The Parliament (Esperanto: Parlamento) is the unicameral legislature of Laharn, one of two federal states that constitute the United Republic of Bijhan and Laharn. As of 2019, the Parliament comprises 211 members elected under proportional representation in elections that occur approximately every three years.
The parliament plays the central role in the Laharnian political system, as the Government and Chief Minister rely on the Parliament's support in order to govern. Unlike in Bijhan or at the federal level, the Laharnian Parliament can force the resignation of the Chief Minister and bring down the government if it so chooses.
Among its other functions, the key roles of the Parliament are:
- passing laws and resolutions, and deciding on putting proposed laws to a referendum;
- electing the Governor of Laharn;
- authorizing or rejecting the candidate for Chief Minister to form a government;
- passing the state budget and approving reports on its implementation;
- appointing high office-holders on the advice of the Chief Minister, the Governor, or others;
- expressing confidence or lack thereof in the Government, the Chief Minister, or a minister;
- resolving all other issues of state that are not assigned to the Governor, the Government, or other public bodies or local authorities.
Laharn's political system is closely modeled on those of European parliamentary democracies, particularly the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
In Laharn, the process of government formation takes place after each state election, but can also take place in the middle of a parliamentary term if the sitting government resigns or loses a vote of confidence. Constitutionally speaking, the Governor (Guberniestro) can nominate any person he chooses as a candidate for Chief Minister. In practice, however, the Governor consults the leaders of the various parliamentary factions prior to making a nomination, and chooses the leader he believes is most likely to have majority support in Parliament. The Parliament must approve the Governor's nominee by majority vote, and if approved, the new Chief Minister serves until the next state election, his resignation, or the loss of confidence in his Government.
A parliamentary term expires three years after its convocation, unless it is dissolved sooner. Once the Parliament expires or is dissolved, an election must be held within 60 days, and the next convocation must take place within 60 days of that election. Thus, the theoretical maximum interval between successive elections is approximately three years and four months.
The Parliament is dissolved by a proclamation from the Governor, although the Governor has limited discretion in this matter and must usually act within the following conventions:
- If the Parliament fails to approve three consecutive candidates for Chief Minister, the Governor must dissolve the Parliament and a fresh election is called.
- If the Parliament fails to adopt an annual budget within two months of the start of the fiscal year, the Governor must dissolve the Parliament and a fresh election is called.
- If, after the Government takes a proposed law to the people in a referendum, that law is rejected by the voters, the Governor must dissolve the Parliament and a fresh election is called.
- If the Chief Minister dismisses the Governor, and that dismissal is not ratified by a two-thirds vote in Parliament within 30 days, the Administrator of the Government must dissolve Parliament and a fresh election is called. However, the lack of ratification does not negate the dismissal.
- If the Government loses a vote of confidence, the Chief Minister can--in lieu of his resignation--request the Governor dissolve the Parliament and call a fresh election. The Governor can refuse the request, thereby forcing the Chief Minister to resign, if the Governor is reasonably certain that a new government can be formed without the need for an election.
- During the final six months of the parliamentary term, the Chief Minister can request the Governor dissolve the Parliament and call a fresh election without needing to cite a reason. This is usually done to avoid holding an election at an impractical time of year, such as over Christmas holidays. The Governor can refuse the request, thereby forcing the Parliament to complete its full term; however, the government could simply resign and force an election, invalidating the Governor's refusal.
Parliamentary terms are informally called parliaments, and numbered ordinally in sequence (e.g., 1st Parliament, 2nd Parliament, etc.). Officially, each term is called a convocation. For example, the 1st Parliament's formal designation is "Parliament of the State of Laharn of the First Convocation" (Parlamento de la Ŝtato Laharnio de la Unua Kunvoko).
While minor changes to the electoral system are introduced at nearly every triennial election, the basic system has remained unchanged since Laharn's first state election in 1988.
Number of members
The size of the Parliament is based on the census, taken every five years, according to the following process:
- The population of the entire state is divided by its cube root. The result, rounded to the nearest whole number, is the apportionment quota.
- The population of each constituency is divided by the apportionment quota. The result, rounded to the nearest whole number, is that constituency's apportionment of MPs.
