From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Unicameralism (from uni- "one" + Latin camera "chamber") is a type of legislature consisting of one house or assembly that legislates and votes as one. [1] Unicameralism has become an increasingly common type of legislature, making up nearly 60% of all national legislatures [2] and an even greater share of subnational legislatures.

Sometimes, as in New Zealand and Denmark, unicameralism comes about through the abolition of one of two bicameral chambers, or, as in Sweden, through the merger of the two chambers into a single one, while in others a second chamber has never existed from the beginning.

Rationale for unicameralism and criticism

The principal advantage of a unicameral system is more efficient lawmaking, as the legislative process is simpler and there is no possibility of deadlock between two chambers. Proponents of unicameralism have also argued that it reduces costs, even if the number of legislators stays the same, since there are fewer institutions to maintain and support financially. More popular among modern-day democratic countries, unicameral, proportional legislatures are widely seen as both more democratic and effective. [3]

Proponents of bicameral legislatures say that having two legislative chambers offers an additional restraint on the majority, though critics note that there are other ways to restrain majorities, such as through non-partisan courts and a robust constitution. [4]

List of unicameral legislatures

  Countries with a bicameral legislature. [6]
  Countries with a unicameral legislature.
  Countries with a unicameral legislature and an advisory body.
  Countries with no legislature.

Approximately half of the world's sovereign states are currently unicameral. The People's Republic of China is somewhat in-between, with a legislature and a formal advisory body. China has a Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference which meets alongside the National People's Congress, in many respects an advisory "upper house".

Many subnational entities have unicameral legislatures. These include the state of Nebraska and territories of Guam and the Virgin Islands in the United States, the Chinese special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macao, the Australian state of Queensland as well as the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory, a majority of the provinces of Argentina, all of the provinces and territories in Canada, all of the regions of Italy, all of the Spanish autonomous communities, both the autonomous regions of Portugal, most of the states and union territories of India, and all of the states of Brazil and Germany. In the United Kingdom, the devolved Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Senedd, the Northern Ireland Assembly, and the London Assembly are also unicameral.

National (UN member states and observers)

Federal

Country Unicameral body Seats Notes
  Comoros Assembly of the Union 33
  Germany Bundestag 736 The Bundestag is technically the unicameral parliament of Germany, since the Bundesrat is not defined as a chamber of the legislature, but a completely separate legislative institution according to the Basic Law (German constitution).
  Iraq Council of Representatives 329 provision exists for the founding of a "Council of Union", but no move to this effect has been initiated by the existing Council
  Micronesia Congress 14
  Saint Kitts and Nevis National Assembly 15
  United Arab Emirates Federal National Council 40
  Venezuela National Assembly 277

