Bicameralism chambers have similar duties and powers, The

 

                         Bicameralism in
Romania

 

 

In
order to fully comprehend the bicameral model used nowadays in the Romanian
Parliament, since 1991, one must aknowledge that before our country, numerous
others have selected a similar model. Furthermore , this paper will try to
analyze the characteristics of the two Chambers in Romania as well as the
mechanism of others around the world.

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Bicameralism
originates in the British parliamentary organization, which is composed of the
House of the Lords and the House of Commons. Regarding the House of Commons, it
has positioned itself as being superior to that of The Lords. In other words,
even though the two chambers have similar duties and powers, The House of the
Lords can be quite hesitant when it comes to using power, in order to avoid any
possible conflict that may arise between them and The House of Commons. Even
so, in rare situations, when the House of the Lords decides to amend anything,
their initiatives  are being accepted, as
the Commons also agree, especially on special matters.

Despite
all of these, the House of Lords has undergone multiple attempts of
reformation, with a notable moment in 1999 with “The House of Lords Act” which
has reduced the number of hereditary elected members, deeming the high number
as being useless. Therefore, British bicameralism cannot be properly deemed as
asymmetrical, as The House of Lords is there only to have predominantly formal
attributes and thus describing British bicameralism as being average.

In
the case of French bicameralism, Lijphart1 considers it to be average
as well, with asymmetry as one of its main characteristics. It is being  considered to be so because the National
Assembly can finally decide regarding any law, and Governmental responsibility
assumption can only be enabled by the higher house. In addition to this,
members of the French Senate are being elected in a different way than those
who are elected in the National Assembly. All these elements, according to
Lijphart again, indicate a transition from unicameralism towards bicameralism
as soon as decentralization and federalization begins to take part.

In
unitary nations, second chambers have largely become supplemental in function
to the main chamber. Their legislative function is limited to propose
amendments to, and to delay, bills from the main chamber, often within time
constraints2.
Though usually asymmetric in authority, the main purpose of second chambers in
unitary nations is to limit the power of political parties obtained through
direct popular elections to the main chamber. A more basic function of second
chambers in both unitary and federal systems is to limit the power of
government cabinets and chief executives, whether as prime ministers or as
presidents. Powerful chief executives, presidents or prime ministers, may form
a triangular relationship with the legislature by seeking support from one
chamber to counter opposition from the other.

The
more important the second chamber, the greater the need to reconcile
differences between the two chambers. One common method, the navette (France),
requires different versions of legislation to shuttle between the two chambers
until both accept a common version. A second frequently used method is a joint
committee (Germany) between the two chambers, which adopts a common version to
be accepted by both chambers. In a third method, employed in asymmetrical
legislatures (Britain, Poland, and the Czech Republic), the main chamber can
accept amendments from the supplemental chamber or readopt its original version
of a bill.

Regarding
lower houses in central Europe, one may observe that they sem to have more
limited, almost formal attributes determining some to question their validity.
Such is the case of the Czech Parliament, where if The Senate disapproves with
a law draft, it may be elected by the Chamber of Deputies with absolute
majority. The Polish Parliament has a similar structure( The Senate and the
Sejm), the latter being a decisive factor.

Historically
speaking, Romanian bicameralism has its origins in the adoption of the
Developing Status during the 1864 Paris Convention. The second article clearly
stated that the legislative power was being held by The Lord, The Senate and
The Elective Assembly. The Elective Assembly was composed of deputies that had
been elected according to the new electoral system, whereas The Senate was
totally under the nfluence of The Lord, as it was composed of bishops,
archbishops and the first president of the Cassation Court along with
experienced military generals that were still in active service.

The
1866 Constitution maintained the bicameral system introduced by Cuza,
highlighting that legislative power was given to The Lord and the National
Representation, the latter being composed of The Senate and the Deputy
Assembly. The Deputy assembly was elected on a 4 year term, and was divided by
4 electoral colleges. Judging by the number of those who elected deputies in
1866, a certain decline in quality is visible, in comparison with Cuza’s
Statute. The Senate, however, appeared to receive certain improvements, since
its members were now elected and not appointed. Despite these, the eligibility
criteria were different.

