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Print date: 18-06-2018
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  Special Files
Bicameral Parliament system
[24/April/2004]

In a government, bicameralism is the practice of having two legislative or parliamentary chambers. Thus, a bicameral parliament or bicameral legislature is a parliament or legislature which consists of two Chambers or Houses.


Upper house ethics
MPs are selected for this house in direct and free public ballot to represent their electorates for a reasonably short period of time. The candidate has to have the age and qualification stipulated.

A candidate is elected by a certain number of people whom he/she would represent. The countries that use this system divide its regions into a number of constituencies. Each constituency has to have one or more than one representative in the chamber according to the electoral system.

The bicameral system, used in countries such as the United States of America and the United Kingdom, gives the win to the candidate who gets more votes. Unlike the bicameral system, the unicameral one gives win to the candidate who attains the absolute majority of votes, otherwise the public will have to re-elect a candidate from the nominees who harvested the largest number of votes.

Lower house ethics
The lower house members are often indirectly elected or appointed and sometimes brought by both the indirect elections and appointments. The membership in the lower house is relatively medium in term. Half the members are replaced in the middle of the term. The lower house membership requires high qualifications and stipulations.

The number of the representatives of each constituency or entity varied according to the importance of the represented entity or group.

Relationship between the two houses
The two houses had equal powers until the end of the 19th century. However, at the onset of the 20th century started the trend to give the lower house more political powers.

The relationship between the two Chambers varies; in some cases, they have equal power, while in others, one Chamber is clearly superior in its powers. It is also commonplace in most federal systems to have a bicameral legislature, with the second chamber representing the constituent states, such as the United States Senate.

Most countries, which use the bicameral model, give the lower chamber the authority to propose laws and the upper chamber the authority to evaluate the laws objectively and ensure that the passage of law into ill-considered legislatures is prevented.

Countries without parliaments, have legislative bodies called consultative councils or Shoura Councils (in Arab states).

Pros and Cons of bicameralism
Many nations facing a challenge of building their political and governing institutions have scrupulously examined the issue of having either a bicameral or a unicameral legislature. Some of them have opted for a single-chamber parliament, some have adopted bicameral systems and a couple of nations from the latter group have switched back to unicameralism.

The idea of bicameralism is regarded by scholars of legislative development as the concept that originated in Great Britain with the aim to unite the aristocracy in the upper house in order to temper the democratically elected, unpredictable lower chamber (Rockow 1928). The American concept of an upper house was derived from the British concept but introduced bicameralism as the guardian of the interests of member states in the federation. The advantages of the bicameralism model is often reasoned by:

1- Professionalism and efficiency of MPs
The bicameral models is supposed to select MPs with high qualifications to be professional legislation-makers. It gives a chance for the representation of special groups of the community that don\'t bother to go through the fever-charged political competition in elections despite their capacity to contribute to decision-making.

2- Stability of legislature
The state, under bicameralism, is able to create the institutional structure that would promote stable arrangements between separate legislature’s chambers, as well as between the branches of power.

3- Stability of political order

A change in the institutional structure of the parliament is often designed with the aim to establish a stable political order in a society. Hammond and Miller (1987) demonstrated this on the example of the U.S. Constitution: the interaction of bicameralism and the executive veto tends to produce stable effects despite the destabilizing impact of the legislative power to override the executive veto. This phenomenon is explained on the basis of the preferences of the legislators. In a majority-rule legislature there is always a possibility of choosing a dominating alternative for undesirable policies. The institution of bicameralism induces stability in the sense that clearly undesirable policies can be avoided in the interplay between two houses’ members’ preferences.

4- Stability of policy outcomes
Bicameralism leads to more stable policy outcomes and reduces conflict to a single main dimension. This argument is put forward by Tsebelis and Money (1997), who rely on the results from the cooperative game-theoretic models. Elected upper chambers, even those that are considered by many comparative studies’ scholars to be weak, have greater influence on policy outcomes because the decisions in a divided parliament have less policy cycling. This is justified by the close institutional arrangements that are used to resolve conflicts between chambers and influence the policies adopted. The disagreements between chambers are solved through the process of shuttling bills back and forth, which is one of the most frequent solutions in the bargaining process between the two elected chambers.

Disadvantages of bicameralism
The bicameral model is slow in work accomplishment and needs effective system of coordination and follow-up between the two houses. Conflict is also common between the two chambers. Besides, expenditures are larger in unicameralism since there are two chambers.

Pro-bicameralism trend growing worldwide!
There trend toward bicameralism is growing worldwide in a remarkable level. Bicameralism is being found the best option for states seeking to develop their constitutional framework in accordance with the original ideals of democracy.

Bicameral parliaments with both chambers elected better accommodate various interest groups (social, economic, cultural) or geographic units through widening the basis of representation in the legislature. Two-chamber legislatures are adopted with the aim to enhance representation of subnational governments, and most of them are territorially elected. This is frequently done to offset the centralizing tendencies of unicameral legislatures generally elected on party slates.
The key principle of modern democracy, a system of separation of powers, is expressed in bicameralism by strengthening democracy through the supervision of the two houses over each other.
The collective decision at the ballot box represents the voice of the people. For the country that has recently embarked on the road of democratic building, the issue of how the seats are allotted in its parliament is particularly salient. The proposal of the Ukrainian president that the upper chamber (if established) be composed of the appointed regional leaders seriously weakens democratic nature of a legislative system, undermining fundamental democratic principles whereupon participation should be widespread and representative. It introduces linguistic and empirical oxymoron, whereupon a population’s representative national body is not chosen/elected by the population. Moreover, the mechanism of appointing members of legislatures to the upper chamber instead of electing them can not only undermine the democratic representation principles, but also destroy or preclude the possibility to establish a balance in the legislative-executive relations