Parliament of the Czech Republic  

  Answers to the questionnaire

The 5th meeting of the Association of European Senates
Prague, October 6. - 8. 2003

Answers to the questionnaire on
"Different composition of chambers in bicameral parliaments
as a prerequisite of their effectivity?"


     When Belgium acquired its independence in 1830 the main argument for the Senate has been the moderating influence its supporters were attributing to it. Made according to the pattern of the aristocratic chambers the Senate has been established to temper the revolutionary zeal of the Chamber of Representatives. It was supposed to provide a counterweight to the political chamber, considered as too prone to demagoguery. The Senate according to Blargnies, a member of the Constitutional Assembly (the National Congress), had to ´submit the decisions of the representatives of the people to the review and the sanction of a power fundamentally tempering whose fate is to serve as an obstacle for the people to the throne and for the throne to the people.´ To be elected senator you had to pay as direct tax in the minimum amount of 1000 florins. Only 400 people were eligible!

     The choice favouring bicameralism was as well partly guided by pragmatic reasons. The country was in a fragile situation. The Belgian revolution had really directly confronted the existing balance of power in Europe. Belgium was supposed to align itself on the bicameralism where France and England were setting the example for it, unless, as Paul Devaux, another member of the National Congress, had observed, ´the impact would be devastating on the spirits of influent men of these two countries who are showing to us most sympathy today´.

     During the 20th century the push of electoral waves and the evolution of ideas have led in the whole of Europe to question the aristocratic chambers. In some counties they were quite simply abolished; elsewhere they underwent a capitis diminutio. In Belgium the Senate got more democratic.

     Thanks to two reforms in 1893 and 1921, the eligibility poll tax for senators was reduced and then abolished. This development ended in the creation of a non-differentiated and egalitarian bicameral system in which the two chambers were appearing both through their composition and powers in an almost identical way. Being so similar the second chamber ended up being mixed up with the first one. It became a copy of it. This is the reason why some were for a long time advocating a deep overhaul of the bicameral system, essentially in the Senate. The articles of the Constitution on the Senate were repeated in all the declarations of Constitutional revision between 1892 and 1991.

     On May 5, 1993 the Belgian federal Parliament has undergone the most important reform of its history. Both its composition and functioning were fundamentally revised. This reform means the outcome of a twin process.

     On one hand during the last thirty years the unitary Belgian State slowly turned itself into a federal State. Federated authorities have been established; they have gradually obtained an ever-growing measure of self-government. This process of ´defederalization´ of the State had an important impact on the composition of the federal Parliament. It was necessary to set up a form of bicameralism fitting for a federal type of State. The Senate was transformed, at least partly, into "a chamber of the States", in order to ensure a representation of the federated authorities in the federal Parliament. In a federal State the national representation alone is not sufficient. The more a State is diversified in its components, the more the need is felt to associate them to the decision-making. This participation represents a very important factor of stability.

     In parallel to the process of transformation of the Belgian State another factor contributed to the reform of the federal Parliament. The evolution of Belgian parliamentarism has ended up as described above in the founding of a bicameral egalitarian system.

     The reform of May 5, 1993, attempted to end the slowness and redundancies inherent to an egalitarian bicameralism. It performed to this end a specialization of the assemblies and rationalized the law-making process. In such a way the political control of the government and of public finances has been entrusted to the Chamber of Representatives. The Senate has been transformed into a "chamber of reflection", guaranteeing the quality of the legislation. Since the 60´s already the Senate had played a first-rate role in the review and resolution of many social issues: divorce, matrimonial regimes, abortion and contraception, filiation and adoption, bio-ethics, euthanasia. This feature would mark the Senate until today. Both chambers had been assigned a joint competency for all matters concerning the fundamentals of the Belgian State.

     As a conclusion, the Senate today fulfils in substance the same role as the one it played in 1831. It appears as a factor of compromise. It is a moderating element in the representation regime. Through more than 170 years of a stormy history the Senate has managed to adapt itself to the deep transformations that the Belgian society has been through because it continued to play its role, fundamental in any parliamentary system, of a counterweight the constitutionalist had assigned to it in the beginning.

Czech Republic

     After gaining State independence in 1918 the bicameral Parliament has been established three times. First in the inter bellum Czechoslovakia (1920-1939), them when Czechoslovakia was federalized (1969-1992) and finally after the birth of the independent Czech Republic.

     In the first case the second chamber, the Senate, was supposed to restrain the possible excesses of the first chamber, the Chamber of Deputies. However, the concept of the Senate as a conservative chamber, partly appointed, or rather filled with de iure members was refused. Thanks to an identical electoral system and timing of the elections the composition of the chambers did not differ much: a strict party discipline moreover eliminated more serious conflicts between the chambers.

     In the second case the Federal Assembly was an expression of the recognition of the equality of two constitutive nations: while the Chamber of the People expressed the civic principle, the 150 deputies of the Chamber of the Nations represented both republics on a parity basis. However, for a long time the real activity of the Federal Assembly has been defined by the hegemony of the ruling communist party. After 1989 as well the practice of joint sessions of the chambers prevailed, thanks to it the Federal Assembly behaved rather like a unicameral body with the interdiction of outnumbering in voting one or the other national part.

     In the third case quite an interesting debate took place in which references to the works of F.A.Hayek played an important role. According to some of his advocates the Senate was supposed to be the chamber of private law, while the Chamber of Deputies was to be the chamber of public law. Others favoured the representation of the regions. The winning group of the defenders of Czech bicameralism relied on the argumentation of the strengthened division of power (K. Loewenstein), by the need to review the legislative activity of the Chamber of Deputies and the need of the agreement of two different bodies when making particularly serious decisions (e.g. adopting constitutional acts or deciding on the state of war). Moreover, it was expected that senators compulsorily older than 40 years of age should be more experienced and hopefully even more restrained than deputies; their mode of election should contribute to a lesser dependence on political parties. The Senate should thus be a guarantee of the stability of the constitutional system and the quality of the legislation as well as a platform for more factual and less party profiled politicians. With time the de facto connection between the Senate and municipal politics has been registered.


     The creation of a second Chamber in 1795 has been inspired by the wish not to relive what happened in the 1793-1794 period, i.e. the dictatorship of a committee stemming from the single Chamber. The regimes that have succeeded each other afterwards all kept the second Chamber, adapting it each time to the nature of the system.

     A brief return to the single Chamber took place between 1848 and 1851. But the permanent antagonism between this single Chamber and the president of the Republic ended up with a coup. The second Chamber took its present shape in 1875, following the return of the Republic. Since this date it has been elected through indirect suffrage.

     In conclusion this second Chamber has historically been motivated above all by the need for a restraining power, protecting the citizens from the possible abuses of the single Chamber.

     Today, this motivation is not any longer the only one. The decentralization process started since 1982 gives more importance to the function of the representation of the local authorities. (The second Chamber had as well this role since 1875, but the strong centralization limited its scope).


     The Constituent Assembly extensively debated the possibility of creating a single house parliament, but in the end the bicameral system prevailed. Some argued that a second House should have acted as a counterweight or check on the other, according to other opinions a second house would have acted as a Chamber of representation of the regions as administrative and geographical units, others argued for a Senate composed of representatives of some segments of productive society.

     The definitive option towards the bicameralism was the result of long debates, that opposed the ones that supported a single house's system (most of the Left) to the idea of a corporations' Chamber (arisen from some important representative of the Centre). A third proposal focused on a true regional basis of the Senate's representation. This last one was considered impracticable at that time because the regions as political districts hadn't come into existence yet.

     At last the principle of a second House was accepted as a kind of compromise among various proposals expressing various political opinions. The system adopted by the Constitutional Assembly after long debates was of a "perfect" bicameralism, with only small differences between the two chambers, that constituted a strong Parliament as a whole.

     Discussions and proposals have recently arisen on constitutional changes. Following the 2001 constitutional reform of the State - based on the principles of autonomy and subsidiarity - a debate is currently under way on strengthening the relation between the Senate and the Regions, and introducing different competences for the two Houses.


     Due to its small area the first democratic Constitution in Luxembourg dating back to 1848 did not opt for the institution of the Senate. The striving to constantly improve the terms of laws has caused the creation of a specialized and independent body, i.e. the Council of State of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, created in 1856. At the time the constitutionalist declared that "for the legislation the Council of State shall function as a second chamber; its action shall become a guarantee for the maturity of laws". The quality of the legislation, both as for the substance and for the form, thus has been and still remains a basic mission of the Council of State operating as the second chamber insofar as it is invested with a suspensive right of veto of 3 months maximum for any law.


     In the late 1980s, the Polish situation was bordering on catastrophe, both internally - advancing erosion of the political system and continuing economic crisis, as well as externally - growing anarchy in the former communist countries, particularly in Russia.

     In April 1989, Polish rulers and the opposition grouped around the Solidarity trade movement came to an understanding that went into history as the Round Table Accord. Among many agreements reached at that time - agreements that started political and social transformations - the reinstatement of the Senate, i.e. a return to a bicameral parliament after 50 years, comes to the forefront in terms of importance.

     Here is an excerpt of the Round Table Accord of April 5, 1989, which refers directly to the role and significance of the future Senate:"The Sejm remains the highest organ of legislative power. It shall deliberate in a continuous manner and the presence therein of opposition deputies shall change the way it has functioned to date. The new institution of the Senate shall constitute an important reinforcement of legislative power. The Senate shall be entitled to propose legislation and shall consider draft bills adopted by the Sejm. If it rejects them, they will require a 2/3 majority in the Sejm in order to be passed. Additionally, candidatures to Sejm-appointed positions of Commissioner for Civic Rights and President of the Supreme Chamber of Control shall require Senate's approval. The Senate shall amend and adopt the Constitution jointly with the Sejm.

     The Senate and the Sejm shall jointly constitute the National Assembly which shall elect the President for the first term of office. [...] To be valid, presidential candidatures must be submitted by at least 1 of deputies and senators. The Senate elected by the will of a sovereign Nation shall play an important controlling role, particularly in the field of human rights and the rule of law, and in the country's socio-economic life..."

     Polish constitutional experts are correct in saying that the re-establishment of the Senate as the Second Chamber of Parliament was not at the beginning a reflection of the vision of the State system but rather a result of a compromise reached between various political factions. In the opinion of Dr. Wojciech Orłowski, "the appointment of the Senate was a result of the will to reform the Sejm and other State organs, whereas the direct reason behind its recreation rested in a political consensus to hold non-confrontational elections and establish the institution of President." In the opinion of Prof. Garlicki, "the Senate was treated instrumentally, as a type of 'democratic substitute'", whereas Prof. Kruk-Jarosz stated that "the Senate chosen in free and competitive elections was meant to balance the 'contract' nature of the Sejm, where 65 seats had been given to the governing coalition." These statements show that, at least at the beginning of the transformations, the origin of the Senate was perceived first and foremost as an effect of a political arrangement that "reconciled the rulers with the opposition" and not as a "restitution that presumed a certain conscious line of action."

     In addition, the Senate was perceived, particularly after historic elections of June 1989 (in which the opposition won almost 100% of votes), as a "sort of a Chamber of Resistance whose main purpose was to control decisions taken at the Sejm and influence the direction of actions taken by the government or the President."

     Moreover, conservative and independentalist circles viewed the rebirth of the Senate as a link to the tradition of Polish parliamentarianism, particularly to the period between the two world wars, and the significance of that view was more than sentimental.

     The constitutional debate on the role, tasks and competencies of the Senate, in other words, the merits of a bicameral parliament, flared up for good in 1994, when the National Assembly (both chambers of parliament) began work on the shape of the future constitution and on the place reserved in it for the Senate. Five out of seven constitution drafts proposed by various political factions presumed the Senate's establishment. Generally speaking, only the left was in favour of keeping a unicameral parliament.