Unitary

Country Unicameral body Seats Notes
  Afghanistan Leadership Council 30 Purely advisory, powers reside in the emir
  Albania Kuvendi 140
  Andorra General Council of Andorra 28
  Angola National Assembly 220
  Armenia National Assembly 107
  Azerbaijan National Assembly 125
  Bangladesh Jatiya Sangsad 350
  Benin National Assembly 109
  Botswana National Assembly 65
  Brunei Legislative Council 37 Purely advisory, powers reside in the King
  Bulgaria National Assembly 240
  Burkina Faso National Assembly 127
  Cape Verde National Assembly 72
  Central African Republic National Assembly 140
  Chad National Assembly 188
  China National People's Congress 2977
  Costa Rica Legislative Assembly 57
  Croatia Sabor 150
  Cuba National Assembly of People's Power 470
  Cyprus House of Representatives 56
  Denmark Folketing 179
  Djibouti National Assembly 65
  Dominica House of Assembly 32
  East Timor National Parliament 65
  Ecuador National Assembly 137
  El Salvador Legislative Assembly 84
  Eritrea National Assembly 150
  Estonia Riigikogu 101
  Fiji Parliament 55
  Finland Parliament 200
  Gambia National Assembly 58
  Georgia Parliament 150
  Ghana Parliament 275
  Greece Parliament 300
  Guatemala Congress 160
  Guinea National Assembly 81
  Guinea-Bissau National People's Assembly 102
  Guyana National Assembly 65
  Honduras National Congress 128
  Hungary National Assembly 199
  Iceland Althing 63
  Iran Islamic Consultative Assembly 290
  Israel Knesset 120
  Kiribati House of Assembly 45
  North Korea Supreme People's Assembly 687
  South Korea National Assembly 300
  Kuwait National Assembly 65
  Kyrgyzstan Supreme Council 90
  Laos National Assembly 164
  Latvia Saeima 100
  Lebanon Parliament 128
  Libya House of Representatives 200
  Liechtenstein Landtag 25
  Lithuania Seimas 141
  Luxembourg Chamber of Deputies 60
  Malawi National Assembly 193
  Maldives Majlis 93
  Mali National Assembly 147
  Malta Parliament 79
  Marshall Islands Legislature 33
  Mauritania Parliament 176
  Mauritius National Assembly 70
  Moldova Parliament 101
  Monaco National Council 24
  Mongolia State Great Khural 76
  Montenegro Parliament 81
  Mozambique Assembly of the Republic 250
  Nauru Parliament 19
  New Zealand Parliament 120
  Nicaragua National Assembly 90
  Niger National Assembly 171
  North Macedonia Assembly 120
  Norway Storting 169
  State of Palestine Legislative Council 132
  Panama National Assembly 71
  Papua New Guinea National Parliament 118
  Peru Congress of the Republic 130
  Portugal Assembly of the Republic 230
  Qatar Consultative Assembly 45
  Saint Vincent and the Grenadines House of Assembly 21
  Samoa Legislative Assembly 53
  Saudi Arabia Consultative Assembly 150 Purely advisory, powers reside in the King
  San Marino Grand and General Council 60
  São Tomé and Príncipe National Assembly 55
  Senegal National Assembly 165
  Serbia National Assembly 250
  Seychelles National Assembly 35
  Sierra Leone Parliament 149
  Singapore Parliament 103
  Slovakia National Council 150
  Solomon Islands National Parliament 50
  Sri Lanka Parliament 225
  Suriname National Assembly 51
  Sweden Riksdag 349
  Syria Parliament 250
  Tanzania National Assembly 393
  Togo National Assembly 91
  Tonga Legislative Assembly 26
  Tunisia National Assembly 161
  Turkey Grand National Assembly 600
  Turkmenistan Assembly 125
  Tuvalu Parliament 16
  Uganda Parliament 557
  Ukraine Verkhovna Rada 450
  Vanuatu Parliament 52
  Vatican City Pontifical Commission 8 All powers delegated by the sovereign
  Vietnam National Assembly 500
  Zambia National Assembly 167

Territorial

Country Unicameral body Seats Notes
  British Virgin Islands House of Assembly 15
  Cayman Islands Legislative Assembly 21
  Cook Islands Parliament 24
  Falkland Islands Legislative Assembly 11
  Faroe Islands Løgting 33
  Gibraltar Parliament 17
  Greenland Inatsisartut 31
  Guam Legislature 15
  Hong Kong Legislative Council 90
  Macao Legislative Assembly 33
  Niue Assembly 20
  Tobago House of Assembly 15
  U.S. Virgin Islands Legislature 15

State parliaments with limited recognition

Country Unicameral body Seats Notes
  Abkhazia People's Assembly 35
  Kosovo Assembly 120
  Northern Cyprus Assembly of the Republic 50
  Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic National Council 51
  South Ossetia Parliament 34
  Taiwan Legislative Yuan 113 The original constitution is partially superseded by the additional articles only on Taiwan which replaced the tricameral parliament into a unicameral one. A sunset clause in the additional articles will terminate them in the event of a hypothetical resumption of ROC rule in Mainland China.
  Transnistria Supreme Council 33

Subnational

Federations

Provincial legislatures in Argentina

Devolved governments

Others

List of historical unicameral legislatures

National

Subnational

Other

Unicameralism in the Philippines

Though the current Congress of the Philippines is bicameral, the country experienced unicameralism in 1898 and 1899 (during the First Philippine Republic), from 1935 to 1941 (the Commonwealth era) and from 1943 to 1944 (during the Japanese occupation). Under the 1973 Constitution, the legislative body was called Batasang Pambansa, which functioned also a unicameral legislature within a parliamentary system (1973–1981) and a semi-presidential system (1981–1986) form of government.

