National People's Assembly (Erusia)

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National People's Assembly
Leohju Qaevaxu Tzeoq
6th Sitting of the National People's Assembly
April 2010 - October 2010
Erusiacrestfixed.png
Type
Type Unicameral
Leadership
Premier James Marshall AM, ENCP
since January 2010
Executive Vice-Premier Melissa Anderson AM, ENCP
since January 2010
Second Vice-Premier Eugene Taylor AM, ENCP
since January 2010
Majority Leader Melissa Anderson AM, ENCP
since October 2009
Minority Leader Itakur Kiwal AM, DPE
since February 2010
Structure
Members 15
Political groups      ENCP (12)
     DPE (2)
     PSL (1)
Committees Standing Committee
Election
Voting system Single-Transferable Vote
Last election January 2010
Meeting place
Hall of the People's Revolution (official)
Various online venues
Website
none


The National People's Assembly (NPA, Erusian: Leohju Qaevaxu Tzeoq or LQT) is the highest, and sole national, legislative organ of the Democratic People's Republic of Erusia. It is the highest body of State power in the Democratic People's Republic and, alongside the National People's Executive Committtee, forms the Central People's Government of Erusia. The National People's Assembly is headed by it's Premier, the Head of Government for the DPRE. The incumbent and third Premier of the Assembly is James Marshall, the fourth holder of the office. Additionally, the NPA elects a five-man Standing Committee to direct it's work and exercise some of it's powers. In this respect, the Assembly is sometimes considered to be bicameral on a de facto basis, though the Standing Committee can be over-ridden by the Assembly as a whole at any time and cannot revise legislation.

Since the foundation of the Democratic People's Republic, the Assembly has been controlled by the Erusian National Communist Party, which exercised complete control over the Assembly from January to July 2009. After a very brief period of multi-party democracy, the Assembly became a non-partisan democratic chamber until December 2009, when elections at a liberal democratic standard were restored and opposition parties once again legalised. Today, three political parties hold seats in the Assembly, with the Communist Party retaining its overall majority following what most consider to be Erusia's second free and fair election in January 2010, though it lost the supermajority that it is held since May 2009.

Powers and functions

Unlike many legislatures that possess relatively vague powers, the functions and powers of the National People's Assembly are clearly outlined in the National Constitution, providing a strong foundation in the base law of the nation for the work of the Assembly. However, as the highest organ of State authority, the National People's Assembly has theoretically unlimited power and full control over all affairs of State - even if the Constitution does not explicitly afford it a certain power. The Assembly can freely expand and reduce its own powers as its members wish, provided such changes would not directly contradict the provisions of the Constitution, though as a matter of convention the Assembly does not do this.

As the only organ of the Erusian government vested with legislative power, the primary function of the Assembly is to draft, debate, approve, amend and repeal laws. All national laws originate from and must be approved by the National People's Assembly, though it also has the authority to adopt resolutions and motions dealing with specific subjects. It is also responsible for the election of the President of the Democratic People's Republic, which has traditionally taken place in the form of a single-candidate election in which the Assembly votes to either approve or reject the candidate chosen by the majority party. Laws take the form of written documents, known as Legislative Acts, usually drafted by a single Assembly Member and - in many cases - restructured by the Premier or another legislative expert to meet official standards.

Standing Committee

The Standing Committee of the National People's Assembly is the elected leadership of the Assembly, consisting of a minimum of five "Top Legislators" appointed by the Communist Party but formally approved by the Assembly. The head of the Standing Committee is the Premier, and other members of the Committee may be elected to Vice-Premierships as the Assembly deems necessary. In addition to being the top leadership of the Assembly the Standing Committee exercises a number of other important powers of legislation and national governance, the most important of these powers being the exclusive authority to interpret the National Constitution and any item of legislation where the intended definition is not sufficiently clear.