     We believe that we should provide a few examples of how the need to establish the Senate as well as its role and position were justified in those drafts of the future constitution that in addition to reflecting political intentions of their authors provided a certain systemic vision of the functioning of the main organs of governance. In most such drafts, the main task reserved for the Senate as the Second Chamber of Parliament was to "care for the quality of legislation" or "ensure the development of good legislation", whereas the role of the Senate itself was to "stand guard of the law" without "participating in current political debacles", "balance out the legislative power" and constitute a "chamber of contemplation". The Senate would also "monitor the legislative process" and "oversee controlling institutions".

     One draft contained a unique proposal of a constitutional clause giving the Senate the power to "have direct control over the activities of the government and its administration".

     Other suggestions referred to creating an organ that would "closely collaborate with the Sejm", i.e. some type of a self-governing or economic chamber composed of appointed meritorious members of the society. These proposals, however, were never clearly specified. The opinion at the time was that "nobody really knew how such organs would function or what would be their tasks and range of competencies".

     It is also proper to quote at this point the arguments against the existence of the Senate which appeared in the debate on the future constitutional shape of the State system. Here are the main ones:

  1. "In a unitarian state (such as Poland), the existence of the Second Chamber of Parliament makes no sense since there are no clearly defined reasons justifying its functioning". "If both chambers are voted into office by way of democratic elections, then there will be two unnecessary representations of the same type and of a similar political composition". The Senate "replicates the political arrangement created in the Sejm."
  2. "The establishment and maintenance of the Senate in Poland is contrary to the tendency present in democratic systems of moving toward a unicameral parliamentary structure."
  3. "The Second Chamber lengthens and needlessly complicates the legislative process, which is a particularly important reason against it when, under the conditions of a fundamental reconstruction of the legal system (i.e. systemic transformation), there is a need for a speedy adoption of a large number of new, efficient, legal acts". Moreover, "the need for a bill to pass through two chambers would be an additional factor imposing an excessive haste on the legislative process, often contrary to Sejm regulations and at a clear detriment to the quality of legal acts under development."
  4. "The existence of the Second Chamber weakens the legislative branch - a very unconstructive proposal when all over the world the executive branch is growing in importance and solutions are being sought to reinforce the role of parliaments."
  5. "The existence of the Second Chamber is not needed to the improvement of the quality of new laws under deliberation." This objective can be achieved "by way of other, less expensive means, such as improving the skills and effectiveness of Sejm's legislative services, better legislative planning and more effective coordination of the legislative activities of the legal service of the Council of Ministers (which introduces legislative initiatives most often) and the legislative service of the Sejm."

     Ultimately, the current constitution (adopted in 1997) contains a model of a differential, with a greater number of competencies and entitlements reserved for the Sejm.


     The main reason given for installing a second chamber was the consideration that the federalistic principle of the Austrian Constitution demanded the existence of a second chamber representing the Federal Provinces in the process of the federal legislation.


     The National Council was constituted according to the Constitution of the Republic of Slovenia in the year of 1991. The Constitution does not establish the bicamerality of the representative body, however it establishes two constitutional bodies that take an active part in the field of legislation.

     In spite of the fact that at the beginning of nineties predominating view of the constitutionality was the unicameral system, constitutional theoreticians acknowledged the National Council as upper chamber. For the most part constitutional law theoreticians advocate bicameral system for the benefits it offers.

     The most picturesque definition of the constitutional law theory in Slovenia could be presented by the following quotation of professor dr. Ciril Ribičič: 'The existence of lower chamber, representative body, legislative body that forms a government is not disputable. It does not work any other way. The condition of the upper chamber is just the other way. It is the supplement of the lower chamber and additional complication of the system, additional cost something that annoys the government as well as the lower chamber. Above all, it is possible to get along without the upper chamber. It is for this reason that the discussions about the upper chamber remains open; the opponents that tend to abolish it are always to be found as well as the supporters that tend to introduce preserve and/or strengthen its role. I myself belong to the latter ones.'

     By all means at present one could find more supporters of bicamerality than at the time of the Constitution enforcement in the year of 1991. It would be necessary to alter at least legal if not constitutional regulation of the National Council for its effective function. An ingenious answer that could enable larger modifications is hard to be found in Slovenia. These modifications of the National Council competencies are: the possibility to propose an amendment to a bill, competencies in the constitutional-review procedure, etc.


     Subsequent to the Revolution of December 1989, in Romania - as in other former socialist countries - there was a need to choose between a mono or bi-cameral system. The wish to reinvigorate the democratic traditions of the country, as well as the unfortunate experience with the mono-cameral system from the socialist period led to the adoption, within the Constituent Assembly, without any sort of difficulties, of the bicameral system.

     When choosing the bicameral system, it was deemed necessary to ensure a system of perfect equality between the two Chambers (according to the Italian system). It was estimated that such a mechanism was preferable to the mono-cameral option, thus ensuring a political balance, a wiser reflection on the legislation to be adopted. At the same time, within the debates at different levels on the various options and democratic solutions, the bi-cameral choice received full approval in view of the future development of the country.

     The experience of the 13 years of Romanian parliamentary activity raised recently the following discussion: the adoption of the Italian system, namely, the perfect equality of Chambers, with identical prerogatives and a legislative process inevitably repeating itself at all levels, didn't prove to be a functional policy for our country.

     That is why, in order to increase the efficiency of the parliamentary activity in its legislative dimension, the proposal of amending the Constitution - currently under debate at the Chamber of Deputies - puts forward the solution of separating the legislative attributions of the two Chambers.

     This formula is obviously much more valuable as it confers to each of the Parliamentary Chambers its own personality as well as a distinctive role.

     The legislative proposal for amending the Constitution envisages the introduction of a new text according to which the Chamber of Deputies receives for debate and adoption at a first reading, the following: draft laws and legislative proposals for ratifying the treaties or other international agreements as well as the legislative measures ensuing from these treaties or agreements; draft organic laws referring to the public radio and television services, categories of civil servants who may not join political parties, exemption from compulsory military service of Romanian citizens; - organic laws regulating the states of siege and emergency, the status of civil servants, the general legal status of property and inheritance, general rules covering labour relations, trade unions and social security, the establishment and organisation of the Legislative Council; the organization of the Government, the incompatibilities with the function of member of the Government, the establishment of autonomous administrative authorities, the structure of the national defence system, the information services and other components of the armed forces, the competence of the judicial authorities, the terms under which the composition of the Constitutional Court is periodically renewed.

     The Constitutional Committee in charge with elaborating the draft did not consider necessary to include other elements differentiating the two Chambers, except for the situation already mentioned, namely, the obligation to submit to the first Chamber the draft laws or legislative proposals concerning certain specific fields. During the public debate held in the last years on the amending of the Constitution, there were alternative proposals pleading for specific competencies for the Senate so as to differentiate it even more from the Chamber of Deputies.


     The different composition of the chambers of the Federal Assembly is one of the prerequisites for their efficiency. The mode of constitution of the State Duma has foreseen right from the beginning a strong politicisation of the lower chamber of the Russian parliament. The Rules of Procedure of the State Duma foresees the creation of parliamentary groups. Hence, deputies become mostly the promoters of the political interests of their voters. On the other hand, the members of the Council of the Federation represent the interests of the whole population of the different subjects of the Federation. This allows the Federal Assembly to have a global approach for each federal bill it considers. The bill is analysed not only as far as the majority of deputies is concerned as it is linked to some of the political groups, but also from the point of view of its timeliness for each region of Russia.

     The impossibility to dissolve the upper chamber as well as the set mandate to 4 years of deputies and the gradual renewal of the members of the Council of the Federation according to the local elections in the subjects of the Federation allow the Federal Assembly to be stable and to ensure the continuity, increasing in such a way the efficiency of both chambers.

     For a country as large and as multinational as Russia the bicameral system has always been more efficient than the unicameral one as it ensures more stability to the Parliament as well as to the whole of the public administration. At once, it allows bringing as close as possible to the federal centre the problems and the interests of the regions. A similar approach has been still typical for the Soviet period of the Russian State.

Federal Republic of Germany

     The decision to create a bicameral system in the Federal Republic of Germany in 1949 can be best understood when taking a closer look at German history.

     At the end of the 18th century when major European powers such as France or England were already national states with central governments, central Europe was a patchwork of different German territories. Germany became a national state very late, when in 1871 the empire was established. Until then German political and cultural life had flourished in many different sovereign territories, among which Prussia and Bavaria were the largest. The constitutions of the empire (1871 - 1918) and subsequently the Weimar republic (1919 - 1933), reflected this historical development and granted the German states joint powers of participation. Already in 1871, this also led to the creation of a bicameral system. Apart from the Reichstag, the first chamber, predecessors of the current Bundesrat were established, whose members were not directly elected but usually appointed by the different state governments. Germany's federal structure was eliminated during the National Socialist period (1933 - 1945), a centralised state was created and the states' parliamentary representation dissolved.

     With the support of the Allied Powers the experience of the dictatorship period led to the re-establishment of a federal system, at first in West Germany only. The states were given a stronger position with the intention to implement democratic and constitutional law principles on all levels thereby ensuring that totalitarian power structures would not gain foothold again. The decision was justified by the fact that after the collapse of the Hitler dictatorship in 1945 national and political life developed first on the level of the states (the Laender), which had been quickly restructured after the end of the war.

     With the German Basic Law coming into force on 23 May 1949, the Federal Republic of Germany was established as a federal state. In comprehensive and intensive consultations, the Parliamentary Council, preparing the constitution in the years 1948 and 1949, diligently weighed the question as to how the participation of the states should be structured within a second parliamentary organ besides the Bundestag. Among the models proposed was that of the Senate of the United States of America, whose members are elected. Finally, a broad majority favoured Germany's traditional form of a Second Chamber, a Federal Council or Bundesrat, into which the members are sent by their respective state government. The main reason was that this system - in addition to the classical horizontal division of power between the legislative, the executive and the judiciary - also implied a further vertical division of political power between the federation and the federal states and that this dual division of power was seen as an effective means of preventing abuse.

     This decision and the justification for a bicameral system in Germany is still valid and widely accepted by the majority of the German population. Nevertheless, there are discussions in Germany going on with the view to reform the federal system and to reconsider the role and especially the competences of the Bundesrat. Most critics argue that over the years the Bundesrat has become too powerful and that the number of bills requiring the consent of the Second Chamber should be limited. Otherwise the Bundesrat could in effect block important legislative projects.


     Under the 1978 Constitution Spain was organised as highly decentralised state with political autonomy being granted to the Self-Governing Communities. A second chamber was therefore set up, called the Senado, the Senate, and defined in section 69.1 of the Spanish Constitution as the House of territorial representation. This situation still obtains today.


     The Constitution of the United States has served as a model for the Swiss bicameral system. The basic principles of federalism are balance and compensation among the cantons with a high and low number of inhabitants, among the large and small cantons. This situation is guaranteed by the preservation of equality between the two chambers.


     Article 42 of the Constitution stipulates: "The members of both chambers represent the Nation and not merely those who elected them." Senators, although they draw their legitimacy only from a part of the citizens, are according to the Constitution the representatives of all. It is on the basis of that they take part in the debates of their assemblies. The whole of the senators, majority and opposition, is qualified to talk and act on behalf of the Nation. This principle applies to all members of the Senate, regardless of their mode of appointment.

     However, the principle of the national representation must be slightly qualified. The present composition of the Senate is hybrid and indicates the will to ensure at least partly the representation of the federated authorities.

     The Senate numbers 21 senators designated by the Parliaments of the communities. According to the federal logic these senators represent within the federal Parliament the three communities of the country, the Flemish community, the French community and the German-speaking community. These senators remain members of the Parliament who appointed them and as a consequence perform two mandates, sitting both on the federal level and also on the level of the federated communities. Only these communities are represented as such in the Senate. The other federated political authorities, the Flemish region, the Walloon region and the region of Brussels-Capital City, are not represented there. Moreover, community senators do not perform a binding mandate and they cannot be revoked by the Parliament that appointed them.

     The election of the 40 directly elected senators is, to some extent, characterized by the same care for a community representation. Indeed, electors are grouped into two bodies of electors, the French body of electors, to whom voters in the Walloon constituency belong and who elects 15 senators, and the Dutch body of electors, grouping voters in the Flemish constituency electing 25 senators. Voters in the Brussels-Hal-Vilvorde constituency choose when voting the body of electors where they belong. Directly elected senators enjoy thus a great amount of legitimacy as they are elected by the whole of their community.