- At-large MPs are apportioned in addition to the constituency MPs. At-large MPs cannot exceed 20% of the total number of MPs.
As of 2019, there are 211 MPs in the Parliament, 169 constituency MPs and 42 at-large MPs.
Parties and ballots
To contest seats in the election, a political party or group must submit a ranked list of candidates for each constituency.
Factions are associations formed on the basis of the political opinions of the members of the Parliament. Factions, along with committees, are where collective positions are formed before they are taken up at the plenary sessions. Factions develop political opinions, promote parliamentary debate, and constitute the majority necessary for the functioning of the Parliament.
Many of the Parliament's resources–including financial and personal support–are distributed among the factions in proportion to their numbers. In addition, members of factions have greater access to speaking time and committee memberships, and are entitled to place items on the parliamentary agenda to a far greater degree than MPs who are not aligned to a faction.
In the chamber, seats are assigned such that members of the same faction sit together. MPs who are not members of factions sit separately.
Formation of factions
MPs who have been elected on the basis of the list of candidates of one and the same political party can form a faction, provided they hold at least 5% of the total number of seats in the Parliament. As of 2019, this represents a threshold of 11 MPs. All factions must be registered with the Clerk of the Parliament at the beginning of a parliamentary term. The chairperson of a faction must promptly notify the Clerk of any changes to the faction or its membership after it has been registered.
A special type of faction is a "mixed group," which is a heterogeneous faction composed of MPs from multiple political parties who are not numerous enough to form factions on their own. Mixed groups are formed for purely technical reasons; so that its members can access some of the rights or benefits that would remain unavailable to them outside a formally recognized faction.
An MP may belong to only one faction, and may not change factions in the middle of a parliamentary term. This prohibition establishes a clear connection between the MP who stood as a candidate in the election, and the political program of the party.
Each faction elects a chairperson and deputy chairperson from among its members. If a faction comprises more than 10% of the total number of MPs, it may elect a second deputy chairperson. Because a mixed group does not exist for a political purpose, it is entitled to elect a spokesperson to represent the group on procedural matters only.
Work of factions
Factions are allocated time for meetings within the Parliament's working schedule. During these meetings, members discuss and question draft legislation and other current political issues. Factions often invite ministers, ministry officials, and representatives of non-governmental organizations and interest groups to their meetings.
Within factions, MPs exchange opinions and develop common positions on draft legislation, matters of national importance, the election and appointment of persons, and other decisions within the field of activity of the Parliament.
Legally, every member of the Parliament has a free mandate and the consequent right to vote according to his or her conscience. Politically speaking, however, membership in a faction presumes loyalty of the MPs to the decisions taken by the faction, as determined by a majority of its members. A faction cannot compel an MP to vote a certain way, as this would violate his right to a free mandate; however, a faction has the right to expel a member for disloyalty.
Leaving a faction
An MP may leave a faction of his own initiative. Additionally, a faction has the right to expel a member when, in the opinion of the faction, the member has violated the ethical standards expected of an MP or has voted against the faction.
MPs who resign or are expelled from their factions may cooperate with other members or factions, but are not permitted to join another faction or a mixed group for the remainder of the parliamentary term.
If a faction falls below the required number of MPs (currently 11), the faction ceases to exist and all members who belonged to it become non-aligned MPs.
Table of Parliaments
|Parliament||№ of MPs||Election||Convocation||Dissolution||Duration||Factions||Government|
|1st||175||20–21 February 1988||18 April 1988||17 April 1991||1,094 days||4||New Democratic Party majority|
|2nd||175||8–9 June 1991||5 August 1991||4 August 1994||1,095 days||5||New Democratic Party minority|
Confidence and Supply: Liberty Party
|3rd||180||24–25 September 1994||21 November 1994||20 November 1997||1,095 days||6||New Democratic Party—United Laharn Party coalition|
|4th||187||17–18 January 1998||9 March 1998||10 December 1999||641 days||5||New Democratic Party minority|
Confidence and Supply: Socialist Party
|5th||5–6 February 2000||3 April 2000||2 April 2003|