The Standing Committee is charged with the ratification of all diplomatic treaties (although declarations of war, peace treaties and armistices must be approved by the Assembly itself) the Central People's Government is considering becoming signatories of. It is also responsible for directing the work of the armed forces, hearing the work reports of top officials, directing the general legislative work of the entire nation, declaring states of national emergency and the appointment of the People's Electoral Commission shortly before each general election.

Membership as of April 2010

The membership of the 2nd Standing Committee of the National People's Assembly, elected on April 26, 2010, is as follows:

Rank Name Offices Party
I (1st) James Marshall Premier ENCP
II (2nd) Melissa Anderson Executive Vice-Premier ENCP
III (3rd) Eugene Taylor 2nd Vice-Premier ENCP
--- Carwyn Jenkins --- ENCP
--- Robert Lethler NPEC-FM ENCP

Members and elections

Those given the privilege of sitting in the National People's Assembly through the electoral process are formally known as Assembly Members, or AMs. Since December 2008, Assembly Members have been elected to represent the interests of individual constituencies (seats) - usually taken from the Administrative Sectors of the five Administrative Districts.[1] These constituencies are regulated by the independent People's Electoral Commission, which is responsible for deciding both on the creation/dissolution of a constituency as well as its boundaries, though the Commission strives to avoid making any drastic changes to the electoral makeup of Erusia and is required to carefully balance the number of seats against the number of electors. Much like in the United Kingdom that surrounds the Democratic People's Republic, seats are usually considered to be either safe seats or marginals, with elections usually being decided by the percentage swing in key marginals across the nation.

The composition of the National People's Assembly is determined during a General Election, when citizens across the nation have the option to vote for who they want to represent them in the Assembly. A General Election must be held once every six months by Erusian law, though the Communist government of Robert Lethler established that elections would be held once every three years in a territorially independent Erusian nation. A General Election can also be triggered if the Assembly votes to dissolve itself - by convention, only the Premier may dissolve the Assembly, with the chamber itself rubber-stamping this decision. Unlike some micro- and macronational legislatures, all Assembly Members automatically loose their seats when the Assembly is dissolved, and so all members are simultaneously elected in a single vote across the nation. Any citizen who has obtained the age of fifteen years has the right to stand for election as a legislator, though they must formally apply to the Electoral Commission to do so and their request can be rejected on very specific grounds. An incumbent candidate cannot have his or her right to stand denied, unless they have committed a criminal offence before the election.

Although they are tasked with representing individual constituencies, Assembly Members are - as the result of logistical necessity - elected instead on a single ballot applicable to the entire Administrative District within which their constituency is situated. For example, in the Sacria Administrative District, a resident of the Sacria-1 seat also votes for the representatives of Sacria-2 and Sacria-3 as though they were electing three representatives in a single multi-member constituency encompassing the entire district. This is due to the way in which the population of Erusia is distributed between constituencies, making it too impractical for citizens to vote for their specific representative at this time. However, the People's Electoral Commission still requires candidates to stand for specific seats (even though they may win another seat due to the nature of the electoral system), and wherever possible it will try to ensure if that candidate is elected they are given the seat for which they nominally stood. As such, some link still exists between an AM and their constituents.

With the exception of Julian Pieterson, to date the only successful independent candidate to be elected to the National People's Assembly, Assembly Members invariable belong to a political party. Though it is entirely possible to be elected as an independent as Pieterson demonstrated, the partisan nature of Erusian poltiics makes it an exceptionally difficult task, with the only independent candidates who stand a serious chance of winning being those individuals who are either incumbent and leaving their party or who have the nomination of one of the three major trade unions in the DPRE. Given the high number of safe seats it controls, membership in the Communist Party is usually the most direct route to election as a legislator, with other parties usually relying on wins in marginal seats in Sacria and Sanctia. In particular, the electoral system is weighted in favour of the Communist Party and the Labour Party, though only the Communist and Democratic parties are seen to have a chance at fesiably winning an overall majority. AMs cannot change their party allegiance except during an election. In the event a seat falls vacant, a by-election is held to fill it - Assembly Members wishing to change their allegiance mid-term can resign their seat and contest it in a by-election with their new party allegiance. The Assembly makes no distinction between front benches and backbenches. In the official seating plan, Assembly Members are organised alphabetically within their own parties, with the parties being organised from right to left of the Premier's seat in order of their number of seats.

