Bicameral legislature is a common constitutional design model, with bicameral legislatures making up roughly 41 percent of all legislatures worldwide. As of April 2014, 79 bicameral and 113 unicameral systems were recorded in the database of the Inter-Parliamentary Union. In general, “bicameralism is more common in federal, large, and presidential states, while unicameralism is more common in unitary, small, parliamentary ones”. Bicameral systems operate two legislative chambers, both of which play a role in drafting and passing national legislation. However, each house often fulfills a unique role in the legislative process and is usually elected by different methods. Proponents of bicameral legislatures argue that a second chamber aids the separation of power by avoiding the risk of abuse that can occur by concentrating power in a single body while simultaneously enhancing democracy by drawing on a broader and more diversified base.
Most bicameral legislatures are created to operate outside of the executive branch as a function of the separation of power, but some have influence over selecting a state’s executives. This paper will evaluate several bicameral legislatures to determine how the upper chamber and lower chamber can contribute to choosing a nation’s executive. Very few countries operate systems that allow both chambers significant influence in selecting a nation’s executive, and currently, there is no country that solely allows its upper chamber to select an executive. Moreover, most systems of government limit their upper chamber’s ability to select their nation’s head of government. Ideally, by incorporating the upper chamber into the executive appointment process, a nation could benefit from the increased representation and experience of an upper chamber’s legislators.
Moreover, as scholars such as Juan Linz point out, politically, ethnically, or religiously divided societies that operate winner-take-all executive selection processes often leave vulnerable minority groups mostly unrepresented in the executive branch. While parliamentary elections can create multi-party coalition governments, parliamentary elections are just as likely to result in one dominant party winning an absolute majority, which remains problematic for minority groups within the country. By allowing each chamber to appoint an executive, the effects of the winner-take-all executive election may be mitigated by providing minority groups additional opportunities to win executive representation and ultimately forcing cooperation between opposing political parties in power.
This paper will first briefly examine bicameral chambers and address the benefits of allowing an upper chamber to select an executive. Next, it will highlight several countries that allow the upper house input in selecting executives to demonstrate how these upper chambers contribute to that process. I organized each of my sample countries into five categories; 1) The U.S. Contingent Election Model; 2) the German model; 3) the National-Regional model; 4) the Federal Chambers Model; 5) and the Swiss Bicameral Model. Finally, the paper will conclude by discussing several benefits of allowing upper chambers to participate in the executive selection process while simultaneously addressing the structural challenges that may limit their beneficial impact on the selection process.
"Overview of Bicameral Legislatures’ Potential Impact on the Executive Selection Process,"
Indiana Journal of Constitutional Design: Vol. 9, Article 2.
Available at: https://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/ijcd/vol9/iss1/2
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