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The legislature is a branch of the running of a nation with the power over legislation. The enacting and alteration of laws is the main duty of a legislature, but it may also be required to perform other tasks such as the election of the head of state, executive or government. Legislatures are usually unicameral (consisting of one chamber) or bicameral (consisting of two chambers), however, rarely, they are tricameral (consisting of three chambers).
In most bicameral systems, the lower house, despite its description of being "below" the upper house, is almost always the most powerful of the two chambers and almost always wholly elected. The upper house, meanwhile, is usually smaller, more restricted in power and designed to be a more deliberative body, and can be either directly elected (e.g. Australian Senate), indirectly elected (e.g. Indian Rajya Sabha), wholly appointed (e.g. Canadian Senate), a mixture of appointed and elected (e.g. Belgian Senate prior to 2014), or consist of members who hold seats by virtue of their position in society (e.g. hereditary and religious peers in the British House of Lords). These can hold office for a fixed term or, rarely, for life.
In countries with federal systems, it is common for the upper house to represent specific geographic areas, often equally in spite of population differences. This is the case for the United States Senate, where each state, regardless of population, returns 2 senators.
Legislatures can be known by many names. Names such as National Assembly, Congress and Parliament are most common. Likewise, there are many names for the individual Houses of the legislature. Senate is the most common name for an Upper House. Unicameral legislatures and lower Houses tend to have names such as Assembly, House of Representatives or Chamber of Deputies. Names are often related to the country, for example the prefix Bundes- (meaning "federal") is used in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, whilst the word Majlis (meaning "council") is common in Islamic countries.
List of micronational legislatures
- This list is incomplete. You can help by adding to it.