Bicameralism in the Czech Republic: Reasons, Functions, Perspectives
I. Roots of Czech Bicameralism
The Czech Republic is situated in the heart of Central Europe. Its geographical location is one of the answers to the complex and interesting constitutional development which the so-called historical lands (Bohemia, Moravia, Silesia) have undergone since the early Middle Ages. In 1526, the Czech lands became part of a larger, gradually more and more stabilised group of countries. Until 1918 they were ruled, with brief interruptions, by Austrian Habsburgs (since 1804 Austrian Emperors). The first phase of bicameralism in the Czech territory therefore coincides with the history of Austrian bicameralism.
1.1 1848 – 1918
The bicameral structure of Parliament was first mentioned during the ”Spring of Nations” in 1848. At that time, Metternich’s absolutism began to fade away from the historical scene and the ideas of constitutionalism, i.e. a constitutional government, and of an assembly of representatives began to step forward. Under the first Austrian constitution, so-called Pillersdorf Constitution(named after the Minister of the Interior) promulgated on 25 April 1848, a bicameral system of Parliament was set up, composed of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. The key role of the Senate was to retard the revolution. The Senate was perceived as a “brake” and therefore rejected by the radicals – partly under the influence of unicameralism in Frankfurt on the Main where the German Imperial Diet held its meetings. The Emperor was forced to call elections, but only to the Chamber of Deputies which was to become a unicameral Imperial Diet charged with the drafting of a new constitution.
Also the draft of the new, so-called Kroměříž Constitution, considered the establishment of a bicameral Parliament. The idea of instituting a chamber representing people was generally approved, however, opinions differed whether the second chamber should be an aristocratic chamber or a chamber representing provinces. The latter approach clearly prevailed. Both chambers, i.e. the Upper House (representing provinces) and the 360-member Lower House, directly elected by a fairly large circle of voters, enjoyed the same legislative powers: any resolution to be adopted required assent of both chambers of the Imperial Diet; the emperor could exercise his power of suspensive veto, but amendments to the Constitution regarding his status were subject to sanction.
Before the Kroměříž Constitution could come into force, the Emperor had dissolved the Imperial Diet and issued a new constitution. The Imposed Constitution of March 1849, called Stadion Constitution, was repealed two years later without coming into full effect. Under this Constitution, the Upper and Lower House were set up; the members of the Upper House were elected by provincial diets (Landtage) based on high tax census, while the Lower House consisted of deputies, each of them representing approx. 100 th. inhabitants. The Upper House was half the size of the Lower House, i.e. it consisted of approx. 200 members. The minimum age set for the members of the Upper House was 40 years, while Deputies had to attain the age of 30. The Emperor together with the Imperial Diet executed legislative powers on the imperial level, provincial diets were involved in matters regarding individual provinces. As in the previous case, the chambers of the new Parliament were on equal footing, the Emperor, however, enjoyed the right of sanction instead of suspensive veto.
Before holding the elections into the bicameral Parliament, absolutism was re-instituted in Austria by the Emperor’s proclamation of the Decree of New Year’s Eve (Silvesterpatent) in 1851. On the central level, first steps towards liberalisation were made only in 1859, after the “revitalisation” of the Imperial Council. It was a supervisory body established in 1849 and came into force in 1851, until 1859 serving solely the purposes of submitting amendments to draft bills presented by ministries. In 1860, the princes of the Imperial Dynasty, prelates, senior officials and delegates from provincial diets joined in to create the ”enlarged Council of the Realm” whose task was to advise the Emperor on serious matters. Under the October Diploma (Oktoberdiplom), the Council was definitely granted the previously acknowledged tax and budgetary powers as well as a share of legislative power. The number of delegates of provincial diets was increased to reach 100. In practice, before their number was increased, the February Constitution (Schmerling Constitution) had been enacted (Imperial Patents No. 20 – 22/1861 of the Imperial Code) which – based on the Prussian model – divided the Council of the Realm (Imperial Assembly) into two chambers: the Lower House and the Upper House.