The ongoing process of amending or revising the current Constitution and form of government is popularly known as Charter Change. A shift to a unicameral parliament was included in the proposals of the constitutional commission created by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. [7] Unlike in the United States, senators in the Senate of the Philippines are elected not per district and state but nationally; the Philippines is a unitary state. [8] The Philippine government's decision-making process, relative to the United States, is more rigid, highly centralised, much slower and susceptible to political gridlock. As a result, the trend for unicameralism as well as other political system reforms are more contentious in the Philippines. [9]

While Congress is bicameral, all local legislatures are unicameral: the Bangsamoro Parliament, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (Provincial Boards), Sangguniang Panlungsod (City Councils), Sangguniang Bayan (Municipal Councils), Sangguniang Barangay ( Barangay Councils), and the Sangguniang Kabataan (Youth Councils).

Unicameralism in the United States

The Nebraska Legislature (also called the Unicameral) is the supreme legislative body of the state of Nebraska and the only unicameral state legislature in the United States. Its members are called "senators", as it was originally the upper house of a bicameral legislature before the Nebraska House of Representatives dissolved in 1937. The legislature is also notable for being nonpartisan and officially recognizes no party affiliation, making Nebraska unique among U.S. states. With 49 members, it is also the smallest legislature of any U.S. state.

A 2018 study found that efforts to adopt unicameralism in Ohio and Missouri failed due to rural opposition. [10] There was a fear in rural communities that unicameralism would diminish their influence in state government. [10]

Local government legislatures of counties, cities, or other political subdivisions within states are usually unicameral and have limited lawmaking powers compared to their state and federal counterparts.

Some of the 13 colonies which became independent, such as Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New Hampshire had initially introduced strong unicameral legislature and (relatively) less powerful governors with no veto power. Pennsylvania's constitution lasted only 14 years. In 1790, conservatives gained power in the state legislature, called a new constitutional convention, and rewrote the constitution. The new constitution substantially reduced universal male suffrage, gave the governor veto power and patronage appointment authority, and added an upper house with substantial wealth qualifications to the unicameral legislature. Thomas Paine called it a constitution unworthy of America.[ citation needed]

In 1944, Missouri held a vote on changing the General Assembly to a unicameral one, which was narrowly rejected by the voters 52.42-47.58. Only the city of St. Louis and the St. Louis County voted in favor, whilst Jackson County (containing the bulk of Kansas City) narrowly voted against, and all other counties voted against the change to unicameralism. [11] [12]

In 1970, North Dakota voters voted to call a constitutional convention. In 1972, a change to a unicameral legislature was approved by 69.36-30.64, [13] however, since the voters rejected the new constitution at the same referendum, it never took effect. [14]

In 1999, Governor Jesse Ventura proposed converting the Minnesota Legislature into a single chamber. [15] Although debated, the idea was never adopted.

The U.S. territory of Puerto Rico held a non-binding referendum in 2005. Voters approved changing its Legislative Assembly to a unicameral body by 456,267 votes in favor (83.7%) versus 88,720 against (16.3%). [16] If both the territory's House of Representatives and Senate had approved by a 23 vote the specific amendments to the Puerto Rico Constitution that are required for the change to a unicameral legislature, another referendum would have been held in the territory to approve such amendments. If those constitutional changes had been approved, Puerto Rico could have switched to a unicameral legislature as early as 2015.

