Legislative Bodies


What do legislatures do?

→ have control over budgets, power to allocate resources

→ purpose or favor a piece of legislation often undertake the necessary compromises and “horse trade” that enables laws to get passed

What are legislatures?

→ bodies that make laws and political decisions

→ rise of legislature =emergence of constitutional and democratic regimes

→ even authoritarian regimes have legislature to make their regimes seem more legitimate


Unicameral → countries with small, homogenous populations  

Bicameral→ 2 chambers or houses, common in democracies, especially large countries

      Lower chamber: reflects large populations

                   Upper chamber: smaller in size



Ways to be elected:


Multimember district

Proportional Representation

Open list proportional representation

Alternative vote

Single transferable vote

Closed list proportional representation

First past the post


Strategic Voting

Indirect elections

Essential Questions

  • Which is preferable for a democratic government SMD or PR?
  • Why would countries utilize both PR and SMD systems?
  • Is there a situation when one system is better than the other?

Links to Past Questions

2017 #2

2016 #7



Timothy M. Meiserburger "Getting Majoritarianism Right The Journal of Democracy 23:1 (2012), 155-163.


Andrew Reynolds and John M. Carey. "Getting Elections Wrong." Journal of Democracy 23:1 (2012), 164-168.


Cameron Abadi "Parliamentary Funk" Foreign Policy (2011)


United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland The Islamic Republic of Iran The Russian Federation The Federal Republic of Nigeria The People’s Republic of China United Mexican States
Legislature Name Parliament Majlis Federal Assembly National Assembly


National People’s Congress (=National Party Congress) National Congress
Bicameral? Yes No Yes Yes No Yes
Head of Government Prime Minister President Prime Minister President Prime Minister President
Head of Government Election? Leader of the dominant party in the House of Commons Directly Elected, popular vote, all candidates vetted by the guardian council Appointed by the President, confirmed by the Duma President needs to get 25% of the votes in 2/3s of the states. Party’s Number 2 President is directly elected, but no provisions for a run-off
Legislative Elections SMD with FPTP and appointees


Candidates vetted by the Guardian council

Mixed SMD and MMD.

Constantly changing 2007 were fully PR with a minimum threshold

In 2016 they returned to a mixed system.

Senators and Representatives are elected on the same day as each other and the president and are elected via a multi-member plurality system Indirect and tied to party leadership, 3000 members elected indirectly by provincial people’s congresses, they meet for two weeks to nominally elect a 150 member standing committee. Mixed PR and SMD
Upper House House of Lords- weaker house

appointed by monarch

NA, however there is the Assembly of Experts. There are direct elections for these Federation Council- weaker house

170 member, terms vary based of the territory they represent 2 members for each of the 85 districts, since 2002 the governor picks one candidate and the regional legislature picks the second


109 seats, 3 seats for each of Nigeria’s 36 states

4 year terms

NA Senate

6 year terms,

128 members, 3 from each state and Mexico City

Senate: Elected with a special type of SMD the top party gets 2 Senate seats, and the party that gets 2nd place gets the third seat automatically

+ 32 senators elected with proportional representation with a 2% threshold

Lower House House of Commons

650 seats

Single Member Districts with First Past the Post plurality


In the Single Member Districts the candidate has a threshold of 25%. If no one gets above 25% there is a runoff. Some districts are Multi-Member districts, and voters get to vote for each seat, with similar runoffs.


450 seats, 5 year terms

225 seats PR with a 5% threshold

225 seats SMD with FPTP  

House of Representatives

360 seats, SMD, FPTP

4 year terms

NA Chamber of Deputies, serve 3 year terms.  

500 members

Mixed:  300 SMD seats + 200 PR seats

Major Theories

The Concept of Representation

Pitkin discusses the  “mandate-independence” controversy in the issue of representation. A mandate representative acts on explicit instructions given by constituents sent as a servant to act as an agent of a party. An independence representative must do what he thinks is best. He must act in the national interest as he sees fit but he is ultimately independent. Pitkin looks at both perspectives and challenges the readers, “We want representatives to exercise their judgement and be more than just automatons that reflect the polls, but do we want them to be reposices ro what the constiuents prefer.” She ends by stating that this controversy has been continuing without coming close to a solution.

Pitkin, Hannah. 1972. The Concept of Representation. Berkeley: University of California Press.


Constitutional Design for Divided Societies

Lijphart advocates “consociational model” which involves crafting political institutions that guarantee power sharing among different identity groups in divided societies. This essay presents a set of recommendations focusing in particular o the constitutional needs of countries with deep and ethnic and other cleavages. Lijphart speaks specifically to ways of ensuring power sharing within the executive, but also links it to issues such as legislative elections and federalism.