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This article is about the legislative institution. For alternative meanings, see: Parliament (disambiguation).
File:India parliament.jpg
An aerial view of Parliament of India at New Delhi.

A parliament is a legislature, especially in those countries whose system of government is based on the Westminster system derived from that of the United Kingdom. The name is derived from the French parlement, the action of parler (to speak): a parlement is a talk, a discussion, hence a meeting (an assembly, a court) where people discuss matters. While all parliaments are legislatures, not all legislatures are parliaments.

The British Parliament is often referred to as the "Mother of Parliaments"—in fact a misquotation of John Bright, who remarked in 1865 that "England is the Mother of Parliaments"—because the British Parliament has been the model for most other parliamentary systems, and its Acts have created many other parliaments. The first English Parliament was formed during the reign of King Henry III in the 13th century. In the United Kingdom, Parliament consists of the House of Commons, the House of Lords, and the Monarch. The House of Commons is composed of over 600 members who are directly elected by British citizens to represent various cities, communities, and other electoral districts. The party that can win the most seats in the House of Commons forms the government, and the party leader becomes the Prime Minister and head of government. Legislation originates from and is voted on by members of the House of Commons. If passed, it goes to the House of Lords. The House of Lords is a body of long-serving, unelected members: 92 of whom inherit their seats and 574 of whom have been appointed to lifetime seats. The Lords must vote to approve all legislation from the House before it can go before the monarch and receive the formal ratification to become a law (however, under certain circumstances the House of Commons may overrule it using the Parliament Acts). In addition, specific members of the House of Lords act as the ultimate court of appeal in the United Kingdom.

In a similar fashion, most other nations with parliaments have to some degree emulated the British "three-tier" model. Most countries in Europe and the Commonwealth have similarly organized parliaments with a largely ceremonial head of state who formally opens and closes parliament, a large elected lower house and a smaller, upper house. The lower house is almost always the originator of legislation, and the upper house is the body that offers the "second look" and decides whether to veto or approve the bills. This style of two houses is called bicameral; also parliaments with only one house exist (see unicameralism).

A parliament's lower house is usually composed of at least 200 members, in countries with populations of over 3 million. The number of seats rarely exceeds 400, even in very large countries. The upper house customarily has anywhere from 20, 50, or 100 seats, but almost always significantly fewer than the lower house.

A nation's prime minister ("PM") is almost always the leader of the majority party in the lower house of parliament, but only holds his or her office as long as the "confidence of the house" is maintained. If members of parliament lose faith in the leader for whatever reason, they can often call a vote of no confidence and force the PM to resign. This can be particularly dangerous to a government when the distribution of seats is relatively even, in which case a new election is often called shortly thereafter.

Parliaments can be contrasted with congresses in the model of the United States. Typically, congresses do not select or dismiss the head of government, and cannot themselves be dissolved early as is often the case for parliaments.


List of parliaments

List is not exhaustive

Contemporary national parliaments

Equivalent national legislatures

  • Majlis, e.g. in Iran
  • in Afghanistan : Wolesi Jirga (elected, legislative lower house) and Meshrano Jirga (mainly advisory, indirect representation); in special cases, e.g. as constituant assembly, a Loya Jirga



Subnational parliaments

  • In the federal (bicameral) kingdom of Belgium, after many constitutional contortions but no violent confrontation, there is a curious asymmetrical constellation serving as directly elected legislatures for three 'territorial' regions -Flanders (Dutch language), Brussels (bilingual, certain peculiarities of competence, also the only region not comprizing any of the 10 provinces) and Walloonia (French)- and three cultural communities -Flemish (Dutch language, competent in Flanders and for the Dutch-speaking inhabitants of Brussels), Francophone (French language, for Walloonia and francopones in Brussels) and German (for speakers of that language in a a few designated municipalities in the east of the Walloon Region, always alongside francophones but under two different regimes)
    • Vlaams Parlement ('Flemish Parliament'; originally styled Vlaamse Raad 'Flemish Council') served both the Flemish Community (whose same it uses) and, in application of a Belgian constitutional option, of the region of Flanders (in all matters of regional competence, its decisions have no effect in Brussels)
    • parliament of the French Community
    • parliament of the German Community
    • parliament of the Walloon region
    • parliament of the Brussels 'capital' region;
      • within the capital's regional assembly however, there also exist two so-called Community Commissions (fixed numbers, not an automatical repartition of the regional assembly), a Dutch-speaking one and a francophone one, for various matters split up by linguistic community but under Brussels' regional competence, and even 'joint community ccmmissions' consisting of both for certain instititutions that could be split up but aren't

See also

ca:Parlament da:Parlament de:Parlament et:Parlament es:Parlamento eo:Parlamento fi:Parlamentti fr:Parlement hi:संसद id:Parlemen is:Þing it:Parlamento ja:議会 ko:국회 lb:Parlament lt:Parlamentas he:פרלמנט hu:Parlament mi:Pāremata nl:Parlement no:Parlament pl:Parlament pt:Parlamento ro:Parlament ru:Парламент sv:Parlament tr:Parlamento yi:פאַרלאַמענט zh:议会

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