Unlike in many legislative bodies, Assembly Members are not required to display loyalty to their government or even to their party, but rather to their constituents. They are bound to represent the interests of their constituents to the best of their ability, and do not - in theory - have the right to cast a vote on the basis of their personal consience (though this frequently happens). Every AM has the right to call a referrendum in their constituency on a specific issue before casting their vote, offering those they represent the chance to decide whether or not they want their member to vote in favour of the proposal. If an Assembly Member exercises this right, they must subsequently follow through with the decision of their constituents - failure to do so is grounds for forced expulsion from their seat. The Labour Party has a policy of automatically de-selecting any candidate that breaks this rule. At the beginning of their term, Assembly Members are required to swear a secular oath to obey their constituents, to represent them and to obey the constitution.

Membership as of April 2010

Below is a list of the current standing Assembly Members.

Name Party Seat
Robert Lethler ENCP Erus City Central
Carwyn Jenkins ENCP Erus City North-West
James Marhsall ENCP Erus City North-East
Melissa Anderson ENCP Metwood
Julian Pieterson PSL Akers
Laura Williams ENCP Sanctia Green
James Clark ENCP Bzan South Central
Michelle Yui ENCP Bzan North Central
Patrick Kent ENCP Bzan East
Eugene Taylor ENCP Sacria Central
Hannah Thacher DPE Sacria West
Itakur Kiwal DPE Sacria South
Kira Hart ENCP New Kalin
Karl Smith ENCP Payon
Catherine Jones ENCP Skia

Procedure

Under Erusian law, the National People's Assembly is permanentely in session from the first time it holds a meeting after a General Election until the moment the Premier declares dissolution in the form of a recess preceding another election. However, under Erusian law activity within the Assembly is divided into two distinct categories - in absentia and in camera. In absentia refers to any activity that occurs when the Assembly is not holding a live session, with such activities often being conducted through e-mail - the Assembly has made a point of only performing technical and ceremonial tasks in absentia. The vast majority of important legislative work takes place in camera, when Assembly Members gather to meet in a live session. Such sessions occur irregularly throughout each sitting's mandate, being called by the Premier as necessary. The Assembly typically meets only once its legislative agenda has three or more items, at least one of which is typically a debate.

Although the Assembly generally holds its sessions using various methods of virtual insant group communication, strict protocols exist for the physical layout of the Assembly, tailored to the Hall of the People's Revolution - the chamber in which Assembly Members hope they will one day sit. Unlike most legislators, members sit neither in a circular arrangement nor in opposition to one another. Instead, the seating plan for the Assembly dictates that the benches of the chamber be organised in the same fashion as church benches, with the majority party occupying the right-hand side of the chamber and the minority parties taking up the remaining benches. The Assembly makes no formal distinction between front and back benchers, and so it is up to individual parties to determine their own seating arrangements on their benches. Members of the Standing Committee occupy a separate series of benches facing the main benches and opposing the door, with the Premier occupying a special platform from which she or he speaks.

Despite drastic differences between the government of the two nations, the National People's Assembly has been noticably influenced by the House of Commons of the United Kingdom in its procedure. The Premier serves as the de facto Speaker of the Assembly, responsible for presiding over its business and managing its agenda both in absentia and in camera, though unlike the Speaker of most chambers the Premier has a right to involve themselves in the legislative process as a normal Assembly Member. Though this was common under Kai Roosevelt, James Marshall has exercised this right less and less, instead preferring to speak through a proxy in the form of the Executive Vice-Premier and majority leader Melissa Anderson. It is worth noting that both Vice-Premiers can preside over a session in the absence of or at the behest of the Premier, and Anderson has been known to preside over major debates the Premier does choose to partake in.