     Finally a last feature of community representation has to be stressed. The Senate is divided into two language groups. All the Dutch-speaking senators form the Dutch language group, while all the French-speaking senators form the French language group. This dividing up in language groups is important. Some laws, defined as "with a special majority", require, besides the two thirds overall majority, also a majority within each language group. We may thus consider that senators represent when voting these laws on the same level the interests of their community as well as those of the Nation.

     The senator appointed by the Council of the German-speaking community does not belong to either of the language groups.

Czech Republic

     Senators represent the citizens, or according to the Constitution the whole people. In fact they feel to be mostly the representatives of their constituency; the constituencies are 81, each of them has approx. 120 thousand inhabitants.


     According to the Constitution the senate represents "the territorial authorities of the Republic". All the territorial authorities (communes, departments, regions) participate in its election. However, in the body electing the Senate, the representatives of the communes are much more numerous than the representatives of departments and regions.


     According to art. 57 of the Italian Constitution, the Senate of the Republic is elected on a regional basis, though this does not include any limit in representation. According to art. 67, each member of Parliament - which consist of the Chamber of Deputies and of Senate of the Republic - represents the Nation, and carries out his duties without constraint of mandate. A Senator represents the Nation as a whole, exactly as a Deputy.


     The Council of State is not an institution representing the political, territorial, and professional or other interests. The members of the Council of State are appointed and dismissed by the Grand Duke, they are not elected by the people.

     Whenever a vacant seat has to be occupied, the renewal is performed alternatively and in the following order:

  1. through direct appointment by the Grand Duke,
  2. through appointment of one of the three candidates submitted by the Chamber of Deputies,
  3. through appointment of one of the three candidates submitted by the Council of State.

     As derogation to these rules the members of the ruling family are always appointed through a direct appointment by the Grand Duke.

     In practice the composition of the Council of State takes into account to some extent the representation of the political parties in the Parliament, but above all the diversity of the qualifications and professional experiences of the councillors. Thus, the Council of State has among its members besides some high officials and magistrates personalities from the private sector, although they do not represent interest groups.


     Elected senators (100) represent voters (citizens) residing in 16 provinces, which are divided into electoral districts. Two to four senators are elected in each district. In this sense, senators represent provinces as well as parts thereof. However, constitutionally (Art. 104 of the Constitution in convergence with its Art. 108), senators are "representatives of the Nation". Elections to the Senate are characterized by three adjectives: universal - every citizen has the right to participate actively and passively in elections; direct - every citizen votes for a specific candidate personally and directly; and secret - which guarantees free, safe and unencumbered voting.

     Pursuant to these principles of the Act on Elections to the Sejm and Senate of the Polish Republic, a majority system has been adopted in Senate elections. Those candidates who receive most votes are elected.


     According to Art. 34 para. 1 of the Austrian Federal Constitution, the Federal Provinces are represented in the Federal Council in proportion to the number of citizens in each Federal Province.


     The National Council is, in accordance with the Constitution, the representative of social, economic, professional and local interest groups. The forty-member National Council comprises 22 representatives of local interests, six representatives of non-commercial activities (health care, science, education, social security, etc.) four representatives of employers, four of employees and four representatives of farmers, crafts and trades and independent professionals (there are two the representatives of farmers).


     The Senate represents the Romanian citizens.


     According to federal legislation the Council of the Federation brings together the representatives of the subjects of the Federation with one representative of the territorial assembly and one of the executive of each subject of the Russian Federation. Hence, the members of the Council of the Federation represent the subject of the Federation and defend its interests in general.

Federal Republic of Germany

     The Bundesrat represents the interests of the 16 German Laender or states at the federal level and, indirectly, at the level of the European Union. The Laender appoint members of their governments as members of the Bundesrat thereby guaranteeing a direct participation of the individual federal state governments in decisions taken by the national state.


     The citizens elect 208 of the 259 Senators (sections 69.2, 3 and 4 of the Spanish Constitution). The remaining Senators, 51 at the moment, are designated by the Parliaments of the Self-Governing Communities.


     The second chamber represents the cantons and their population.

Czech Republic

     The experiences with the not too successful activity of the bicameral Parliament in inter bellum Czechoslovakia resulted in a commonly shared conviction about the necessity to ensure a different composition of the chambers as a prerequisite for a successful fulfilment of their roles. The differences were to be reached through a differentiation of the electoral systems, the right to be elected, the length of the mandate, the mode of renewal (the Chamber of Deputies entirely, the senate partially) and the non-dissolvability of the Senate. In practice the different election dates were added to it (the Chamber of Deputies in June, the Senate in October and November).

     The debate on the differentiation of the titles of the chambers was not too broad. The Senate as the representative of the regions was refused among other things in view of the fact of the dissolving federal State; fears of similar processes inside the Czech Republic were present.


     In 1875 the constitutionalists had wanted to give to the second Chamber a democratic basis, so it would have a sufficient legitimacy to play the role of a counterweight against the first Chamber; at once, they have thought that if the second Chamber had the same mode of election as the first one (direct universal suffrage), it could not play the mitigating role entrusted to it. This is why they have chosen the solution of the indirect suffrage where the representatives of local authorities elect the Senate.


     Since under the new Republic system in Italy the legitimating of both Parliament's houses takes its origin directly from the people, it was argued that there was no reason for differentiating their respective roles, being their composition almost the same. The Chambers have so the same powers and functions. The advantage of such bicameralism was that it enabled multiple consultations on draft legislation. The presence of two houses with the same powers and functions was positively considered also for its 'cooling effect', because a double reading of the bills would enable the various actors at the parliamentary stage to examine better their positions and reach fairest solutions, thus improving the quality of legislation.


     There is a debate among constitutionalists, political scientists, law historians and, of course, politicians themselves about a "possible reform of the Upper House or about parliamentary bicameralism" - in other words, on the role, tasks and range of competencies of both chambers in the shaping of the political and economic reality of the State. As we have already stated, earlier debates, particularly those taking place in mid-1990s, included suggestions of the "appointment of a Self-Governing Chamber" which would "represent territorial self-governments". There were other proposals to create the Second Chamber that would "represent other types of self-governments, such as professional self-governing bodies". Still other suggestions called for a "Senate that would combine a political and a self-government chamber" and a "chamber representing territorial self-governments and professional self-governing bodies, as well as scientific institutions, higher educational establishments and cultural associations". All these discussions had then and still have today a political character. They come back on the occasion of successive parliamentary elections. That is when the topic of having or not having the Senate returns. However, there has been a recent perceptible tendency not to question the need for having the Second Chamber anymore but rather focus on what that Second Chamber should represent.


     In the course of the debates on the Austrian Federal Constitution also the advantages of a differentiation of the representation titles of the parliamentary chambers were discussed. Besides the federalistic issue also the question of the representation of economic interests was introduced into the discussion but did not play an important role.


     Numerous undistinctnesses that concern the status of the National Council and its relation towards the National Assembly derive from two facts: immediately before the enforcement was the Constitution supplemented by the institution of the National Council; some changes were also made about the composition and competencies of the National Council. This organ was potentially always present in the formal scheme of the constitutional wording. Yet it was not taken into consideration as a real option, for parliamentary parties proceeded from two conceptions: some of them were in favour of the pure unicameral system while the others argued for bicameral system with regional representation and limited competencies within the upper chamber. The National Council was, so to say, the compromise between both options, however the defenders of the direct regional representation won the increase of the number of representatives of local interests. The representation of different interests in the National Council was originally meant to be such like that none of the interest group itself could represent numerical superiority.


     The theses that served as basis for the elaboration of the new Constitution - adopted in 1991 by national referendum, had initially previewed a certain specialization between the two Chambers; for instance, the Chamber of Deputies should adopt the budget, pass motions of censure, approve the structure and program of the Government etc., whereas the Senate should ratify the treaties, appoint the Advocate of the People, the director of the Romanian Information Service. However, as the debates advanced, the idea of creating such a division was abandoned. There was no question as to differentiate the Chambers from the point of view of their representativeness, but in terms of the way in which they are constituted and their competencies.


     From the very beginning different ways of constituting the two chambers have been planned.

     The preliminary discussions on the electoral mode of the State Duma deputies concerned the issue of the selection of the electoral system: majority principle, proportional representation or a mixed solution. And in the event of a mixed system, what should be the percentage of the elected deputies in federal constituencies (slate vote) as compared to the single mandate constituencies (majority vote).

     As for the mode of constituting the Council of the Federation, it is not defined in the Constitution of the Russian Federation. The discussions on this theme continue until today. Since more than 10 years of the functioning of the Russian Parliament 3 modes of constitution have been already tried.

  1. Election of the members of the Council of the Federation based on the majority principle.
  2. Membership ex officio in the Council of the Federation of the heads of the executive and of the presidents of the territorial assemblies (or their chambers) of the subjects of the Federation.
  3. Appointment of the members of the Council of the Federation by the bodies of the representative and executive powers of the subjects of the Federation.

Federal Republic of Germany

     The decision to have a different composition of the Bundesrat where members are appointed by the state governments as opposed to the Bundestag where members of parliament are directly elected was mainly based on the historic development in Germany (see above Question 1). Furthermore, the present system guarantees that the Bundesrat is both, an effective counterweight to the Bundestag and the Federal Cabinet and a link between federal and state governments. It ensures that the political and administrative experience of the Laender finds its expression in the Federation's legislation and administration.


     The rationale behind this bicameral system is the different representational nature of each chamber: the Congreso de los Diputados, the Congress, represents the citizens as a whole while the Senate is the House of territorial representation. Nonetheless, the open formulation given by the 1978 Constitution to the territorial distribution of power makes it difficult to give an exact definition of the Senate's territorial representation.


     It is quite deliberate that the composition of the Council of States (CS) is different, and it is all the same deliberate that both chambers enjoy the same powers.


     The number of the members of the federal Parliament is set in the Constitution (art. 63, §1 and art. 67, § 1).

     The Chamber of Representatives is made up of 150 deputies elected directly in 11 electoral constituencies. A 5 % eligibility threshold is applied.

     The senate numbers 71 elected members divided in three categories. 40 senators are elected directly in three electoral constituencies, the Flemish constituency, the Walloon constituency and the bilingual Brussels-Hal-Vilvorde constituency. A 5% eligibility threshold is applied. Besides the 40 directly elected senators the Senate is as well gathering 21 senators appointed by the three community Parliaments, 10 by the Flemish Parliament, 10 by the French Community Parliament and 1 by the Council of the German-speaking Community. Finally the Senate includes 10 co-opted senators: 6 are nominated by the whole of the other Dutch-speaking senators, and 4 by the French-speaking senators.

     Deputies and senators are elected according to the principle of the proportional representation (the D´Hondt method).

     To have a full idea it is necessary to specify that the children of the King, or in their absence, the Belgian descendants of the royal family called to rule, are senators by rights after reaching the age of 18. In practice they refrain from all political activity.

     The right to vote is restrained to citizens having reached the age of 18. In Belgium voting is compulsory.

     To be elected deputy or senator you have to be a Belgian citizen, enjoy civil and political rights, be 21 of age and have a permanent residence in Belgium. This is a limitative list: no other eligibility condition may be requested.

     The members of the Chamber and of the Senate are elected for four years. The Chamber of Representatives and the Senate are re-elected as a whole. The election of the 40 directly elected senators coincides with the general election of the Chamber of Representatives.

     The Constitution foresees the possibility of an early dissolution of the Chamber of Representatives on the initiative of the King in the event of a political crisis. The Chamber is indeed the only competent in the area of the political control of the government. The dissolution of the Chamber of Representatives triggers the dissolution of the Senate.

     Moreover, both chambers are automatically dissolved when the legislative power adopts a declaration of revision of the Constitution. In practice this mode of dissolution has become the rule, as Belgium is being involved in a permanent process of institutional reform.

