Bicameral System – Definition

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Bicameral System Definition

A system of government that has two chambers or legislative houses is a bicameral system. The name given to each of the chambers might differ from state to state or country to country. Bicameral system of governments are commonly adopted in many countries but it started from England in the early period. Being first practised by England, the United States also adopted the bicameral system and all the states in the U.S practise this system except Nebraska.

A Little More on What is a Bicameral System

The Congress of the United States is an example of a bicameral system. The Congress has two legislative houses; the House of Representatives and the Senate.

One major reason why the Article 1, Section 1 of the US Constitution established the House of Representatives and the Senate as the chambers of the Congress is for checks and balances. This was help to prevent the arbitrary use of power that could have existed if there were no two legislative houses. Hence, the two arms of the Congress serve as checks for abuses of power that one arm might exercise.

There are different levels of powers that each of the two legislative houses exercise. In the United States for instance, the House of Representatives  has the power to check the powers of elected officials and impeach them if need be. The move for impeachment is then reviewed by the senate. The United States has 435 members of the House of Representatives who have a two-year tenure for service.  The minimum age requirement for a House of Representative meme=ber is 25 years while that of the Senate is 30 years. The United States citizenship is another major requirement to be a senator or a member of the House of Representative.

Bicameral systems around the world

Countries that practise bicameral system of governments include Germany, Russia, Spain, India, Australia, Brazil, Canada, United Kingdom, Ireland, the Netherlands, and the Czech Republic. 41% of countries in the world have bicameral systems while the remaining counties and unicameral systems which means they operate only one chamber or legislative house.

Also, different countries have different names for the two legislatives houses that they operate. The United Kingdom for example call the two chambers, the House of Lords and the House of Commons, unlike in some countries where they have the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Reference for “Bicameral System”…/bicameral-system

Academic research on “Bicameral System”

An ethnically based federal and bicameral system: the case of Cyprus, Kyriacou, A. P. (2000). An ethnically based federal and bicameral system: the case of Cyprus. International Review of Law and Economics, 20(2), 251-268. Central to the constitutional provisions that make up the most recent framework agreement put forward by the United Nations for the resolution of the Cyprus problem is an ethnically based federal and bicameral system. This article examines the proposed system’s ability to enhance the viability of any solution to the Cyprus problem (measured by its capacity to reduce the emergence of permanent tyrannical majorities or minorities) as well as its ability to promote legislative stability (measured by its capacity to mitigate the incidence of majority cycling). It is argued that a better institutional set-up would be a federation based on functional-overlapping-competing-jurisdictions coupled with a jurisdiction-dependent and constitutionally enshrined generalization rule.

The Bicameral System in State Legislation, Barnett, J. D. (1915). The Bicameral System in State Legislation. American Political Science Review, 9(3), 449-466. The submission of proposals for the abolition of the state senate to the people of Oregon at the two preceding general elections is occasion for a summary of considerations in reference to the bicameral system of legislation. The bicameral system has been so long and so widely prevalent that until very recently its “necessity” has been almost universally regarded as “a demonstrated truth.” The British legislature, “the mother of parliaments,” is a development from the assembly of “estates.” Five distinct “estates” were present in the “Model Parliament” of 1295, but through the consolidation of interests, the organization of two legislative chambers, the House of Lords and the House of Commons, was soon evolved. The origin of the bicameral system was thus “not owing to any conviction that two houses would work better than either one or three, but was a matter of sheer accident,” and was not “the invention of any clever constitution-maker.” The bicameral system of legislation, generally based upon English precedent, has usually followed the extension of constitutional government, and at present most national legislatures consist of two chambers.

Bicameral or tricameral? National parliaments and representative democracy in the European Union, Cooper, I. (2013). Bicameral or tricameral? National parliaments and representative democracy in the European Union. Journal of European Integration, 35(5), 531-546. The Treaty of Lisbon defines the European Parliament and the Council as the principal institutional actors of ‘representative democracy’ in the EU, thus endorsing an essentially ‘bicameral’ model of EU democracy. In this model, national parliaments focus their scrutiny on their governments’ conduct of EU affairs, but are not themselves EU-level actors. However, the Treaty of Lisbon also creates an Early Warning Mechanism which empowers national parliaments to intervene collectively in the EU’s legislative process. This suggests a new, ‘tricameral’ model in which national parliaments constitute the third chamber in a reconfigured representative system for the EU. This reconfiguration moves the EU away from traditional models of representative democracy and more towards a complex ‘demoi-cracy,’as it now has three bodies to represent the citizens, governments and peoples of Europe.

A Structural‐Functional Framework for the Analysis of Unicameral and Bicameral Parliaments, Cotta, M. (1974). A Structural‐Functional Framework for the Analysis of Unicameral and Bicameral Parliaments. European Journal of Political Research, 2(3), 201-224. What is the significance of a bicameral system in the organization of parliamentary structures? This is the basic question with which this essay is concerned. Its scope is limited, however, to proposing a theoretical framework for the comparative investigation of the phenomenon. The approach is structural‐functional. In order to clarify the choice between the unicameral and the bicameral solution, a general survey is conducted of the many different structural dimensions of legislatures, and a structural typology of parliamentary assemblies, which provides finer distinctions between unicameral and bicameral parliaments, is outlined. The next step is the analysis of the functional aspects of the problem. The essay surveys the major parliamentary functions and then attempts to define a number of criteria for evaluating performances. The final step is the elaboration of a set of hypotheses concerning the structural‐functional relationships that appear both plausible and theoretically interesting. Such relationships may be of a quantitative or qualitative nature. Moreover, they may be either particular or general in their scope, i.e. they may be focused on single functions or on the general features of the political system.

Suggestions for a bicameral system, Sutton, P. (1984, January). Suggestions for a bicameral system. In Anthropological Forum (Vol. 5, No. 3, pp. 395-399). Taylor & Francis Group.

Bicameral microstates: A Commonwealth category, Anckar, D. (1998). Bicameral microstates: A Commonwealth category. The Round Table, 87(347), 367-378. More than half of the world’s microstates—those with a population of one million or less—are members of the Commonwealth. A high proportion of microstates which, despite their small size have bicameral legislatures, are in the Commonwealth. In larger states bicameral legislatures have two essential functions. They secure access of regional and similar interests to a parliamentary arena from which they might otherwise be excluded; and they allow for a moderating and revising role by an upper chamber. The paper examines the relevance of these functions to microstates with bicameral legislatures and compares them with unicameral microstates in the Commonwealth. The relevance of uni‐ or bicameralism to microstates where the party of government dominates the lower houses is also examined.

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