The Lower House represented provinces: 343 Deputies were elected by provincial diets based on the system of four electoral curia (until 1873). In the elections to the Lower House the landed aristocracy voted together with virilists, i.e. archbishops, bishops and university chancellors. The composition of the Lower House manifested the conditions in provincial diets and their interests, but Deputies were not allowed to take any instructions from them.
The Upper House (chamber of peers and nobility) consisted of three categories of members. The first were hereditary members: princes of the Imperial Dynasty and members of certain noble families who had come of age but also important landed noblemen who were bestowed the hereditary membership in the Upper House. The second category – appointed life members – were granted the membership to compensate their feats for the country, Church, science or art. Virilists, i.e. archbishops and prince-bishops, created the third category.
The 1867 December Constitution, in effect until the fall of the monarchy, did not have any impact on the structure and mutual relations between the chambers. Compared to the previously given general powers, under the new Constitution legislative powers in relation to provincial diets were defined comprehensively; moreover, the Austrian-Hungarian settlement the same year led to the territorial restriction of the Council’s powers strictly to the non-Hungarian part of the empire which in turn led to the narrowing of the number of Deputies to 203. In 1873, after the introduction of direct vote the Lower House ceased to represent provinces and became a people’s assembly.
Under the December Constitution, like under the previous, a resolution of both chambers and an imperial sanction were required to pass a bill. Between the sessions of the Council of the Realm, the Emperor was entitled to issue provisional regulations having the force of a law (well-known Section 14), but no amendments to the Constitution were permitted. The new regulations had to be approved by the following session of the Council the timing of which, however, was under substantial influence of the Emperor who convened the meetings.
Austrian-Hungarian bicameralism demonstrated one interesting feature, there were parliamentary delegations set up to deal with imperial issues (partner for the following common ministries: the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of War and the Ministry of Finance). The delegations respected the parity of Austrian and Hungarian parts of the monarchy and considered the representation of both chambers in each of these parts. There were 120 members, i.e. two groups of sixty, with 40 members being from the Lower House and 20 from the Upper House.
Heated debates over the reform of the Upper House characterised the period after 1860. Finally, only one change was approved: the 1907 Act limited the number of appointed members to 150 – 170. This was a response to the risk of submissiveness of the Upper House, the structure of which could be altered by the Crown, e.g. by massive appointment of new members (practice well-known from the French House of Peers).
I.2 1920 – 1939
The birth of an independent Czechoslovak state on 28 October 1918 is linked with the issuance of the act on the establishment of an independent Czechoslovak state by the National Committee, the leading authority of the national revolt. Shortly after that, a provisional constitution was passed instituting a unicameral National Assembly which is commonly referred to as ”revolutionary”. The main task of this legislative body was to draft new, permanent constitution. The absence of the representatives of minorities from the group of still-ruling nations (Germans and Hungarians), that manifested a truly negative approach to the new state, was considered an advantage, too. The revolutionary National Assembly was not an elected body – its core originated from the resistance National Committee, and was enlarged by representatives of political parties whose ratio reflected the pre-war election results in 1911.
One of the most sensitive issues discussed with regard to the new constitution was the structure of Parliament. On one side, there was a group composed in particular of social democrats who supported a unicameral Parliament pointing out to the conservative nature of the former Austrian Upper House and the indivisibility of the sovereign will of people (J. J. Rousseau). On the other side, there was a group of right-wing and right-centre national democrats and members of the Agrarian Party, later joined by the People’s Catholic Party. The idea of a bicameral Parliament was also supported by the Slovak political representation which, however, was not very numerous. The main arguments in favour of the second chamber were the need to monitor the legislative work of the Chamber of Deputies and to restrain its possible excesses. Attention was paid to British, American, French experience and also to the work of Ch. L. de Montesquieu and J. Adams.
We may say that the arguments presented by both contradicting sides were of formal nature: they regarded the horizontal division of power, not the representation of particular social interests. The idea of corporative Senate was also taken into account, but it failed to be implemented (despite this, it lived on in the programmes of some political parties until the 1930s). Fresh memories of the disintegration of Austria-Hungary induced by ethnic tensions caused that in 1920 nobody thought of a second chamber which would represent regions. The representation of regions would also mean the representation of minorities as national minorities in Czechoslovakia were concentrated in regions. Distrust in minorities finally resulted in changes of the territorial arrangement of the country: instead of establishing a number of smaller districts, several larger provinces were restored.