On June 9, 2009, the Maine House of Representatives voted to form a unicameral legislature, but the measure did not pass the Senate. [17]

Because of legislative gridlock in 2009, former Congressman Rick Lazio, a prospective candidate for governor, has proposed that New York adopt unicameralism. [18]

The United States as a whole was subject to a unicameral Congress during the years 1781–1788, when the Articles of Confederation were in effect. The Confederate States of America, pursuant to its Provisional Constitution, in effect from February 8, 1861, to February 22, 1862, was governed by a unicameral Congress. [19]

See also

References

  1. ^ Lanham, Url (2018). The insects. Gene-Tech Books. ISBN  978-81-89729-42-4. OCLC  1003201754.
  2. ^ "Structure of parliaments". IPU PARLINE database. 2022. Retrieved 2022-12-31.
  3. ^ Wirls, Daniel (2004). The invention of the United States Senate. Stephen Wirls. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN  0-8018-7438-6. OCLC  51878651.
  4. ^ Litt, David (2020). Democracy in one book or less : how it works, why it doesn't, and why fixing it is easier than you think (First ed.). New York, NY. ISBN  978-0-06-287936-3. OCLC  1120147424.{{ cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher ( link)
  5. ^ Reuter, Konrad (2003). "Zweite Kammer?". Bundesrat und Bundesstaat: Der Bundesrat der Bundesrepublik Deutschland(PDF) (in German) (12th ed.). Berlin: Direktor des Bundesrates. p. 50. ISBN 3-923706-22-7. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-06-28. Retrieved 2007-01-04. Im Ausland wird ein solches parlamentarisches System im Allgemeinen als Zweikammer- System bezeichnet. Für Bundestag und Bundesrat ist dagegen eine gemeinsame Bezeichnung nicht allgemein üblich, und es ist sogar umstritten, ob der Bundesrat eine Zweite Kammer ist. (English: Abroad, such a parliamentary system is in general called a bicameral one. For Bundestag and Bundesrat such a common designation is not usual and it is even contentious whether the Bundesrat is a second chamber at all.)
  6. ^ Classifications of Germany as a country with a bicameral legislature can be controversial. [5]
  7. ^ "Constitutional Commission proposals". Concom.ph. Retrieved 2013-11-26.
  8. ^ Softrigger Interactive (2008-02-25). "Philippines : Gov.Ph : About the Philippines". Archived from the original on February 25, 2008. Retrieved 2013-11-26.
  9. ^ "Why Change?". Concom.ph. Archived from the original on 2006-08-18. Retrieved 2013-11-26.
  10. ^ a b Myers, Adam S. (2018). "The Failed Diffusion of the Unicameral State Legislature, 1934–1944". Studies in American Political Development. 32 (2): 217–235. doi: 10.1017/S0898588X18000135. ISSN  0898-588X. S2CID  150363451.
  11. ^ "Missouri Unicameral Legislature, Issue 2 (1944)". Ballotpedia. Retrieved 2024-03-19.
  12. ^ "1944 Referendum General Election Results - Missouri".
  13. ^ "North Dakota Unicameral or Bicameral Legislature, Alternate Proposition 1 (1972)". Ballotpedia. Retrieved 2024-03-19.
  14. ^ "North Dakota Constitution, Main Proposition (1972)". Ballotpedia. Retrieved 2024-03-19.
  15. ^ "One People – One House". News.minnesota.publicradio.org. 1999-04-29. Retrieved 2013-11-26.
  16. ^ "Referéndum sobre el Sistema Cameral". Comisión Estatal de Elecciones de Puerto Rico. 2005-07-10.
  17. ^ "RESOLUTION, Proposing an Amendment to the Constitution of Maine To Establish a Unicameral Legislature" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-11-26.
  18. ^ One for All, Rick Lazio, New York Times, July 14, 2009
  19. ^ "Avalon Project - Confederate States of America - Constitution for the Provisional Government". avalon.law.yale.edu.