Czech Republic

     Both chambers of the Parliament of the CR are elected in direct, general and secret elections, on the basis of the principle of the equality of votes. The Chamber of Deputies is elected according to the principles of the proportional electoral system, meaning specifically the election of 200 deputies in 14 regions according to the D´Hondt method of the conversion of votes to mandates. 81 senators are elected in single mandate constituencies according to the absolute majority principle: in the first round of voting the candidate with more than 50 % of the cast votes wins, if there is no such candidate, a second round is organized with the two most successful candidates of the first round; the winner is the one obtaining the majority of votes.

     All deputies and senators are elected. Appointed senators were discussed in 1920, but this idea has been in the post-revolutionary atmosphere rejected as insufficiently democratic. In recent years we sometimes hear that the presidents of regions as top representatives of the self-government of 14 regions could be appointed senators.

     The right to vote is for both chambers identical: state citizenship and having reached 18 years of age. The conditions of its implementation differ: it is possible to vote for the Chamber of Deputies as well at embassies abroad, for the Senate only in the Czech Republic.

     The right to be elected differs by the age limit: for deputies reaching 21 years of age is sufficient, for senators it is 40 years.

     Deputies are 200, senators 81. The number is definitely set by the Constitution, in the case of the Senate it may however differ between the vacancy of a mandate during the electoral term (resignation, death) and the by-election.

     The Chamber of Deputies is renewed entirely every four years, unless it has been dissolved previously (this being quite difficult); discontinuity is a rule between the electoral terms. The Senate is renewed by thirds (27 senators) every two years. The two-years term, designated as a term of office, is appearing as the period for which the Senate officials are elected and the members of the Senate bodies (personal discontinuity). However, the Senate is functioning without interruption and continues in the consideration of bills, international treaties etc. regardless of the elections.

     While the Chamber of Deputies is elected for four years, the session of the Senate is considered as "eternal", i.e. uninterrupted since its establishment in December 1996. Both chambers are established fully independently, neither regular elections nor the dissolution do affect the existence of the Senate. Moreover, a practice established in 1996 seeks to differentiate the election dates, the Chamber of Deputies being elected in June, as opposed to the Senate elections taking place in October - November.

     Only the Chamber of Deputies may be dissolved.


     The National Assembly is elected through uninominal suffrage (577 constituencies), according to a majority, two rounds system. The Senate is elected through indirect suffrage. The department is the constituency. The number of senators in each department depends on the number of inhabitants (the least populated department has 1 senator, the most populated has 12). The voting system is proportional in the departments electing four and more senators; in the departments electing three senators and less the voting system is a majority, two rounds one. The body of electors of the Senate is composed in each department:

  • of representatives of the communes (their number depends on the population of the commune);
  • of the members of the department assembly;
  • of the members of the regional assembly representing the department within it;
  • of national deputies elected in the department.

     The communes' representatives account for more than 9/10 of the electoral body.

     There are no appointed or life-long senators.

     As indicated above the suffrage is direct for the National Assembly, indirect for the Senate. To be elected deputy the age of at least 23 is required. To be elected senator the age of at least 30 years is required.

     There are 577 deputies and, today, 321 senators. Law sets this number. An act has just been adopted that will gradually increase the number of senators from 321 to 346 between 2004 and 2010.

     Deputies are elected for 5 years. Applying a law that has just been passed senators are elected for 6 years; the senate is re-elected by halves every three years (so far senators were elected for 9 years and the Senate had been re-elected by thirds every three years; the new act foresees transitory provisions).

     The National Assembly may be dissolved. The Senate cannot be dissolved.


     It is possible to say that in the Italian bicameralism there are no appreciable differences between the two Houses of the Parliament either in structure or in functions. As said above, the two houses of the Italian parliament are essentially founded on the same type of representative mandate and exercise the same powers.

     The terms of office of both Chambers, according to the Constitution, are of five years. Since they are absolutely equal, the occurrence of their election is simultaneous. The number of Parliament members is defined directly by the Constitution.

     The Chamber of Deputies has 630 members, 475 of whom (75%) are elected in single member districts (majority system). The remaining 155 (25%) are elected in constituencies with a proportional representation system. The division of seats among the electoral districts, with the exception of the number of seats assigned to the Overseas Constituency, is obtained by dividing the number of inhabitants of the Republic, as shown by the latest general census of the population, by six hundred eighteen and distributing the seats in proportion to the population in every electoral district, on the basis of whole shares and the highest remainders.

     Of the 315 electoral members of the Senate, 232 (75%) are elected applying the majority system, 83 (25%) on proportional representation. In spite of this duality the voters have a single ballot, that affects the allocation of both majority and proportional seats. Indeed, the candidates of both types of seats are the same. The proportional representation seats are allocated to the 'best losers' in the single-members districts. In the Chamber each voter has two ballots, and can express two votes. One vote is for the selection of the candidates in the single-members district, the second vote goes to party lists for the proportional representation seat allocation at the constituency level.

     In theory, this would permit different majorities in the Chamber and in the Senate. In reality this has not occurred although the composition of the parliamentary Groups in the two chambers is not exactly the same.

     Concerning the Senate, in particular, article 57 of the Italian Constitution reads: "The Senate of the Republic is elected on a regional basis, with the exception of the seats assigned to the Overseas Constituency.

     The number of Senators to be elected is three hundred and fifteen, six of which are elected in the Overseas Constituency. No Region may have fewer than seven Senators; Molise shall have two, Valle d'Aosta one. The division of seats among the Regions, with the exception of the number of seats assigned to the Overseas Constituency is made in proportion to the population of the Regions as revealed in the most recent general census, on the basis of whole shares and the highest remainders". There are, actually, 20 regional constituencies plus the Overseas constituency. In two regions, exactly Valle d'Aosta and Molise only majority representatives are elected in single-member districts, due to the little amount of population in the regions.

     There may be a few senators (up to five, over the number of 315) appointed for lifelong terms by the President of the Republic because of their outstanding merits, chosen among the citizens who have honoured the country with their outstanding achievements in the social, scientific, artistic or literary fields. Besides, each President of the Republic becomes by right a Senator for life at the end of his mandate. The Senate therefore may include, and usually includes, more than 315 members.

     Despite the perfect equality of the two chambers as for their functions and the political representation they express, there are some differences between them concerning the electorate. All Italian citizens who have attained the age of eighteen are entitled to vote in the Chamber elections. All voters who have attained the age of twenty-five on the day of elections are eligible to be Deputies. As for the Senate, article 58 of the Constitution reads: "Senators are elected by universal and direct suffrage by voters who are twenty-five years of age. Voters who have attained the age of forty are eligible to be elected to the Senate".

     The original bicameral design envisaged different terms for the two Houses (five years for the Chamber, six years for the Senate), but in 1963 these terms were unified at five years for both Houses, with the precise purpose to reduce the differences between their political composition that would have been produced by separate and increasingly distant elections.

     The chambers can be dissolved by the President of the Republic, having heard the Presidents of the Houses, before the expiration of the legislature terms. It usually happens when the Government appears no further supported by the majority in one or both the Houses of the Parliament. According to article 88 of the Constitution, the President can even dissolve only one chamber. So happened in the first three legislatures following the coming into force of the republican Constitution. At the expiry of the Chamber of Deputies the President dissolved the Senate too, with the main purpose - according to the experts - to hold comprehensive general elections, smoothen the differences in the political composition of the chambers and avoid the electorate going to the polls too frequently: it was, according to some experts, merely a 'technical' matter, not a political one.


     The deputies of the Chamber of Deputies are elected directly on the basis of simple universal suffrage, from slates of candidates according to the rules of proportional representation, in accordance with the principle of the smallest electoral quotient and according to the rules set by law. The country is divided into four constituencies: the constituencies South, Centre, North and East (art. 51 of the Constitution).

     The Councillors of State are appointed according to the rotation system described above (see 2, par. 2) for a continuous or discontinuous period of 15 years.

     To be elected as deputy or be appointed as a member of the Council of State, you have to be a citizen of Luxembourg, enjoy civic and political rights, be a resident of the Grand Duchy. While the minimal requested age for passive voting rights is set at reaching the age of 18, the age requirement to enter the Council of State is having reached 30 years. While there is no age limit for deputies, the function of member of the Council of State expires when the person concerned has reached the age of 72.

     The mandate of a deputy is incompatible with among other things the position of member of the government, member of the Council of State, magistrate of the judiciary, member of the Supreme Audit Institution, civil servant and career military in active duty.

     The function of member of the Council of State is compatible with any other function and any profession, except the position of member of the government and mandates of deputy, of a member of a trade chamber or of the Economic and Social Council as well as the positions of justice at the Administrative Court or at the Administrative Tribunal or official of the Secretariat of the Council of State.

     According to art 51 of the Constitution the Chamber of Deputies is made up of 60 deputies. An act voted in the presence of at least 3 of the members composing a chamber sets the number of deputies to be elected in each of the constituencies. To be valid an act must gather at least two thirds of the overall vote.

     The Council of State whose composition is set by the Act of July 12, 1996 concerning the organization of the Council of State, includes 21 councillors out of whom 11 are holding a law doctor title or are holding a law doctorate or holding a foreign higher education grade in law. This amount does not include the members of the ruling family who may be members of the Council of State.

     The Chamber of Deputies is entirely re-elected. The mandate of the deputy cannot be renewed.

     The mandate of the councillor of State cannot be renewed to ensure its independent performance.

     Deputies are elected for five years (see art. 56 of the Constitution), while the function of councillors of the State ends in principle after a 15 years period from the day they were appointed. Thus, there is no direct link between the constitutions of both institutions.

     Both the Chamber of Deputies and the Council of State may be dissolved by the Grand Duke, and this may happen as well separately. Since its creation the Chamber has been dissolved three times, always on political grounds, while the only dissolution in history of the Council of State goes back to 1945 and was a result of the war events.


     Article 95 of the Polish Constitution states that "legislative power in the Republic of Poland shall be exercised by the Sejm and the Senate". Both chambers are independent from other organs, which ensues from the fundamental principle of the division of powers between three branches of government. The Sejm, similarly to the Senate, does not hold a dominant position with respect to other State organs, which in turn ensues from the principle of balance of power between the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government.

     The method of holding elections to the Sejm and Senate is anchored, first and foremost, in the constitutional provisions and described in detail in the Act on Elections to the Sejm and the Senate of the Polish Republic.

     Elections to the Sejm are characterized by five adjectives: universal, egalitarian, direct, secret and proportional. Voters choose political parties and, concurrently, check off favourite candidates from political party lists. As we have said earlier, elections to the Senate are characterized by three adjectives: general, direct and secret. The majority vote system applies. Votes are cast on specific candidates who can belong to different political parties.

     The institution of appointing meritorious members of the society to the Senate does not exist at present (there were failed attempts to introduce it during the writing of the constitution in 1921). Current provisions do not presume the possibility of appointing parliamentarians.

     Article 62 of the Constitution states that the right to vote for the President of the Republic and for representatives to the Sejm and Senate and organs of local self-government - i.e. the right to an active participation in elections - is granted to Polish citizens who, no later than on the day of the vote, have attained 18 years of age.

     This means that the Constitution does not condition the right to an active participation in elections on any other requirement than age.

     However, while the Constitution is unrestrictive with respect to the right to an active participation in elections to the Sejm and Senate, it does establish conditions with respect to those citizens who wish to take advantage of the right to be elected - i.e. the right to a passive participation in elections. Pursuant to Article 99 of the Constitution, "every Polish citizen who has the right to vote and who, no later than on the day of the elections, has attained the age of 21 years, shall be eligible to be elected to the Sejm, and every Polish citizen who has the right to vote and who, no later than on the day of the elections, has attained the age of 30 years, shall be eligible to be elected to the Senate".

     There also exists an important requirement whereby persons who wish to take advantage of the right to passively participate in elections (i.e. candidates for election) must have resided on the territory of Poland for at least five years.

     The right to vote and run in elections is denied to persons who are incapacitated, either partly or fully, by a binding decision of a court of law due to mental illness or retardation, who are deprived of public rights, or who by decision of the Tribunal of State are deprived of the right to vote.