The establishment of the Senate was part of the compromise enabling the Constitution to be passed. Its existence was enforced, but in its nature it was a fully democratic body (the whole Senate was elected based on universal franchise). It was also significantly weaker compared to the Chamber of Deputies.
The Lower House was composed of 300 Deputies over 30 years of age, elected by citizens who had reached the age of 21. The Senate had 150 members, their minimum age being 45; the right to vote was determined by reaching the age of 26. Senators were elected in larger electoral districts, however, the same principle of proportional representation applied to both chambers. The Senator’s term of office was eight years, while the Deputy’s only six years. Either of the chambers could be dissolved and in reality both were simultaneously dissolved quite regularly. Elections were held concurrently as a result of which the Senate lost further opportunities for its autonomous development. In terms of political representation, both chambers were nearly identical.
When it came to constitutional laws and international treaties or decisions on declaration of war, both chambers enjoyed the same powers. In the common legislative process, if a dispute occurred, the Lower House could finally implement its will. The Government was answerable solely to the Lower House although Senators were also entitled to interpellate ministers and to establish investigatory committees. Members of the Government were always recruited from the members the Lower House and ministers – specialists without parliamentary mandate – were no exception. Senators were not asked to join the Government.
The functioning of the whole National Assembly was strongly determined by strict party discipline and by so-called ”election reverse” which political parties used to make the troublesome member of the Lower House or Upper House resign (in order to be elected, the candidates had to sign an undated resignation; should any dispute occur, the leaders of the relevant party dated the resignation and thus made it valid).
The overall impression of the Senate’s activities in the period of duration of the so-called First Republic was rather unclear. In September 1938, after the Munich Agreement, both houses were subject to “purgation”. The Deputies and Senators representing the districts the country had been deprived of had to leave. The new authoritative regime triggered political emigration, association of political parties, and delegation of legislative powers to the President and the Government. The National Assembly suspended its sessions before the Christmas of 1938 and both chambers were formally dissolved a week after the proclamation of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia.
I.3 1969 – 1992
After World War II, the bicameral structure of Parliament was not given a serious thought (inefficient pre-war Senate, unwillingness to balance powers on the part of members of the strengthening Communist Party, etc.). Several proposals to establish a second corporative house or a house that would represent the territorial structure of Czechoslovakia or the equality of the constitutive nations – Czechs and Slovaks, were presented by experts, but they were ignored by political parties.
The bicameral parliamentary structure re-emerges on the historical scene only in 1968, at the time of preparations for the federalisation of Czechoslovakia. The new Federal Assembly came into effect as of 1 January 1969. Unlike the inter-war chambers, the new ones were absolutely symmetrical, i.e. they were given equal powers. Each resolution of the Federal Assembly had to be approved by both the House of the People and House of the Nations (legislative process, approval of international treaties, vote of confidence/no confidence of the Government, election of the President of the Republic, etc.).
The House of the People consisted of 200 members elected on the whole territory of Czechoslovakia divided into one-mandate constituencies. The 150 members of the House of the Nations, the second chamber, were elected in one-mandate constituencies, i.e. 75 in each of the national republics. Despite the above mentioned, the elections were neither free nor competitive: there was only one candidate of the National Front (Communist-governed association of political parties and interest groups) per constituency.
The House of the People represented the country based on the civic principle, while the House of the Nations reflected the principle of national parity. Moreover, the ban of “majorisation” applied to a number of resolutions, it meant that the House of the People as well as the majority of the members of the House of the Nations elected both in the Czech and Slovak Republics had to reach a consensus. A constitutional law could be passed or the President of the Republic elected only if a three-fifths qualified majority was reached. This was a rather complicated mechanism which could be applied only in the conditions of the strictly imposed will of the ruling Communist Party, nonetheless after the political changes in 1989 it started to cause serious problems. Tensions between the Czech and Slovak political parties and a rather small blocking minority resulted in paralysing the functioning of the Federal Assembly. Like at the time of the First Czech Republic, the procedures of reaching consensus between the chambers were elaborated only partly; instead of exploiting the bicameral parliamentary model to achieve maximum consensus, it was used as a means of fighting between the two houses. Attempts to reform the Federal Assembly made in 1991 and 1992 did not lead to any improvement.
