Chamber of Deputies (Francisville)

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Chamber of Deputies
Kammer vun Deputéierten
Former Legislature
Francisville crest.png
Type
Type Unicameral
Leadership
Speaker James Stewart, as Grand Duke
since 3 June 2009 (at dissolution)
First Minister Andrew Newton, Independent
since 3 December 2010 (at dissolution)
Structure
Members Four (at dissolution)
Political groups      Independent (4)
Committees Constituional Reform
Culture, Language & Religion
Education & Research
Finance
Legal Affairs
Local Democracy
Election
Voting system Single transferable vote
Last election May 2010
Meeting place
Great Assembly Hall, Kirkburgh


The Chamber of Deputies (Francillian: Kammer vun Deputéierten, French: Chambre des Députés) was the unicameral national legislature of the Democratic Duchy of Francisville. Sometimes simply called the Parliament or d'Kammer, it was elected annually by the single transferable vote system. It was also responsible for election of the Cabinet including the appointment of the First Minister. The official seat of the Chamber of Deputies was Kirkburgh although sessions were more commonly held in the virtual sphere. The Chamber of Deputies dissolved itself on 1 June 2011 as a consequence of the referendum which dissolved the Democratic Duchy through the June Convention.

History

The Chamber of Deputies evolved through a series of constitutional reforms adopted during the first two years of Francisville's history. The First Constitution, adopted on 28 November 2008[1], vested legislative authority in a bicameral parliament consisting of the lower House of Representatives, elected every two years by the method of open list proportional representation, and the upper House of Peers, appointed by the Archduke (later Grand Duke) upon the recommendation of a Grand Appointments Committee comprised of the Members of the House of Representatives and selected local officials. All legislation had to originate in the House of Representatives before being placed before the House of Peers for secondary review. Any legislation referred back to the lower house could be passed with a two-third majority of the Representatives. The House of Peers also had the authority to impeach the Archduke by unanimous vote. However, Emergency Article I.vii. of the constitution granted the Archduke executive authority over all non-consitutional affairs in circumstances of war, political disfunction, or low citizenship. This clause effectively dispensed with the necessity of an active legislature during the first three months after Francisville's establishment.

As this initial arrangement was established only as a temporary political structure, James I, serving as the first Archduke of Francisville, pursued policies which focused on a gradual transition to a functioning parliamentary democracy. Following the First Constitutional Assembly on 16 January, the Second Constitution was adopted and the political system transitioned towards a model of constitutional monarchy in the form of a Grand Duchy whereby the Grand Duke served as head of state and a more powerful Prime Minister was elected to serve as the head of government. The bicameral parliament was abolished in favour of a unicameral National Assembly. The emergency clause was not removed from this updated constitution thereby allowing the Grand Duke to assume the office of de facto Prime Minister during the subsequent session of the National Assembly. A Third Constitution was brought into force on 5 March 2009[2] with the aim of further enshrining political rights and streamlining the political system. Despite these efforts, a proposed election for the National Assembly in April 2009 was cancelled. A consensus was reached that further reforms should be introduced to streamline the constitutional structure of the national government and end the Grand Duke's emergency powers.

Following the recommendations of a Second Constitutional Assembly (sometimes referred to as the April Convention) organised by the Grand Duke, the Fourth Constitution was adopted on 15th May 2009. The structure of the legislature was a key point in the conduct of this convention. On 11th April 2009, a referendum was held in order to establish the voting system to be used by the reformed Chamber of Deputies, resulting in the selection of the single transferable vote. The Duchy's first election was held between 28 May and 3 June 2009[3], following which Jeremy Abrahams was elected as the inaugural First Minister of Francisville. Francillian politics became noted for its largely independent political culture. Although two political parties, the National Liberal and National Democratic, both gained one seat each in the 2009 elections, neither were able to exercise significant control over the Chamber of Deputies. The second assembly of the Chamber of Deputies was elected on 28 May to 3 June 2010. By this time, both political parties had dissolved, resulting in all deputies being returned as independents.