     Article 96 of the Constitution states that "the Sejm shall be composed of 460 deputies", whereas its Article 97 states that "the Senate shall be composed of 100 senators". These constitutional provisions are confirmed in regulations that specify the principles of preparing and conducting parliamentary elections (respectively Article 132 and 189 of the Act on Elections to the Sejm and Senate of the Republic of Poland).

     Both the Sejm and the Senate are elected for a determined period (the term of office of both chambers is four years). Consequently, during a term of office, the composition of the parliament rests essentially unchanged, with the same members chosen in elections conducted at the same time. The term of office begins for both chambers on the day on which the Sejm assembles for its first sitting and continues until the day preceding the assembly of the Sejm of the succeeding term of office. In practical terms, that eliminates the period between terms of office and takes care of the principle of parliamentary continuity.

     Terms of office of the Senate and the Sejm are the same. Senate powers expire at the same time as those of the Sejm. This applies to an expiry of a regular term of office (after four years) and to its shortening by resolution of the Sejm or by order of the President.

     In accordance with Article 98, Section 3 of the Constitution, the Sejm may shorten its term of office by a resolution passed by a majority of at least two-thirds of the votes of the statutory number of Deputies. Shortening the Sejm's term of office also means shortening that of the Senate, as well as the latter's dissolution.

     The President also has the constitutional power to shorten the term of office of both chambers. By virtue of Article 98, Section 4 of the Constitution, the President, after seeking the opinion of the Marshal of the Sejm and the Marshal of the Senate, may, in those instances specified in the Constitution, order shortening of the Sejm's term of office. Whenever the term of office of the Sejm has been so shortened, then the term of office of the Senate shall also be shortened.

     The reasons for which the President may exercise this right are:

  • When a vote of confidence is not granted to the Council of Ministers (Article 155, Section 2 of the Constitution);
  • When the draft budget is not adopted after four months from the day of its submission to the Sejm (Art. 225 of the Constitution).


     The electoral principles regarding the National Council are laid down in Art. 26 of the Austrian Federal Constitution. Under Art. 26 para. 1, the National Council is elected by the people in accordance with the principles of proportional representation on the basis of equal, direct, secret, and personal suffrage for men and women who have completed their 18th year of life. According to Art. 26 para. 2, the distribution of seats takes place at three levels: at the level of regional constituencies, at that of provincial constituencies, and by way of a so-called proportional balance at the federal level.

     The members of the Federal Council, under Art. 35 of the Federal Constitution, are elected by the Provincial Diets for the duration of their respective legislative periods in accordance with the principle of proportional representation, but with the modification that at least one seat must fall to the party having the second number of seats in the respective diet.

     Neither in the National Council nor in the Federal Council there is the institute of virile or appointed members.

     Art. 95 para. 2 determines that the electoral regulations for the provincial diet elections may not impose more restrictive conditions for suffrage and elegibility than does the Federal Constitution for elections to the National Council (in Art. 26). This implies that they may be less restrictive.

     The number of the members of the National Council (at present 183) is laid down in section 1 para. 1 of the National Council Electoral Act. The number of the members of the Federal Council (at present 62), under Art. 34 para. 3 of the Federal Constitution, is laid down after every general census by the Federal President according to the regulations of Art. 34 para. 2 of the Federal Constitution: The province with the largest number of citizens delegates twelve members to the Federal Council, every other province as many as the ratio in which the number of its citizens stands to that of the first-mentioned province. Every province, however, is entitled to a representation of at least three members.

     Whereas the National Council, under Art. 27 para. 1 of the Federal Constitution, is re-elected as a whole after the end of its legislative period which in principle lasts four years, the Federal Council, in accordance with the above-mentioned regulations of Art. 35 para. 1 of the Federal Constitution, is re-elected partly after every election to a Provincial Diet; that is why the terms of office of the members of the Federal Council corresponding to the legislative periods of the Provincial Diets have no uniform length (mostly five, in case of the province of Upper Austria six years).

     The legislative period of the National Council, under Art. 27 para. 1 of the Federal Constitution, lasts four years, but under Art. 29 the National Council can be dissolved either by the Federal President or by a law adopted by the National Council itself. The Federal Council, due to the above-mentioned principles of its partial renewing, has no distinct term of office at all. Therefore, there is no link to the constitution of the first chamber.

     Under Art. 29 para. 1 of the Federal Constitution, the Federal President can dissolve the National Council, but he can do so only once for the same reason. Under Art. 29 para. 2, the National Council can vote its own dissolution by simple law. In contrast there is no constitutional possibility of a dissolution of the Federal Council.


     Both chambers differ in the number of members, representation, competencies, manner of the composition, method of elections, mandate length, feasibility of dissolution etc.

     The election for the National Assembly is the direct one. Proportional voting system is applied. Mandate partition is in the first place executed on the constituency level where the Droop's quotient is used while d'Hondt system is used on the state level. National Council members are elected not on the grounds of a general right to vote but of a special right to vote, determined with a separate law for every interest group, on the basis of belonging to an individual interest group or local community.

     The persons who are entitled to vote and to be elected as members of the National Council as a representative of employers, employees, farmers, small businesses and independent professionals, and non-profit making activities (functional interests) are those who perform a corresponding activity or who are employed.

     National Council members belonging to these interest groups may be elected by foreigners under the same conditions as the citizens of Slovenia, i.e. that they are performing a corresponding activity or are employed in Slovenia. However, they may not be elected as National Council members.

     There are no appointed members neither in the National Assembly nor in the National Council.

     All citizens of the Republic of Slovenia who have reached the age of 18 years on the day of the ballot and who are not subject to a legal incapacity to vote have the right to vote and to be elected as a member of the National Council or the member of the National Assembly. National Council members are elected not on the grounds of a general right to vote but of a special right to vote, determined with a separate law for every interest group, on the basis of belonging to an individual interest group or local community.

     The persons who are entitled to vote and to be elected as members of the National Council as a representative of employers, employees, farmers, small businesses and independent professionals, and non-profit making activities (functional interests) are those who perform a corresponding activity or who are employed. Unlike for the National Assembly, foreigners who practise corresponding activity, have the right to vote for the National Council.

     The total constitutionally defined number of the National Assembly members is a 90 and 40 member of the National Council.

     The National Assembly and the National Council are elected as a whole on general elections.

     The duration of the term of office for the National Assembly is four years and for the National Council five years.

     The President of the Republic can dissolve the National Assembly in accordance with the Constitution (Constitution Articles No.111 and 117) but on the other hand can not dissolve the National Council. Therefore it is a permanent representative body without major competencies in the case of the National Assembly dissolution.


     According to the Constitution and the Electoral Law, the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate are elected by universal, equal, direct, secret and freely expressed vote. Thus, the deputies and the senators are elected in constituencies on the basis of scrutiny lists and independent candidatures, according to the principle of proportional representation. There is no institution of appointed members.

     Organizations of citizens belonging to national minorities, which fail to obtain the number of votes for representation in Parliament, have the right to one Deputy seat each, under the terms of the electoral law. The same normative act stipulates that in case the legally constituted organisations of citizens belonging to a national minority have not obtained in the elections at least one Deputy or Senator mandate shall have the right, together, to a Deputy mandate, if they have obtained throughout the country at least five percent of the average number of validly expressed votes throughout the country for the election of one Deputy.

     The new amendments to the Constitution envisage substantial changes of the electoral law (still at a stage of negotiation among the parliamentary parties). If approved, it is likely to adopt the uninominal scrutiny for the elections for the Senate.

     According to the Electoral Law in force, there are no differences between the two Chambers as regards the right to vote.

     The Senate counts 140 Senators whereas the Chamber of Deputies counts 342 Deputies. The number of the members of the two Chambers is decided in relation with the population of the country. According to the Electoral Law, the number of Senators and Deputies is established by referring the number of inhabitants of each constituency to the representation norms (for the Senate, one senator to 160, 000 inhabitants; for the Chamber of Deputies, one Deputy to 70,000 inhabitants) to which it shall be added one Deputy or Senator seat for what exceeds half the representation norm, provided that the number of Deputies is not smaller than four, and that of the Senators is not smaller than two.

     In case the amendments to the Constitution are adopted, the Government envisages essential adjustments to the electoral law, which aim, among others, at adjusting the representation norms. Thus, the number of parliamentarians will decrease significantly as a result of the increase of the representation norm.

     The Chambers are entirely re-elected.

     The Chamber of Deputies and the Senate are elected for a term of office of four years, which may be prolonged by organic law, in a case of war or catastrophe.

     The two Chambers are elected on the same date.

     According to art. 89 of the Constitution, after consultation with the Presidents of both Chambers and the leaders of the Parliamentary groups, the President of Romania may dissolve the Parliament, if no vote of confidence has been obtained to form a government within 60 days after the first request was made, and only after rejection of at least two requests of investiture. During the same year, the Parliament can be dissolved only once. The Parliament cannot be dissolved during the last six months of the term of office of the President of Romania, nor can it be dissolved during a state of siege or emergency. According to the interpretation of the Constitutional text, we can only refer to the dissolution of both Chambers, and not to the dissolution of one of them.


     At present the Council of the Federation is composed of representatives of the subjects of the Federation with one representative of the territorial assembly and one of the executive of each subject of the Russian Federation. The deputies of the State Duma are elected based on the majority and proportional electoral system: 50 % of them are elected in federal constituencies (slate electoral system) and 50 % are elected in single mandate constituencies.

     During the period called "transitional" by the Constitution of the FR (1993-1995) the members of the Council of the Federation have been elected for 2 years according to the majority electoral system. They were called deputies of the Council of the Federation. Between 1995 and 2001 the heads of the executive power and the presidents of the territorial assemblies (or their chambers) of the subjects of the Federation were becoming ex officio members of the Council of the Federation.

     Presently the members of the Council of the Federation are appointed by the decision of the bodies of the executive and representative power of the subjects of the Federation for the period of their mandates. However, a member of the Council of the Federation appointed in such a way may be at any time revoked by the respective decision. The institute of permanent members in one of the chambers of the Federal Assembly is not foreseen.

     At present the difference in the implementation of the right to be elected deputy of the State Duma and the one to be appointed member of the Council of the Federation consists in the difference between the way these two chambers are formed: election or appointment.

     According to the Constitution the State Duma groups 450 deputies and the Council of the Federation is composed of two representatives of each of the subjects of the Russian Federation, one representing its body of the representative power and the other - the executive branch. In such a way the 178 members of the Council of the Federation must represent the 89 subjects of the Federation in the upper chamber of the Russian Parliament.

     The deputies of the State Duma are elected for 4 years and the chamber is re-elected as a whole. The members of the Council of the Federation are not elected. The exception being the deputies of the Council of the Federation of the 1st legislature elected for 2 years.

     The mandate of the deputies of the State Duma is for 4 years. The mandate of the member of the Council of the Federation is limited to the length of the mandate of the representative or executive body of the subject of the Federation that has appointed him or her to represent the subject of the Federation to the upper chamber of the Russian Parliament. The constitution of the Council of the Federation has no link with the elections of the deputies of the State Duma.

     The President of the Russian Federation may dissolve the State Duma in two cases.

     1) After 3 negative votes of the State Duma on the candidate for Prime Minister of the RF proposed by the President of the Russian Federation;

     2) After the second vote of no confidence of the State Duma to the government of the RF (within 3 months).

     The possibility to dissolve the Council of the Federation is not foreseen in the federal legislation.

Federal Republic of Germany

     The members of the German Bundestag (first chamber) are elected for a 4-year term. One half of them is directly elected by a so-called first vote meaning one candidate for each constituency, the other half is determined through a second vote for a list of candidates of the different political parties allotting each party a certain number of candidates in proportion to the election outcome.

     The Bundesrat on the other hand is composed of members of state governments. The state governments decide on their own who to send to the Bundesrat. However, each state can only appoint as many members as it has votes in the Bundesrat. The remaining members of the state cabinets are usually sent to the Bundesrat as deputy members.