We may, however, say that the drafting of the Constitution of the independent Czech Republic in the second half of 1992 could be based on two sources of domestic experience with bicameral arrangement. Firstly, the functionally limited Czechoslovak Senate, weakened by permanent congruency in the conditions of strict party discipline and secondly, the still fresh memory of the Federal Assembly with equal powers, insufficient differentiation and complicated procedures. Both the above mentioned points had an important impact on debates concerning the new model of Czech bicameralism: chambers should differ and one of them should be more significant.
II. Why Is the Parliament of the Czech Republic bicameral?
It was decided to base the new Constitution of the CR on the model of the 1920 Constitutional Charter. It demonstrated, among others, the attitudes to the First Czech Republic representing the most democratic system in Central Europe in the period between the two World Wars. Together with the Constitutional Charter, the bicameral parliamentary system was approved as an axiom.
Furthermore, the Czech environment was strongly influenced by the ideas of F.A. Hayek dealing with the possibility of dividing legislative power between legislative and governmental bodies. Having this in mind, the representatives of certain political parties were struggling (unsuccessfully) to divide powers between the Lower House and the Senate (the powers regarding public law were to be assigned to the Lower House, while regulations arising from private law would be in the competence of the Senate).
The idea of a Senate representing regions was also quite significant, but neither the previously mentioned ”Hayek’s followers” nor those who feared new tensions among regions, i.e. lands in the territory of the CR, supported the idea. In fact, similar problems were just affecting the break-up of Czechoslovakia. After all, both the model of a regional Senate and the decision on the administrative-territorial arrangement of the CR were rejected. The respective constitutional law establishing 14 self-governing regions was passed only in 1997; regional governments started to operate even later, in 2000.
There was also another secondary (opportunist) reason for the establishment of the Senate: to ensure positions for members of the Federal Assembly which was about to be dissolved. They would form the Provisional Senate which would fulfil the tasks of a regular Senate until the following elections.
It is evident that there were more motives for the bicameral structure of Parliament. The key arguments were based on the necessity of corrections in the legislative process, further division of powers and balancing of different segments of the constitutional system, which was especially important in countries with authoritative or totalitarian past. The second chamber was certainly not welcomed by everyone; on the contrary, its establishment became one of the most controversial issues of the new Constitution. Even after its adoption, the disputes over the existence of the Senate (its omission in the Constitution was proposed several times) and the form of the electoral system continued: in practice, the Senate was founded only in 1996, i.e. four years after the promulgation of the Constitution. Generally speaking, in the dispute over the Senate the ruling coalition’s standpoint was contradictory to that of the opposition.
Its costliness and uselessness in a small and quite homogeneous country were among the most frequent arguments against the Senate. Later, the critics pointed out to its weaker position in comparison to the Lower House. At the same time, however, any attempt aimed at balancing their positions was refused. Accepting the Senate was the right side of the compromise, while its limited competencies focusing in particular on issues of major importance (passing of constitutional and electoral laws and approving the state of war declaration) were the “wrong” side. In these matters the Senate was not to be outvoted. In the common legislative process it was possible to vote the Senate down by an absolute majority of Deputies, on the contrary its participation in the process of appointing Constitutional Court Justices was of most importance.
III. Changes in the Position of the Senate in the Period 1996 – 2004
As stated above, the Senate came into being with a four-year delay. The difference was even more evident due to the fact that the Czech National Council which performed the role of the Parliament of the Czech Republic in the Federation, simply turned into the Lower House as of 1 January 1993. The Czech National Council, and later the Lower House, refused to adopt the constitutional law which would establish a Provisional Senate; under the transitional provision of the Constitution the Lower House took over also the functions of the Senate, including the non-dissolution principle. The following years did not bring any consent regarding the electoral law, there were attempts to abolish the still non-established Senate, etc. The public opinion that the second chamber is useless prevailed. Senators have to face this problem until the present days.
