power, they create internal tensions that help to protect individual rights and liberties Functions of assemblies Legislation • Assemblies are typically vested with legislative power in the hope that the laws thus made will be seen to be authoritative and binding. This applies for 2 reasons: o An assembly is a forum in which proposed laws can be openly discussed and debated o Assemblies are constituted so as to suggest that the people make the laws themselves • Assemblies exercise little positive legislative power • Negative legislative power – their ability to reject or amend proposed laws - also limited Representation • Assemblies play an important representative role in providing a link between the government and the people • Burkean notion of representatives as independent actors conflicts sharply with the strict party discipline now found in most assemblies • Assemblies are often mechanisms of interest representation Scrutiny and oversight • Greater emphasis has been placed on the ability of assemblies to constrain or check executive power • Assemblies have increasingly become scrutinizing bodies, the principal role of which is to deliver responsibility or accountability • Ability of the assembly to extract information from the executive Recruitment and training • Assemblies often as major channels of recruitment, providing a pool of talent from which leading decision-makers emerge Legitimacy • Assemblies promote the legitimacy of a regime by encouraging the public to see the system of rule as ‘rightful’ • Status that assemblies enjoy increasingly depends on the media attention they receive Structure of Assemblies • Principal structural differences between assemblies are whether they comprise one chamber or two, and the nature and role of their committee systems Unicameralism or bicameralism? • Vast majority of assemblies have either one or two chambers • Single-chamber/unicameral assemblies ha
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