     Since the members of the Bundesrat are not elected, the Bundesrat does not have legislative terms as such. In constitutional parlance it is a "permanent body" changing its composition as a result of state elections. This means that state elections, which are held at different times, always have nationwide political significance since, whenever a state electorate determines the composition of the given state assembly and state cabinet, it indirectly determines who will represent the state in the Bundesrat.

     The right to vote and to be elected to the Bundestag is linked to the age of 18 years (Art. 38 paragraph 2 of the German Basic Law).

As there are no Bundesrat-elections but only elections to the Laender parliaments which determine the Laender governments, who finally appoint the Bundesrat's members, each land has its own electoral code, which also links the right to vote and to be elected to the age of 18 years.

Simultaneous membership in the Bundestag and the Bundesrat is excluded by law.

     According to the Federal Electoral Law the Bundestag has 598 members. Nevertheless, in the current electoral term the Bundestag has 603 members. The total number may vary according to the relation of candidates elected by first and second vote (see above 4. a)). Constituency seats which a party obtains in addition to the seats to which it is entitled to on the basis of the second votes cast for it, are called overhang mandates and can lead to the fact that the number of 598 members provided for by the Federal Electoral Law is exceeded.

The Bundesrat has - according to Article 51 of the German Basic Law - a total of 69 members.

     Since the members of the Bundesrat are not elected but appointed by the Laender governments, the Bundesrat does not have legislative terms as such. It is a "permanent body" that only changes as state elections take place, which are all held at different times. Thus members of the Bundesrat can not be re-elected but only re-appointed, if a government has been confirmed in the Land elections. Moreover, the membership in the Bundesrat is not necessarily linked to the legislative terms in the respective Laender, as the Minister-President has the possibility to change his cabinet at any time in the course of the legislative period and thus to appoint new members of his government as members of the Bundesrat.

     There are no terms of office in the Bundesrat. The legislative period in the Bundestag is 4 years.

     As the Bundesrat is a permanent body it can not be dissolved. The Bundestag can be dissolved by the Federal President on request of the Federal Chancellor if a motion for a vote of confidence put forward by the Chancellor fails in the Bundestag.


     The Congreso de los Diputados is made up by 350 diputados or members elected by universal, free, direct and secret suffrage in provincial constituencies. Each province is allocated a minimum of two Diputados (there are 50 provinces), the remainder being distributed in proportion to their population. Seats are assigned to the parties on the d'Hondt rule.

     The Senate members, for their part, are elected by means of a twofold procedure:

     Most of them (208) are elected in provincial constituencies; the voters of each province elect four Senators by universal, free, direct and secret suffrage (section 69.2 of the Spanish Constitution). Each of the major islands, however, Gran Canaria, Mallorca and Tenerife, elects 3 Senators and the remaining islands or groups of islands elect one (section 69.3 of the Spanish Constitution). The cities of Ceuta and Melilla elect two Senators each (section 69.4 of the Spanish Constitution). Electors can vote for a maximum of three candidates in the provincial constituencies, two in Gran Canaria, Mallorca, Tenerife, Ceuta and Melilla and one in the remaining island constituencies. The seats are won by those obtaining the greatest number of votes.

     The Self-Governing Communities are additionally entitled to appoint one Senator and a further Senator for each million inhabitants in their respective territories. The appointment is incumbent on the Legislative Assembly of the Self-Governing Community, as provided for by its Statute, which shall in any case guarantee adequate proportional representation (section 69.5 of the Spanish Constitution). The number of Senators elected by this method, depending on the population of each Self-Governing Community, may vary over time. At the moment there are 51 Senators appointed by the Self-Governing Communities.

     No distinctions are made between those who can vote and those who can stand for office; all citizens of legal age (over 18) are eligible for both.

The only slight exception to this rule is that the legislation in some Self-Governing Communities calls for persons standing as Senators to be members of their Legislative Assembly.

     Section 68.1 of the Spanish Constitution lays down a minimum number of 300 Diputados for the Congreso de los Diputados and a maximum of 400. The Electoral Act (Ley Electoral) has established the number at 350.

     The Senate is currently made up by 259 Senators, 208 by direct election and 51 appointed by the Legislative Assemblies of the Self-Governing Communities (section 69, paragraphs 2, 3, 4 and 5).

     The Congreso de los Diputados is wholly renewed with each general election. As for the Senate, the 208 Senators from the provincial constituencies, the islands, Ceuta and Melilla are elected in the general elections. The Senators appointed by the Legislative Assemblies of the Self-Governing Communities, with a few exceptions, are appointed after the corresponding elections in each Self-Governing Community, leading to a partial renewal of the House.

     The term of office for both Houses is four years. The constitution (election) of the Second House is in no way linked to that of the First House, nor vice versa.

     The two Houses can be dissolved by the President of the Government (section 115.1 of the Spanish Constitution), either simultaneously or separately. The uniform practice to date has been simultaneous dissolution.


     4a. - no appointed members

           - proportional electoral system: National Council (CN)

           - majority electoral system: Council of the States (CS)

           - defined mandate (4 years)

     4b. The election of the members of the Council of States is provided for by cantonal laws. The cantons may foresee some provisions/conditions such as the incompatibility of mandates (i.e. State Council/Council of the States, i.e. cantonal executive/federal legislative).

     4c. 200 in the National Council, 46 in the Council of the States; these numbers are set in the Constitution art. 149+150).

     4d/e. The National Council: complete renewal every 4 years; the election and re-election takes place as well every 4 years; however as elections are organized on the cantonal level, they do not take place in all the cantons together with the elections to the National Council (the exceptions in the cantons of Zug, Graubünden and Appenzel R.I.).

     4f. No.


     The key choice of bicameralism in 1830 should have granted a distinctly different profile to each of the chambers, as they were supposed to reflect the social and political dichotomy present in the revolution. The Chamber of Representatives had been conceived as a ´people's´ assembly, geared mostly towards the new generation of intellectuals; the Senate on the other side as the privileged spot of the nobility. This theoretical, sociological choice, but above all a political choice: the class difference in both assemblies corresponds as well to reciprocal spheres of influence. Even if in 1830 constitutional provisions are liberal and the eligibility conditions not very restraining, the parliamentary mandate remains for a long time a male privilege, reserved to a social class little representative of the whole society. The establishing of universal suffrage for men, moderated by plural voting at the end of the 19th century and the introduction of proportional representation (1899) generate a first democratisation wave in the hemicycle. One has to wait for the establishing of the unqualified universal suffrage for men at 21 in 1919 to see a truly perceptible democratisation. Not only because the number of the nobility and landowners is decreasing, but also because the representation of the working classes increases.

     Since 1921, women were as well eligible to the Senate. Marie Spaak-Janson has been between 1921 and 1936 the only woman in the Senate, and until 1929, it was even the only woman sitting in either of the chambers. The number of elected women is increasing only very slowly, following the granting of the right to vote to them in 1948. The number of women senators has increased from 3,3 % in 1971 to 31 % in 2003. In 1948 women obtained the right to vote, but this did not have an immediate effect on the number of women in Parliament that remained fairly low until the beginning of the 70´s. With the general election in 1974 in sight, the National Council of Women and the Coordination Committee of Women launched on a large scale a campaign against the under-representation of women in politics. Their slogan had been "Vote woman". This initiative had been successful. In the Senate the representation of women increased from 3,9 to 7,6 %. Since 1974 shifts happened in the composition of the representation of women in the Senate. The co-opting had been from the very beginning an important recruiting basis for women senators, but alongside directly senators and provincial senators gained more importance. The proportion of directly elected women continued to grow without interruption from 1974 to 1981. At that time there were 13,2 % directly elected senators and 12 % co-opted ones. Among provincial women senators the proportion increased from 6 % in 1974 to 10 % in 1978. A slight setback appeared in 1981. In 1985 the proportion of women directly elected to the Senate fell back to 6,6 %, a level already reached in 1974. The Smet-Tobback Act of May 24, 1994 meant a significant stage to eliminate under-representation of women in politics. This Act had modified the Electoral Code to introduce quotas for women. This piece of legislation, applicable to all elections, formulates the following restriction: "On one slate, the number of candidates of the same gender shall not exceed a share of two thirds of the total formed by all the seats to be filled by the election and the maximum authorized number of proxy candidates". In such a way, at least one third of candidates to the elections are women. Obviously the law shall produce its results only when the political parties shall be ready to grant to women a sufficient amount of eligible positions on their slates. The law does not impose any duty to place women in eligible positions, the political parties keep their initiative in this area. Since the beginning of the 90´s the position of women has grown a lot, as the following table is showing:

Year Chamber of Representatives
Percentage of women
Percentage of women
1981 5,6 11,6
1985 7,5 11,4
1987 8,4 8,1
1991 9,4 (20 out of 212) 10,8 (20 out of 184)
1995 12,0 (18 out of 150) 23,9 (17 out of 71)
1999 23,3 (35 out of 150) 26,7 (19 out of 71)
2003 34,7 (52 out of 150) 31,0 (22 out of 71)

     Presently the proportion of women in the Chamber of Representatives is even higher.

Czech Republic

     The differences in the political composition of both chambers are already given by the different electoral systems. Although among senators the representatives of political parties present in the Chamber of Deputies prevail, representatives of smaller regional parties and independent senators are as well present. In the Chamber of Deputies deputies non-affiliated to a political group are an absolute exception - they are usually not more than two, i.e. 1 % (they have in general left their political group), in the Senate non-affiliated senators to a political group are quite common - they are 8 at present, i.e. 10 %.

     In 2002 the Independents´ political group has been established in the Senate that you would not find in the Chamber of Deputies, another of the political groups is formed by representatives of one of the ruling political parties, but also by representatives of small political parties or non-affiliated senators. The strong communist party group in the Chamber of Deputies never had a partner in the Senate, the same can be said today about the non-parliamentary extremist republican party. The shares of the groups of the different political parties in both chambers moreover differ quite often: the typically government social democrats have 70 % deputies, i.e. 35 % of the total number of deputies, but only 10 senators, that is about 12 % pf all the senators.

     It would be much more difficult to assess the voting and other coalitions of the senatorial political groups. Their alliances may reproduce similar power situations (e.g. summer 1998 - summer 1999, as far as the constitutional majority of social democrats and civic democrats, the pro-government majority in the years 1996 - 1998 and less evidently also after 2002). However, it cannot be just said that the government coalition in the Chamber of Deputies is simply copied in the Senate, or that the government would "control" the Senate; the situation there is always somewhat more tricky. On one hand, the distinctly lower party discipline is among other things contributing to it, on the other the self-reflection of senators as members of an institution described as the chamber of reflection: on many important occasions deputies and senators of identical political parties vote differently.

     Should we take into consideration the left-right axis, we could see a constant strengthening of the positions of the left in the Chamber of Deputies since 1996, as opposed to the Senate being during its whole existence right-of-centre with a decreasing share of the left (approx. 27 senators of the left in 1996, today approx. 13 -15).

     As far as other differences are concerned, the average age of senators varies between 52 and 53 years of age, the average age of deputies in the years 1996 - 1998 varied around 46 years. There were never more than 10 women among senators (approx. 12 %); women deputies are now a record 34, i.e. 17 %.


     Even if we consider only the evolution after 1958 (date when the present Constitution came into force) it is difficult to compare the political composition of the two Chambers, because the political groups have never been quite the same in the National Assembly and in the Senate.

     However, a few general observations can be made:

  • while the left has had the majority in the National Assembly several times (1981 - 1986, 1988 - 1993, 1997 - 2003), it had always been in the minority in the Senate;
  • in the Senate centre political groups (left-of-centre and right-of-centre) have always occupied a major position, while their place was far less relevant in the National Assembly;
  • the extreme right had never been represented in the Senate;
  • the communist party has had for a long time a more reduced representation in the Senate than in the National Assembly.

     Today (since 2002) the political groups are almost the same in the National Assembly and in the Senate, but their proportions are different, as it is shown on the table below:

Political orientation National Assembly Senate
Right 63 % 51 %
Centre 5 % 9 %
Left-of-centre - 5 %
Socialist 26 % 26 %
Communist 4 % 7 %
Other 2 % 2 %

     The share of women is 12,2 % in the National Assembly and 11,2 % in the Senate.