Frequent criticism of the Senate led the chamber and its members to a thorough self-reflection from the very first days of its existence. In the spring of 1998, a working group began to analyse the Senate’s position in the constitutional system. Shortly after that, this informal group turned into a regular Senate Commission which became the main investigation centre dealing with the issues of constitutional order as well as the initiator of a number proposals regarding its changes. Quite a few of the presented proposals regarded the Senate itself, in particular the strengthening of its role in the legislative process. It was the Senate’s response to objections questioning its relevance in the constitutional system by pointing out to its relatively weak position. Simultaneously, it assessed the results achieved during the first two years of its existence (number of bills rejected or returned to the Lower House with proposed amendments).
Although the official proposals submitted failed to be accepted by the Chamber of Deputies, several changes were put through in connection with the integration into NATO and the EU. The Senate co-decides on the declaration of the state of war, but also of the state of emergency and the CR’s involvement in defence systems of international organisations the country is a member of. No international treaty requiring ratification by the President of the Republic may be ratified without the Senate’s explicit consent (treaties stipulating rights and duties of citizens, international pacts, peace and other political treaties concerning the future membership of the CR in an international organisation, economic treaties of general character, and treaties regarding other matters specified by laws). Finally, the Senate has been involved in the mechanism of the so-called European agenda, i.e. it co-operates with House of Deputies and the Government on issues of the CR’s membership in the EU. In all the above mentioned cases, the powers of both chambers are identical.
As far as the draft Constitution amendments relating to the Senate are concerned, it should be said that the Senate was not the proponent of its reform. Suggestions presented by the Senate focused on the elaboration of the Senate model approved in 1992. The possible regional reform of the Upper House was generally discussed, but only unspecific suggestions were made. They did not elaborate the parity or proportional representation of regions created in 1997 nor the relation between the regional powers and the competencies of the Senate (on the other hand, they did mention elections by regional councils or special bodies of delegates from municipal councils). An attempt to broaden the category of laws the passing of which required the assent of both chambers by laws on the organisation of the territorial self-government seemed to be the only possible ”interface” between the individual proposals of constitutional changes and the regional Senate (until now electoral laws, including laws on elections to local self-governments, are the only group of non-constitutional laws in respect to which the Senate may not be outvoted). This proposal, however, was not motivated by efforts to ensure the representation of regions by the Senate, but a more general attempt to define the category of organic laws. Due to the poorly developed structure of umbrella-type interest organisations, no particular attention was paid to a reform of corporative kind. In any case, the topic of a regional reform of the Senate is still alive and it is regularly brought up at the time of elections.
IV. Structure and Organisation of the Senate’s Activities
The Senate’s legal status arises from several sources. Constitutional regulations belong among the most dominant ones; first of all it is the Constitution (Constitutional Act No. 1/1993 Coll.), secondly, in a lesser extent, the constitutional act on security of the CR (Constitutional Act No. 110/1998 Coll.). The Constitution stipulates the number of Senators, their term of office, elections of Senators, character of its meetings, type of bodies, characteristics of the legislative process, and a list of other competencies of the Senate. The Constitutional Act on the Security of the Czech Republic regulates the Upper House’s involvement in decisions regarding declaration of the state of emergency, summary legislative process in the state of emergency or of war as well as the substitution of the dissolved Chamber of Deputies by the Senate in the state of emergency.
Relations between the chambers of Parliament are to be specified, in more detail, in the so-called ”Liaison Law” (Intercameral Relations Bill) which has not been passed yet. Thus certain aspects are not regulated, while other aspects are defined in the Rules of Procedure of individual chambers having the force of a law (this is a tradition in the history of the country). The Senate’s Rules of Procedure are therefore the most important law of the second tier of parliamentary law sources, i.e. of statutory law. Apart from the Rules, it is built up of the act on elections to Parliament, act on Parliament seat, act on wages, act on incompatibility of positions, act on the Constitutional Court and other acts governing partial competencies of the Senate (e.g., act on ombudsman or act on state honours and awards).