The
1923 Constitution was considered to be one of the most democratic there were,
with the introduction of its constitutional order which maintained stable on
the whole Romanian territory. Legislative power would belong to The King, The
Senate and The Deputy Assembly. It was obvious that The Senate’s main role was
to support the executive power hence the initial method of appointing its
members.

Nowadays,
Romanian bicameralism has evolved to a point in which the two Chambers have
equal positions which comes from the fact that, according to art.61, par. (1)
of the Constitution, both are elected by universal, equal, discrete, secret and
freely expressed vote, which confers them the same legitimacy. Consequently,
both Chambers of the Parliament have the same power (Muraru, Constantinescu,
2005). If the first Chamber seized is the Chamber of Deputies, then this one
votes on a law project sent to the Senate afterwards.

The
Senate can bring amendments and is entitled to disagree with that law. In the
first case it confirms the vote given by the first Chamber, in the second it
modifies the will of the first Chamber and in the third case it invalidates the
Deputies’ vote. In all these three cases, the final decision belongs to the
Senate, obviously if it is within the limits of the legislative matters it can
enact for in conformity with the Constitution. According to art.75 of the
Constitution, the Senate can be the first Chamber seized and in this case the
procedure is identical to the above described one, but the Chambers’ role is
reversed. The Chamber that can really decide is the Chamber having the final decision.
From this point of view, the Parliament of Romania has a strong bicameralism
where the Chambers mutually control themselves, but from a predefined and
coordinated manner, meaning the constituent lawmaker indicated in the text of
the Constitution the competence fields for each of the two Chambers.

Bicameralism
allows the opportunity for critical cooperation as well as common and
collective debate for taking decisions. The greater the interest for the public
life and for politics in a certain state, the greater the necessity to extend
the public representation. The bicameral system contributes to the
representation of the population’s options and through both Chambers, it
confers width to the creation of the parliamentary state’s will. Cooperation and
legislative supervision are also extended this way. It is demonstrated that the
bicameral system is an important form of separation of powers that works not
only between the legislative, executive and judiciary powers, but also within
the legislative one.

However
in the past years, a question has arisen from amongst the population, regarding
a transition towards unicameralism – a similarity with Northern States – which
was even proposed by former President of Romania, Traian Basescu. But, specific
to the majority of the important issues in Romania, the discussions turned into
demagogy and politicking, lacking the specialists’ point of view and a serious
analysis based on the compared law and national tradition arguments.

According
to the Romanian constitutional literature, the opinions expressed after the
Constitution of 1991 were divergent even from the beginning, the two debate
poles being the observance of the local parliamentary traditions and the
necessity to reform the Romanian Parliament based on the nation’s will
expressed through the referendum on the 22nd of November 2009, in order to
choose a unicameral representative assembly3. From this perspective, one
must aknowledge that any change regarding the structure of Parliament should
take into account the advantages of bicameralism and unicameralism, as it
results from the experience of other states, and especially that it should
analyze a series of independent variables which influence both the type of
democracy in Romania after December 1989, and the way the fundamental
institutions function (Dima, 2009).

One of the greatest questions is regarding
the Senate’s abolition  which appears to
be a popular and politically correct measure, without knowing what would the benefits
be on average and long term can the reconsideration of the role held by the
superior Chamber in the constitutional system bring to the community. Moreover,
 the errors of the constitutional
engineering since 1991, kept in 2003, is to have refused the Senate for the
constitution of its own individuality at the recruiting level. Since its
origins, the Senate has been created as a Chamber which doubles and parasites a
Deputies’ Assembly elected by universal vote. One cannot determine in the
present Senate the rudiments of representation of the local communities or of
the professional elite: the institutional doubling makes the hostility towards
bicameralism to seam rationally and constitutionally intelligible up to a
point. The reform of a lawmaker body can be done only by valorising a constitutional
patrimony already existing. In the case of the decentralized unitary countries,
the reason to maintain a Superior Chamber can be its transformation in a
representation Chamber for the local community: the model which can be invoked
is that of the present French Senate.