The second assembly faced the challenges of focusing Francisville's increasingly isolationist foreign policy whilst trying to maintain the declining political activity of the government. The third general election was due to take place on 28 May 2011 but it had become evident by April that the Chamber of Deputies was unable to arrange a ballot in suitable time. The delay in calling the election raised concerns over the future practicality of the constitution, with one deputy calling for either the greater empowerment of the Crown or the replacement of the constitutional monarchy with a Presidential system, reforming the Duchy into a Republic. In refutation, James I broke with constitutional protocol to argue that the political stagnation had been caused by the de facto centralization of political power in the hands of the Grand Duke through his prerogative over foreign affairs. On 3 June 2011, James I issued a declaration calling for the dissolution of the Fourth Constitution and the transition to an alternative model of government. The declaration was endorsed by the Chamber and later became known as the Declaration of the Republic[4]..

The Grand Duke's constitutional reform proposals were accepted by the population in a referendum held on 10 June 2011. The referendum result returned 100% in favour of constitutional reform but with a voter turnout of only 45%. The declaration called for the reforms to be decided by the process of a citizens' assembly directed by a Convention Council comprised of the incumbent deputies. The assembly became known as the June Convention. Although the deputies of the second assembly were an essential part of the June Convention, their position was held as a committee of the convention itself rather than functioning in their original role as legislators. The Chamber of Deputies was therefore considered to be officially dissolved.

Functions

The 4th Constitution of Francisville, enacting on 15 May 2009, established Francisville as a parliamentary representative democracy in the form of a constitutional monarchy. According to this model of government, the Chamber of Deputies was vested with supreme legislative authority as the representative body of the Francillian people. The functions of the Chamber of Deputies were laid out in Articles 41-55 as follows:

  • To enact and amend all statutory legislation.
  • To elect the First Minister and Cabinet Secretaries.
  • To scrutinise the government and the Grand Duke.
  • To defend and amend the Constitution.
  • To call and oversee referendums.
  • To approve and regulate systems of taxation.
  • To approve and amend the national budget.
  • To regulate the function of local authorities.
  • To approve declarations of war and scrutinise defence proceedures.

All legislation had to originate in the Chamber and be passed by its procedures in order to become law. Legislation was passed by a simple majority with a quota of at least 50% of its membership being required for a vote to take place. The Grand Duke served ex officio as the speaker of the Chamber and Deputies therefore had no requirement to select this office from among their membership. Bills could be proposed by any member of the Chamber without the requirement of a seconder. The Grand Duke was also reserved the right to propose bills through their own prerogative but constitutional convention frowned upon the use of this privilege except under extreme circumstances.

Amendments to the Constitution of Francisville were subject to an exceptional procedure. In contrast to regular bills, constitutional amendments required a two-thirds majority of the entire membership of the house in two votes to be held not less than one month apart. A further requirement was placed upon amendments concerning Title II - Rights of the People which were subject to the approval of the majority of the population in a referendum. Such amendments had to originate in the Chamber and follow the amendments procedure before such a referendum could take place. The referendum requirement was therefore considered a further safeguard of the civil rights guaranteed in the constitution and not a right to ballot initiatives.

The constitution did not prohibit the use of referendums although these were held only at the discretion of the Chamber of Deputies and subject to its oversight. In conformity with the principles of parliamentary democracy, referendums were considered to be advisory and therefore had no binding legislative authority over the sovereignty of the Chamber, except in aforementioned constitutional amendment cases. Referendums were uncommon in the Democratic Duchy, particularly in comparison to the system of direct democracy later adopted in the Federal Republic. Citizens were consulted on legislative matters by referendum only twice, in 2009 and 2011.

Composition

The members of the Chamber were known as Deputies (French: Députés, Francillian: Deputéierten). The composition of the Chamber of Deputies was variable according to the size of the population as specified by the Constitution. The Chamber was composed of one deputy for every five citizens plus one additional deputy. This formula resulted in a membership of 4 deputies during both the first and second assemblies of the Chamber. Deputies were elected by means of the single transferable vote from a single national electoral list. The Constitution did not rule out the use of districting but this proved to be unnecessary due to the small size of its membership. Deputies served for terms of one year.

Assemblies

2009

The first assembly of the Chamber of Deputies was elected on 28 May to 3 June 2009[5]. Two parties stood candidates and each gained one seat; the centre-left Francillian National Liberal party, and the centre-right Francillian National Democratic party.

Party Deputies
Francillian National Democratic 1
Francillian National Liberal 1
Independent 2
Total 4

2010

The second assembly of the Chamber of Deputies was elected on 28 May to 3 June 2010. All deputies were elected as independents.

Party Deputies
Independent 4
Total 4

References

See also