Finally, the third tier of parliamentary law consists of autonomous acts of both houses of Parliament, i.e. their internal resolutions. The Senate is entitled to adopt resolutions only within the frame of its Rules of Procedure (intra legem), in some cases, however, we encounter traces of a more ambitious regulation (praeter legem). In case of the Senate, they were of greater relevance before the last significant amendment of the Act on the Rules of Procedure of the Senate when its resolutions governed, for example, certain elections and nominations or special communication procedures with a Senate delegate to the Convention on the Future of Europe. The subject of the regulation of some of these resolutions has now become part of the Act on the Rules of Procedure of the Senate.
It is interesting that sometimes the Senate practice starts to divert from the diction of its Rules of Procedure without being supported by resolutions. The most substantial of these diversions regards the Senate Caucuses whose real nature is more liberal than the rather rigid model given by the Rules of Procedure. Thus the autonomous tier of the Senate parliamentary law is formed not only by the Upper House’s resolutions, but also by unwritten conventions.
IV.1 Senate Establishment and Mandates
Like the inter bellum Czechoslovak Senate, also the Senate of the Czech Republic is a fully-elected body. Due to democratic deficit, other forms of establishment were not seriously considered; perhaps with the exception of a short-lived idea of assigning the positions in the Senate to chief executives of district offices, i.e. to the heads of general administrative offices in approx. 80 administrative districts of the CR. The debate over the possibility of indirect elections in 1992 ended before it actually started as it was linked to the rejected idea of a regional Senate. Therefore, direct voting based on universal franchise was the only possibility left.
Having in mind the inter-war Czechoslovakia and its experience with the identical structure and conduct of both parliamentary chambers, the differentiation of the houses of Czech Parliament was deemed necessary. The most important difference concerned the electoral system. The Constitution enacted the principle of proportional representation for the Chamber of Deputies and a majority system for the Senate. The majority system implemented in the Upper House was justified by weaker dependence of thus elected Senators on political parties. This was considered essential for the performance of its stabilisation and monitoring functions (some even expected the Senate to be a sort of a ”council of the sage”). The specification of electoral principles was entrusted to the electoral law the passing of which required assent of both chambers (this condition did not play any role at the time of non-existence of the Upper House, decisions were made solely by the Chamber of Deputies).
The most serious disputes regarding the electoral system took place between the advocates of relative majority and advocates of absolute majority. Apart from one-mandate constituencies, the so-called Australian system of alternative voting with 27 three-mandate constituencies was considered. The winning model of 1995 divides the country into 81 one-mandate constituencies where Senators are elected on the basis of achieving absolute majority in two rounds of elections. In the first round, only a candidate with more than 50% of votes cast may win. If none of the candidates gets this quorum, a second round of election is held within a week between the two candidates with the highest numbers of votes. The second round goes to that candidate who gets more votes. The one-mandate constituencies should ensure a link between one specific Senator and one relatively small constituency (with an average of 100 th. voters), which some of the politicians perceived as a residuum of the idea of a regional Senate. In reality, this electoral system brought into the Upper House a number of local politicians (mayors, members of local councils, local representatives). This fact demonstrates in significant attention paid by the Senate to the bills with impact on regions and municipalities (similar situation can be seen in France).
Elections to the Chamber of Deputies are based on the principles of proportional representation. Until 2000, the country consisted of 8 electoral regions, each of them electing an unequal share of the total of 200 Deputies (Hagenbach–Bischoff´s method). Consecutively, two of the strongest political parties attempted, through an election reform, to increase their chances to form a strong majority government by increasing the number of constituencies to 35 and by changing the mathematical method of conversion of votes into mandates. In 2001, the Constitutional Court repealed this electoral law on the grounds that it blurred differences between the principles of majority system and proportional representation which are enacted in the Constitution in order to maintain differences between the two houses. At present, there are 14 electoral regions and D’Hondt’s method is applied. The set term of office is four years, however, it may be curtailed by the dissolution of the Lower House. The dissolution is very unlikely though, as the conditions for dissolution are very restrictive. The government crisis in the period between 1997 and 1998 was finally dealt with by passing the constitutional law singularly curtailing the term of office of the Lower House by two years.