     The socio-professional composition of both Chambers is not very different, as it is indicated in the table below:

  National Assembly Senate
Trade and industry 10,2 % 9,4 %
Education 16,5 % 25 %
Public Servants 23 % 14,4 %
Professions in agriculture 3,1 % 9,7 %
Professions in the judiciary 13,5 % 11,6 %
Medical professions 11,4 % 11,6 %
Employees 20,2 % 13,8 %
Other 2,1 % 3,5 %


     The two houses of the Italian Parliament have since the beginning been equal in functions and structure. Their political composition, based on electoral rules very similar to each other's makes them almost identical as for concerns the political majority. There may well be slight imbalances in parties' representation, and differences in the name or number of parliamentary Groups.

     Imbalances of gender representation, or the representation of social or professional categories don't depend on the constitutional rules, neither on the electoral system, that assert the absolute equality of all citizens before the law.

     The responsibility of providing a fair representation for all social categories rests on the political parties, that are the sole intermediaries between society and politics. Generally speaking there is very little difference in the socio-professional composition between the two Chambers.

     All long the story of the republican Parliament the women's representation has been very low. In the Senate it has grown from 4 women in the 1st Legislature to 25 in the current one (but ten years ago they were 31). The first woman appointed by the President as life senator is Professor Rita Levi Montalcini, in the current legislature.

     In the Chamber of Deputies the same situation can be observed as a percentage (the number of deputies being doubled, there are more women deputies than senators).

     Actually, the parties that take part in the political competition are the same, and they seem to apply the same criteria to the lists' composition both for the first and the second chamber.


     Although the councillors of State perform their function besides their profession, they do not represent specific professional groups in the Council of State. Similarly, in spite of the political affinity of the majority of the councillors of the State with one or the other political party, they do not represent, as opposed to deputies, this party in the Council of State. So the influence of professional groups and political parties remains thin in the council of state and very indirect at the utmost. We have to regret that share of women both in the Chamber of Deputies (11 women out of 60 deputies) and in the Council of State 3 women out of 21 councillors of State) remains insufficient.


     The response to Question 5 is based on statistical data which gives a picture of the past 14 years of the functioning of both chambers of the Polish Parliament in a new political reality. Owing to a high frequency of political changes occurring in successive configurations of parliamentary (i.e. governing) majority and opposition minority, it is very difficult to compare the political composition of both chambers and seize trends in the political evolution of parliamentarians and its influence on the shaping of political reality. Therefore, we will focus on a brief comparison of the composition of both chambers from the angle of the contribution of men and women, as well as selected occupations, to the work of the Parliament.

     Sejm of the 10th Term (1989-1991) and Senate of the 1st Term (1989-1991)

  • Deputies by gender: women - 64, men - 396
  • Senators by gender: women - 6, men - 94
  • Deputies by education level: higher - 394, secondary vocational - 42, secondary general - 7, other - 17
  • Senators by education level: higher - 87, secondary vocational - 7, secondary general - 6
  • Deputies by selected active occupation: farmers - 59, scientists (all fields) - 42, non-technical specialists - 105
  • Senators by selected active occupation: farmers - 16, lawyers - 14, scientists (all fields) - 23, doctors - 7

     Sejm of the 1st Term (1991-1993) and Senate of the 2nd Term (1991-1993)

  • Deputies by gender: women - 44, men - 416
  • Senators by gender: women - 8, men - 92
  • Deputies by education level: higher - 355, secondary general - 63, secondary vocational - 24, other - 18
  • Senators by education level: higher - 87, secondary general - 5, secondary vocational - 8
  • Deputies by selected active occupation: farmers - 52, lawyers - 22, private entrepreneurs - 90, doctors - 20, academic instructors - 38
  • Senators by selected active occupation: farmers - 9, lawyers - 22, doctors - 18, scientists (all fields) - 10, enterprise owners or co-owners - 11

     Sejm of the 2nd Term (1993-1997) and Senate of the 3rd Term (1993-1997)

  • Deputies by gender: women - 60, men - 400
  • Senators by gender: women - 13, men - 87
  • Deputies by education level: higher - 361, secondary vocational - 70, secondary general - 18, other - 11
  • Senators by education level: higher - 85, secondary general - 5, secondary vocational - 6, other - 4
  • Deputies by selected active occupation: farmers - 60, lawyers - 17, private entrepreneurs - 17, doctors - 13, academic instructors - 14
  • Senators by selected active occupation: farmers - 22, lawyers - 12, private entrepreneurs - 10, doctors - 12, academic instructors - 13

     * A new "occupational group" was established among senators - managers and directors of private companies - 12

     Sejm of the 3rd Term (1997-2001) and Senate of the 4th Term (1997-2001)

  • Deputies by gender: women - 62, men - 398
  • Senators by gender: women - 12, men - 88
  • Deputies by education level: higher - 383, secondary - 70, other - 7
  • Senators by education level: higher - 87, secondary - 11, other - 2
  • Deputies by selected active occupation: farmers - 33, lawyers - 75, doctors - 23, teachers - 11
  • Senators by selected active occupation: farmers - 8, lawyers - 5, private entrepreneurs - 3, doctors - 12, academic instructors - 11, managers and directors of private companies - 10.

     Sejm of the 4th Term (2001 - ) and Senate of the 5th Term (2001 - )

  • Deputies by gender: women - 93, men - 367
  • Senators by gender: women - 23, men - 77
  • Deputies by education level: higher - 372, secondary - 74, other - 14
  • Senators by education level: higher - 91, secondary - 9
  • Deputies by selected active occupation: - no data
  • Senators by selected active occupation: farmers - 8, lawyers - 17, private entrepreneurs, managers and directors of private companies - 12, doctors - 9, academic instructors - 8.

     This selected statistical data shows a significant growth of the number of women parliamentarians in recent terms of office. There also has been a noticeable growth of the proportion of parliamentarians with a higher education, particularly among senators, and a gradual appearance of a separate so-called "managerial" group (enterprise owners, directors, managers).


     See surveys of the development of the share of women among the members of the National Council of the Federal Council, and of the present composition of the National Council and the Federal Council along professional categories.

     Percentage of women in the National Council in the beginning of the term office

  Total number of members Number of women Percentage
Interim National Assembly 208 0 0
Constituent National Assembly 159 8 5
1. term of office 175 9 5,1
2. term of office 165 8 4,8
3. term of office 165 6 3,6
4. term of office 165 11 6,7
5. term of office 165 9 5,5
6. term of office 165 8 4,8
7. term of office 165 9 5,5
8. term of office 165 8 4,8
9. term of office 165 9 5,5
10. term of office 165 9 5,5
11. term of office 165 9 5,5
12. term of office 165 8 4,8
13. term of office 183 11 6
14. term of office 183 14 7,7
15. term of office 183 18 9,8
16. term of office 183 17 9,3
17. term of office 183 21 11,5
18. term of office 183 36 19,7
19. term of office 183 40 21,9
20. term of office 183 47 25,7
21. term of office 183 49 26,8
22. term of office 183 62 33,9

     Percentage of women in the Federal Council in the beginning of the term office of the National Council

1. term of office 46 3 6,5
2. term of office 50 3 6
3. term of office 48 3 6,3
4. term of office 48 5 10,4
5. term of office 49 0 0
6. term of office 48 1 2,1
7. term of office 44 1 2,3
8. term of office 48 6 12,5
9. term of office 47 6 12,8
10. term of office 51 7 13,7
11. term of office 51 6 11,8
12. term of office 54 9 16,7
13. term of office 51 9 17,6
14. term of office 55 11 20
15. term of office 55 9 16,4
16. term of office 60 10 16,7
17. term of office 61 12 19,7
18. term of office 58 12 20,7
19. term of office 62 13 21
20. term of office 60 12 20
21. term of office 61 8 13,1
22. term of office 62 16 25,8

Percentage of Occupations within Political Parties

in the Federal Council

Occupations ÖVP SPÖ FPÖ Greens A
Agriculture 12.9 .0 .0 .0 .0
Industry 4.8 1.6 1.6 1.6 .0
Banks, Transport, Business... 8.1 3.2 4.8 .0 .0
Professions .0 .0 1.6 .0 .0
Public Service 14.5 21.0 8.1 .0 .0
Political Parties, Interest Groups 4.8 8.1 .0 1.6 .0
Others 1.6 .0 .0 .0 .0
  46.8 33.9 16.1 3.2 .0

Percentage of Occupations within Political Parties

in the National Council

Occupations SPÖ FPÖ ÖVP Greens A
Agriculture .0 1.1 9.8 .5 .0
Industry 4.9 2.2 3.3 .5 .0
Banks, Transport, Business... 2.2 2.7 7.1 1.1 .0
Professions 4.9 .5 4.9 1.6 .0
Public Service 12.0 1.6 7.7 2.7 .0
Political Parties, Interest Groups 11.5 .5 8.2 2.7 .0
At home .0 .5 .0 .0 .0
Others 2.2 .5 2.2 .0 .0
  37.7 9.8 43.2 9.3 .0


     The composition of the National Council is the reasonable one. It can, in accordance with its competencies, manifest various interests who are not represented in the National Assembly since it is a nation's representative body. The national councillors perform their duties non-vocationally. They remain employed at the posts they performed previous to the election. In such a manner national councillors stay closely linked with their interest organisation or sphere of activity they represent. Many initiatives, proposals and claims originate from their field of work, which is less characteristically for members of Parliament.

     The composition of both chambers differs exceedingly, which is the result of different mode of elections. The differences represent important quality of bicameral representative body and at the same time they contribute to the progress of democracy. The National Council was not drafted as a political representation; it was drafted as an interest representation. The parties' influence on candidate selection is minor in the case of the National Council than it is in the case of National Assembly. The civil society sphere (associations, unions and other organisations) perceives a strong influence on the work of the National Council. Parties interfere mostly in the field of local interests' election. The ground for this case lies in the fact that both electors and candidates for local interests are voted in municipal councils that are under strong political influence.


     From the point of view of the political composition, in each legislation subsequent to the year 1992, the party winning the elections got about 40-45%, with a difference of 1-2% between the two Chambers. In time, the number of political parties decreased and the number of the current parliamentary political parties ranges to 6 ( Social-Democratic Party, Greater Romania Party, the National Liberal Party, the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania, the Democratic Party and the Romanian Humanist Party). This evolution is due to the imposition of the electoral threshold and to the development of the political and parliamentary life. It has been noticed that, during the last two years of the parliamentary mandate, some senators quit the party through which they acceded to Parliament, and according to the Senate's Regulations become independent.

     From the point of view of gender representation, the number of women representatives has increased from a legislature to the other. The current Parliament counts 12 women in the Senate (out of the total number of 140) and 38 women in the Chamber of Deputies (out of the total number of 342). At the Senate, the number of women has increased by 4 times as compared to the previous legislation (3 women out of a total number of 143 members).

     The dominant professional category at the Senate, in all legislatures, was that of engineer (the current Senate counts 45 engineers), followed by professors (27), lawyers (26), economists (18), physicians (11), writers (3), military officers (2), architects (2), priests (2), electricians (1), psychologists (1), sociologists (1), chemists (1), artists (1). The professional composition in the previous legislature (1996-2000) was the following: 36 engineers, followed by lawyers (29), professors (26), physicians (15), economists (14), military officers (5), artists (2), mathematicians (2), researchers (2), geologists (1), curators (1), diplomats (1), physicists (1), journalists (1), priests (1) and electricians (1).

     Therefore, from the point of view of the structure on professional categories, the Senate's structure didn't suffer essential adjustments.


     The differences in the composition between the two chambers of the Russian Parliament depend a lot on the way they are formed. As a rule the share of women among the State Duma deputies is higher than the one in the Council of the Federation. Within some fluctuation it is almost always around 4 % in the Council of the Federation, while at the State Duma it is higher than 10 %.

     Concerning the professional aspect the majority of the members of the Council of the Federation and of the deputies of the State Duma are co-workers of the structures of the State administration as well as members of diverse social movements.