The designation by the locally elected
persons (the college reuniting local and county counsellors) of the senators is
one of the legitimate options the Romanian constituent can adopt. The more so
as one of the objectives a reliable Senate can assume is the supervision of the
regional and communal development process. Considering the relation between the
Senate and the local community an institution refused de plano in 1991 can be
grafted: the one of the senator by right. Expressing a professional or an
ecclesiastic identity (the case in 1923 can be invoked in this respect) the
senator by right has the potential to induce a plus of intelligence and maturity
in the parliamentary action. Beyond this horizon, the numeric decrease of the
senators is a natural requirement in order to adjust the political
representation and to correlate it with the demographic reality. Once changed
the way of recruiting, the mandate of the Senate can be extended, thus assuring
the continuity at the level of its assemblies.

 A different mandate from the Chamber’s that
should also decisively reflect the mutation happened in the economics of their
prerogatives. Shyly engaged in 2003, the assignment of certain attributions of
the Senate is the remedy in the absence of which its maintenance cannot be
justified. Just like in other occasions, the local institutional architecture
cannot be integrally original. Once accepted this aspect of Chamber of the
territorial collectivities for the Senate, the consequence is to eliminate the
superior Chamber from the assignment/investment of the government: the vote of
the censure motion is a traditional attribute of the inferior Chambers. The
Senate can explore in this context an extremely large institutional space. The
external politics, the assignment of certain constitutional judges, the
approval of the local development laws, and the supervision of the information
services are some of the possible priorities. The Senate’s voice can be
distinctively heard only if the assignment of its mission is a rational and
balanced one.

 

Invested
with certain precise objectives, numerically reduced and related to a reality
of the local communities, the Senate can be rehabilitated, institutional and
symbolic. The last issue of the constitutional effort is the recovery, for the
citizens’ benefit, of its representation. The limitation of the excessive
legislative delegation, the effectiveness of a parliamentary control and the
sanction of the chronic absenteeism are complementary strategies, registered in
the above evoked context. The retrieval of the parliament and of its authentic
missions can only be achieved this way (Carp, Stanomir, 2008).

All
things considered, bicameralism is nothing more than a method of moderation
between two converging powers, and that it cannot lead to same result at any
given time, since external elements may intervene and alter the outcome. Just
as the other countries described, a bicameral system manages to provide a
barrier between the population and any possible tyranny as well as representing
a safe method of maintaining national unity should any social cleavage occur.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography:

1)     
Dan-Claudiu
D?ni?or, “O disput? între doi clasici: Tudor Dr?ganu ?i Antonie Iorgovan despre
bicamerism “, Revista de Drept Public, Nr. 3/2010; Bogdan Dima, “Structur?
bicameral? sau unicameral? pentru Parlamentul României?”, Revista de Drept
Public, Nr. 3/2009; Claudia Gilia, “Reforma Parlamentului din România – o
necesitate? Solu?ii posibile pentru eficentizarea bicameralismului românesc”,
Revista de Drept Public Nr. 3/2010.

2)     
Marian
Enache, “Rolul Parlamentului în consolidarea democra?iei subsecvent adopt?rii
Constitu?iei României”, Revista Dreptul, Nr. 9/2011

3)     
Radu
Carp, Ioan Stanomir, Limitele Constitu?iei. Despre guvernare, politic? ?i
cet??enie în România, Editura C.H.Beck, Bucure?ti, 2008

4)     
Liphart
A., Democracies: Patterns of Majoritarian and Consensus Governmment in
Twenty-One Countries, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1984

1
Lijphart A., Modele ale democra?iei. Forme de guvernare ?i func?ionare în
treizeci ?i ?ase de ??ri, Ia?i: Polirom, 2000., p. 193.

2
Tsebelis G., Money J., Bicameralism, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p.
60

3
Cristian Ionescu, “Tratat de drept constitu?ional contemporan”, Edi?ia a 2-a,
Editura C.H. Beck, Bucure?ti, 2008; Ioan Muraru, Elena-Simina T?n?sescu, “Drept
constitu?ional ?i institu?ii politice”, Edi?ia 13, Vol. II, Editura C.H.Beck,
Bucure?ti, 2009;