Every citizen who has attained the age of eighteen years has the right to vote while the right to be elected is conditioned by citizenship and reaching the age of 40 (for the Senate) and 21 (for the Chamber of Deputies). The electoral term of individual Senators is six years with one third of Senate being changed every second year, i.e. elections are held in 27 constituencies every two years. The regularity of the elections is determined by the fact that the Senate may not be dissolved; extraordinary elections are held only in exceptional cases: early vacancy in office caused by death, resignation or accepting of a position incompatible with the Senator’s mandate. The Constitution explicitly states that the Senator’s office is incompatible with the exercise of the office of the President of the Republic or of a judge. The Act on Conflict of Interest and Incompatibility of Positions defines incompatibility with the position of a state official, other laws stipulate incompatibility of the Deputy’s or Senator’s mandate with the membership in the Bank Council of the Czech National Bank, membership in the Board of the Supreme Audit Office of the regulatory Board for Radio and Television Broadcasting.
IV.2 Bodies and Senate Officials; Chancellery of the Senate
The seat of the Senate is located in the capital of Prague, more precisely in a complex of historical buildings in the centre of the city, in close vicinity to the Chamber of Deputies. From time to time, the Senate bodies organise meetings outside Prague.
Under the Constitution, Senate Committees and Senate Commissions are defined as bodies of the Upper House. Committees are working bodies debating draft bills, international treaties and various reports. Apart from these specialised, so-called legislative Committees, there are Committees whose activities concentrate on the internal matters of the Senate. In 1996, the Senate established six Committees of type I, a new Committee for European Integration was set up in 1998. There are two Committees of type II: Organisational Committee (Bureau) and Committee on Mandate and Parliamentary Privilege. For dealing with specific issues, all Committees may form specialised Sub-committees.
Senate Commissions are set up if particular attention is to be paid to certain area, more specifically, if such area concerns more Committees or does not fall within the scope of any of the set-up Committees. The Commission on Compatriots Living Abroad was established in 1997, the Commission on the Constitution of the Czech Republic in 1998, and the Commission on Rural Development in 2002.
Both Committees and Commissions are basically set up according to the principles of proportional representation for one term of office (two-year periods between the elections of one third on the Senators). They usually comprise 10 to 12 members. Among others, they are also entitled to trigger the process of legislative initiative of the Senate as a whole. Given their character (working bodies), their proposals are addressed to the meeting of the Senate. In this sense, the Committee dealing with EU matters has a slightly different position, its opinions may, in some respects, substitute the opinion of the whole Senate.
Apart from the Senate bodies, an important role in the life of the Upper House is played by Caucuses (political factions) and Senate officials, i.e. the President and Vice-presidents (the number of Vice-Presidents is approved by the Senate based on the proposal of its President – their number oscillates between three and four as there is a strong tendency to balance the representation of individual Caucuses). Candidates for the positions of Senate officials are put up by the Caucuses and Senators. A candidate to be elected needs a majority of votes of the Senators present. The term of office is two years, but we can notice certain continuity. One of the Vice-Presidents has been in office since 1996, the current President held the office from 1996 to 1998, for the successive two years he was in the position of Vice-president, and in 2000 he was re-elected President.
In his capacity as President of the Senate, he simultaneously holds the position of President of the Organisational Committee (Bureau) which co-ordinates the activities of the Senate. Based on the consent of the Organisational Committee, the President of the Upper House appoints and disengages the Secretary General, the head of the Chancellery of the Senate. Upon the recommendation of the Organisational Committee, the President proposes the agenda of the Senate meeting, calls the meetings, represents the Senate externally, etc. His position may be characterised as the ”first among the equal”, he is not entitled to decide on matters dealing with the interpretation of the Senate’s Rules of Procedure and he does not enjoy any similar powers. He may take independent decision only on summary consideration of international treaties or, at a certain stage of the proceedings, on the Senator’s privilege. In terms of protocol, the President is considered constitutional representative no. 2, i.e. he ranks right behind the President of the Republic. Nevertheless, he may substitute the President of the Republic and perform some of his powers only in case the Chamber of Deputies is dissolved.