When speaking on a debate, members must have the permission of the Premier, who calls upon them to speak. Usually the Premier calls alternately on the majority and minority parties, allowing members to speak in the order they request unless he feels another arrangement is for the best. Members are forbidden from speaking directly to one another and must instead speak through the Premier, referring to their colleagues in the third person either as the "Member for <constituency>", "my Comrade", "the Member opposite" or other variations thereupon. It is forbidden to refer to another member by their name. Assembly Members are also forbidden from interrupting one another in the chamber, unless raising a Point of Order, in which case they may rise at any time and say "Comrade Premier, I beg your indulgence", thus automatically meaning they will be called upon after the speaker has finished. The same principles apply when a Vice-Premier presides over the Assembly - uniquely however, it is considered inappropriate to refer to them as "Comrade Vice-Premier", and instead the style Mister or Madam is used.

Legislative process

The legislative system and procedures of the National People's Assembly are clearly established in its Organic Law, and strongly resemble the systems of most micro- and macronational legislatures, but with a few unique differences. All laws in Erusia begin their life as proposals brought either before the Assembly proper or its Standing Committee, though usually the former unless the matter at hand is relatively minor, which then are put to an extensive debating and reform process to give rise to a final bill that ultimately goes to the vote in an effort to make it law.

Formulation of a bill

One of the unique features of the Democratic People's Republic's legislative system is the complete absence of any kind of provision for the proposing of new government bills - that is to say, proposed laws brought forward by a member of the cabinet on behalf of the government at the time, with no one member being responsible for the bill. In the National People's Assembly, all legislative bills must go forward as a private member's bill - a proposed law that has been formulated by Assembly Members and proposed by a single Member who is seen as the architect of the bill, and is so responsible for leading the struggle to get it through the Assembly successfuly. As such, all bills inevitably begin their life in one of two ways: either a single Assembly Member or a group of them formulate a bill according to their own ideas without government support, or the government approaches a member from its own parliamentary party to take formal responsibility for a government-backed bill.

When a member either has a detailed plan for a piece of legislation or has all ready drafted a bill, it is typically put through a formal but relatively brief consultancy process. In the case of the Communist Party, legislation being proposed is usually put first to the November 9th Committee for critical analysis before - in the case of significant bills - going to the Central Committee for ultimate approval. In many cases, the Central Committee will consult the Party of Socialist Labour and/or the People's Revolutionary Party, to discover the views of the powerful Trade Union movement and the Communist Party's conservative supports respectively. As of February 2010, it has been reported that new bills may - in specific circumstances - be put to senior figures in one of the ENCP's pressure groups before going to the Assembly. Within the Party, the process of consultancy is known as "building consensus". Other parties are believed to have similar procedures for consultancy.

Usually, the final stage in the formulation of a bill is seeking the approval of the Premier - though he or she cannot block a bill they think is inappropriate, it is customary for the Premier to sign-off on all pieces of legislation before they go to the vote to ensure that it has been properly constructed and is sufficiently clear for debate.

First Reading

Once a bill is ready to begin its journey to become law, the legislator proposing it must formally request time to put it to the Assembly from the Premier, who is obliged to grant such time unless the bill has been found to be sub-standard and does not conform to the template all laws must follow. The formal introduction of the bill is known as the First Reading, and consists of two basic stages. First, the member proposing the bill rises in the chamber and recites a standard statement expressing their intention to propose a bill to the chamber, before reciting the name of the bill and the title it will be given should it become law. Subsequently, the member is required to give a statement to the Assembly explaining the purpose of the proposed law and offering words in support of it. In almost all cases, the First Reading of a bill occurs in absentia in order to save valuable legislative time. Subsequently, the bill enters into the legislative process, and is put to a Second Reading when the member responsible for the bill asks for one. If no Second Reading is requested within two months, the legislation is automatically rejected.