     As for the political composition of the State Duma and of the Council of the Federation it would be difficult to provide a comparative analysis based on the fact that the rules of the Council of the Federation forbid to establish parliamentary groups linked to political parties.

Federal Republic of Germany

     The composition of the Bundesrat and the Bundestag can only be compared concerning the political majorities in both chambers. In the history of the Bundesrat there have been only rather short periods with the same political majority in both chambers. Once a new government was formed on the basis of a political majority in the Bundestag, which corresponded with the majority in the Bundesrat - the following state elections regularly led to a change in the composition of the second chamber. It is most likely that this development will continue in the future and that in a long-term perspective the Bundesrat might generally be a political counterweight to the Bundestag.

     With regard to other criteria such as the percentage of women or professional categories no long-term perspectives can be given.


     As regards the political makeup, the experience since 1978 has shown that, despite the differences in the election systems of the two Houses, the biggest party in the Congreso de los Diputados also obtains a majority, perhaps even larger, in the Senate.

     There are no appreciable differences in the number of women in the two Houses, nor in the presence of professional groups. Senators are more likely to have a double term, however, because many of them are at the same time Mayors, Presidents of Provincial Councils (Diputación Provincial) or Members of the Legislative Assemblies of the Self-Governing Communities.


     Composition: We shall restrain ourselves to a summary concerning the four basic political parties ("the cabinet parties", i.e. those forming the Federal Council) during the last 7 legislatures, i.e. since 1975:

     Between 1975 and 1991 Christian-Democrats formed the largest political group in the Council of States (in 1975 17 mandates, in 1999 15 mandates); since 1991 Radicals are holding the strongest proportion of seats (in 1975 15 mandates; in 1999, 18). These two groups are gathering the "lion's share" having on average 32 of the 46 elected seats in the Council of States. The Centre Democratic Union (UDC) has 7 members in the present legislature and has had between 4 and 5 during the 6 previous ones. The proportion of the Socialist Party members has fluctuated more with a peak at 9 members during the 1979 - 1983 legislature, then a decrease to 3 members from1991 until 1995 and 6 in the present legislature (the average thus being of 5 members).

     The National Council has quite a different composition (200 seats). In this chamber the Radicals´ share has changed from 54 seats in 1983 to 43 in 1999. The Socialist Party has sent 47 members in 1983, 51 members in 1999. The UDC has increased its number of seats constantly from 23 to 44, while the PDC that still had 42 mandates in 1983 holds only 35 in 1999.

     The share of women: In 1971 the Council of States had only one and only woman. Since these days the representation of women has steadily and slowly grown. Since 1999 women are nine. As for the National Council, while it had 11 women in 1971, it numbers 46 of them in 1999.

     Socio-professional categories: A broad array of professions is represented in both chambers. Lawyers - attorneys, notaries, i.e. 19 members - form a professional group quite broadly represented in the Council of States; the second group in size has been for a long time the one of the members of the canton executives (State councillors), i.e. 7-8 members in average, but their number has decreased to 3 during the present legislature. In the National Council lawyers are as well the most broadly represented profession (40 members), followed by farmers (23;they are not represented in the Council of States, but in the past they were 2 in average), teachers and faculty (their share has shifted from 32 in 1987 to 20 during the present legislature; their average number is 3 in the Council of States).

Czech Republic

     The Senate is never completely passive, in the event of a similar power situation it focuses on its review role, i.e. improving the quality of the submitted bills. The highest share and absolute number of returned bills fall within the years 1998 - 2000 when the so-called opposition agreement, i.e. an agreement of civic and social democrats dominated in both chambers, but was mostly relying on an agreement about fundamental issues of the shaping of the political system, and thus nothing prevented to return massively less sensitive bills of legislation.

     We may say on the opposite that a more distinct difference of the political composition of the chambers fosters conflicts on more fundamental issues, including constitutional issues. At this time you would see as well more rejecting resolutions of the Senate.

     It does seem that the level of success of the amendments proposed by the Senate during their consideration in the Chamber of Deputies would be directly connected only with different compositions of the chambers. A whole set of influences as at play there such as prestige conflicts between the chambers, lobby interests, the majority or minority format of the government, etc.


     The table below is showing the proportion of the amendments introduced by the Senate and taken up by the National Assembly.

     This proportion is substantially lower when the two assemblies have majorities with opposed political majorities (1981-1986, 1988-1993, 1997-2002 period). Even in this case this rate remains generally higher than 50 %. We can thus estimate that bicameralism works fairly well in all cases.

Years Rate of Approval of Amendments of the Senate in the National Assembly
1970-1971 68 %
1971-1972 75 %
1972-1973 73 %
1973-1974 73 %
1974-1975 93 %
1975-1976 85 %
1976-1977 85 %
1977-1978 86 %
1978 86 %
1979 79 %
1980 77 %
1981 57 %
1982 45 %
1983 44 %
1984 52 %
1985 50 %
1986 89 %
1987 88 %
1988 58 %
1989 60 %
1990 64 %
1991 52 %
1992 53 %
1993 91 %
1994 88 %
01/01/-30/09 1995 78 %
1995 87 %
1995-1996 87 %
1996-1997 88 %
1997-1998 46 %
1998-1999 54 %
1999-2000 48 %
2000-2001 50 %
2001-2002 65 %


     Each house of the Italian Parliament performs exactly the same functions, concerning the law making process, the control over the Government, the power of making inquiries. They have adopted internal Rules that are largely comparable and are based on the same principles. They work very often together through the means of Bicameral Committees, that are bodies of inquiry and control.

     There are no relevant differences in their composition, so that in the relationship with the Government it can expect to face consistent behaviours in both chambers. The Government bills can be submitted for the first reading to either chamber, and can be amended at any stage of the parliamentary iter. Each time a bill is amended, the new text must be approved by the other chamber without any change, and so on until they both agree on the same text. The Government may put a confidence vote on a bill, either in the Chamber of Deputies or in the Senate. (Article 70 of the Constitution reads: "The legislative function is exercised ... by both Houses". This marks their absolute equality in the law-making process.)

     When the new Government is appointed by the President of the Republic, it comes before the Houses - both of them: first one, then the other, alternatively - to obtain their confidence. The first draft of the Financial bill - one of the most important acts of the Government - is submitted to either chamber in turn; one year to the Chamber of Deputies, next year to the Senate, and both of them have to examine it.

     The few above examples, showing the "perfect" equality of the two chambers of the Italian Parliament, do not necessarily mean that the Chambers always share the identical point of view on the same problems: in many cases, comparing the different opinions that may have arisen in the Chambers has resulted in improvements in the legislative texts.


     In principle the changing composition of the Chamber of Deputies does not affect the activity of the Council of State.

     First, the 15 years mandate of councillors allows some continuity in their work.

     Then the opinions of the Council of State are characterized above all by a legal and juridical review. The respective law imposes indeed to the Council of State to perform the control of the conformity of bills as well as by-laws to higher legal norms (Constitution, international treaties and conventions, general principles of law). Hence the Council of State performs a control ex ante of the constitutionality of laws. But beyond this control it proceeds for each bill to the examination of the legal quality of the draft, of its smooth integration into the legislation in force as well an analysis of the political timeliness of the planned measures. Therefore the changing of the majority within the Chamber of Deputies has no influence on the wording and the content of the positions of the Council of State.

     Each member of the Council of State has anyway the right to submit a separate opinion that may be supported by one or more members of the Council of State. But it is only quite exceptionally that the councillors of State use this right. Such a separate opinion is always brought to the knowledge of the government together with the main opinion.

     All the resolutions of the Council of State are voted on the basis of the majority of votes. When there is a split opinion, the different opinions are brought to the knowledge of the government.


     The changing composition of both chambers and interaction between them has an obvious impact on the nature and quality of parliamentary activities. The arrangement of political factions in both chambers often determines the topics and direction of legislative changes.

     In a situation where the political makeup of both chambers is similar (the Sejm majority, which as a rule forms the government, follows the same or similar line as the Senate majority), political as well as strictly legislative collaboration between them is essentially good. An example of this is provided by the current Sejm and Senate, where in both cases the left is in majority (as many as 75% of senators represent that option). That collaboration is best tested by the Sejm's attitude to amendments submitted by the Senate. Because senators who represent the political left are in majority, they can amend bills already passed by the Sejm in a way that matches the original intention of their initiator - the government.


     Of course, answering the question regarding a correlation between the composition of a parliamentary chamber and its political activities would require a systematic analysis by political scientists, which does not exist for the National Council and the Federal Council. However, the Austrian Federal Council is not entitled to propose amendments to the legal enactments by the National Council (as implied in your question); that is why such a systematic survey of the political activities of the Federal Council and its differentiation compared with that of the National Council would have to by primarily based on a text analysis of the debates in the Federal Council.


     For the Slovenian variety of bicameral representative body is characteristically that activities of upper chamber do not relate to different structure of the National Assembly and the National Council. The latter functions less politically and mostly supports constructive initiatives, proposals and claims.

     The competencies of the National Council are weaker comparable to the competencies of the national Assembly. Therefore the latter does not take upper chamber's opinions into consideration. Suspensory veto can be outvoted with absolute majority. This is also very easy in the case of strong governmental coalition. During the last duration of the term of the National Assembly (1996-2000) not many vetoes were outvoted. The public and media consensuses stand for an additional argument of support for the veto.


     It cannot be estimated whether the change in the composition of the Chambers is reflected in the activity or within the legislative process, in the amendments proposed or adopted or in exercising the chambers' role of control over the Executive. From a political point of view, the two Chambers have an extremely similar composition and thus, the rare divergent positions reflect discrepancies that are only of legislative and technical nature, and not of political nature.


     The mode of constituting the two chambers of the Federal Assembly has been identical only in the years 1993-1995. However, in spite of the congruency or non-congruency of the constitution of the chambers, the deputies of the State Duma represent in the first place the interests of their electors, and the members of the Council of the Federation represent those of the specific subject of the Russian Federation.

     Moreover, it should be noticed that a half of the deputies of the State Duma is elected on the slates of political parties and form parliamentary groups of political parties. The deputies elected according to the majority principle in the single mandate constituencies are as well entitled to join them. The other deputies are also authorized to unite in parliamentary groups with at least 35 members. This situation foresees a substantial politicisation of the proceedings of the lower chamber of the Parliament. On the other hand, the creation of parliamentary groups of political parties is not foreseen by the Rules of Procedure of the Council of the Federation.

     Moreover, each chamber of the Parliament has beside legislative competencies other powers that are specific and do not correspond to those of the other chambers.

     These differences in the status of the parliamentarians, in the modes of constitution of the chambers and their competencies define imperatively the difference in the motives when the chambers adopt a position. However, it does not mean that these positions are always different. The possible conflicts are usually settled anyway through commissions with an equal representation of both chambers.

Federal republic of Germany

     Generally speaking, the changing composition of both the Bundestag and the Bundesrat does not have a major effect on the activity of the Second Chamber. The main reason therefore is that the Bundesrat represents more the basic interests of the Laender at federal level than the aims of political parties. In case the majority in the Bundesrat differs from the majority in the Bundestag and the political composition of the Federal Government, the Bundesrat can be a political counterweight or an effective instrument of control, which has the right to veto nearly half of the legislative initiatives proposed by the Bundestag or the Federal Government.

     Decisions of the Bundesrat are not automatically considered in a more favourable light by the Bundestag, when the political majorities are identical. As the Bundesrat principally represents the interests of the Laender there may be decisions which in effect do not correspond to the governments' or the Bundestag's point of view, but were adopted by the same political majority. Therefore the nature of the amendments proposed by the Bundesrat does not necessarily depend upon the question of a coincident or different political composition of each chamber. However, as a matter of fact, amendments proposed by the Bundesrat with a different majority can effectively influence central or controversial bills introduced by the government.


     The different mode of election and the consequent different makeup of the Houses do not seem to be reflected in the legislative or control function.


     Both Chambers are on an equal footing and share the same powers. Both presidents set on the basis of common agreement the items to be dealt with first in the respective chamber and care for a balanced spread of the agenda (balanced distribution of the burden, attribution as to the political importance of the item, etc.).

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