Second Reading

After the largely ceremonial First Reading is completed and the member has requested the bill advance, it is put to a Second Reading, which always occurs during a live session of the Assembly. At this stage, the legislation is put to its first real test, with members debating the pros and cons of the legislation on all sides of the chamber. Typically, the party proposing the bill will have to defend it adequately against an onslaught from the opposing party. With the vast majority of bills originating from the Communist Party, it is usually the Democratic Party that presents a serious challenge to bills at their Second Reading, and both sides of the chamber have devised a number of tactics to use against those who oppose their legislation. Ultimately, at the end of the Second Reading, the member proposing the bill must decide once again whether or not they wish to keep moving forward with the bill. If they refuse to do so, then the leader of the majority party in the Assembly typically rises to motion that no time be allocated for division, a ceremonial motion usually adopted unaminously by a quick and immediate vote. However, if the proposing member elects to continue with the bill, it will proceed to a Third Reading.

Third Reading

Third Readings rarely occur immediately after a Second Reading, but rather one or two weeks later at another live session. With the debate on the bill as it was proposed having been completed, the Third Reading focuses on possible amendments to the bill, which can be proposed by any member. Amendments are put to the chamber and debated among members, with most amendments coming from the opposition with the goal of wrecking the bill. It is the responsibility of the member who is sponsoring the bill to decide whether or not they will include the amendment in the final draft of the legislation, an eventuality that rarely arises. During this stage, debate on the bill itself is explicitly prohibited unless it is part of a proposal to amend it, and so debates must be focused entirely upon amendments that have been put before the chamber. Once again, the legislator responsible has the right to request a Fourth Reading or to withdraw the bill. If no amendments are proposed, the bill is moved to a Fourth Reading.

Fourth Reading

The final stage in the process of actually formulating and debating legislation, Fourth Readings often occur immediately after a Third Reading. Members are given one final opportunity to debate the bill freely, though this time with all amendments and accepted changes to its text. Often, debates at this stage are much shorter than those at the Second Reading, and the longest debates at the Fourth Reading are usually the product of filibustering by one side of the chamber. By this stage, the bill can no longer be amended or withdrawn from the chamber.

Fifth Reading

With the final bill ready, it is put to a reading for the final time, again in a purely ceremonial fashion and usually immediately after the Fourth Reading. The sponsoring members once again formally proposes the bill to the chamber and cites where it has been amended, before formally requesting that "the chamber allocate time for division on this matter". Subsequently, the bill is moved to a vote. If there is time, the vote occurs in the chamber - if there is not, the Premier will motion that the vote occur using an in absentia ballot. Rarely, the Fifth Reading occurs in absentia also, with this eventuality often being avoided due to the delays it causes in voting.

Division

If it has been agreed that the bill shall be put a live vote, then the Premier will move that the bill be put to division, which sees members 'divide' according to how they wish to vote. Members are, in theory, required vacate the chamber and organise themselves into three columns on the left, centre and right. Members to the left are voting in favour, members in the centre abstaining and members to the right voting against. The number of members in each column are then counted and told to the member standing at the front of each column. Subsequently, these three members must enter into the chamber and notify the Premier of the voting by saying:

  • In Favour: Comrade Premier, the ayes to the left number __, and the ayes do say that they APPROVE of this law.
  • Abstain: Comrade Premier, those who are neither to the left nor to the right number __.
  • Against: Comrade Premier, the noes to the right number __, and the noes do say that they REJECT this law.

In practice, given that the Assembly typically meets in a virtual environment, members instead send a vote of either "Aye" or "Noe" to the Premier in confidentiality (though their vote is made public in records). Subsequently, a random member from each category is chosen to perform the ceremonial duty of notifying the Premier. If the Assembly is not in session for a vote at all, then members send their vote to the Premier but instead cast a ballot to either Approve or Reject the law.

References

  1. The most notable exception to this rule to date is Sacria-3, a constituency without a corresponding district of the same name. Similarly, there is an Administrative Sector - Bzan-3 - that will loose its constituency at the next General Election.