Administrative and professional services of the Upper House are provided by the Chancellery of the Senate set up in the spring of 1996, i.e. at the time when it was evident that the elections to the Senate would be held, but the house itself was not established. The Chancellery of the Senate has over 200 employees, majority of which is divided into divisions and independent departments. Some divisions and departments are directly subordinate to the Secretary General (Legislative Division and Department for European Matters), the rest is divided into two sectors: Senate Sector and Administrative Sector. The Senate Sector services the activities of the Senate as a constitutional institution (in particular the preparation of its sessions, foreign activities), the Administrative Sector is responsible for the buildings, budget, cafeteria, etc. The President’s and Vice-presidents’ administrative staff as well as the administrative staff of Committees and Commissions (less than 40 people) falls outside the structure of the above mentioned divisions and departments. This group of staff is subordinate to their respective Senators.
In personnel terms, the Chancellery of the Senate is quite stable. Since 1996 the position of the Secretary General has been held by two persons only and despite the changes in the leadership of Committees and Commissions – their Secretaries have not been replaced (with one exception).
The differences in the internal structure of both houses of Czech Parliament are given by the higher number of Deputies (200 : 81). The Chamber of Deputies disposes of a higher number of more numerous Committees and Commissions. Unlike the Senate, it is entitled to set up committees investigating matters of public interest. Several Investigatory Committees are usually set up during each four-year election term, little attention, however, is paid to their final reports. Generally, they intend to act like bodies in charge of criminal proceedings, not like survey commissions of Austrian or German type.
Beside the Organisational Committee, a more important role is assigned to the political board consisting of the Chairperson and Vice-chairpersons of the Chamber of Deputies as well as heads of political groups. It deals, for example, with the politically sensitive issues, such as setting the agenda of a meeting, etc.
IV.3 Senate’s Autonomy and Its Sessions
The autonomy of the Senate manifests in particular in deciding on privilege and disciplinary matters regarding Senators, setting the agenda of its meetings, setting the calendar of meetings (per term), development of foreign activities, etc. On the contrary, there are some limitations. The Senate may not independently decide on its Rules of Procedure (which are a law) and it does not determine its budget either (a proposal is presented, but it has to be approved by the Chamber of Deputies).
The safety of the Senate is ensured by the security guard of the Police of the CR (similar applies to the Lower House, the Office of the Government and some ministries). In the middle of the 1990s, the idea of setting up an armed Parliamentary Guard was considered, but it was never put into practice (it would be too costly and the co-operation with the Police is not problematic). The chief of the police unit in charge of the Senate guarding is subordinate both to his superior and the Secretary General. On the premises of the Senate, no one, except for the uniformed policemen of the guard, may be armed.
The possible intervention of courts in the internal matters of the Senate is rather unclear. The Constitutional Court is asked to decide on remedial measure against the decision of the Supreme Administrative Court in case the election of a Senator is invalid (such proceeding has already been held). Furthermore, the Constitutional Court decides in dubious cases of incompatibility of position with the Senator’s mandate. General courts could possibly intervene only to protect the citizen’s personal rights (reputation) in case a person was defamed at a plenary meeting of the Senate. The possibility of court involvement in a dispute over the legality of Caucus setting is a very specific question which remains unanswered.
The Senate generally decides by resolution upon a majority vote of the Senators present (the Senate has a quorum when 27 Senators are present). In some cases, the Constitution requires a majority vote of all Senators (the first round of presidential elections, declaration of the state of war, etc.) or a three-fifts vote of Senators present (constitutional laws and consent to ratify an international treaty by which some powers of Czech bodies are transferred to international institutions). On the level of Senate bodies, a majority vote of present Senators is required. A minority of Committee members may present its opponent report at the meeting as a reaction to the resolution of the majority of the Committee. As stated above, the Committees are set up based on the principles of proportional representation; as far as the Commissions are concerned, there is a choice between the majority or proportional election.
Senate sessions are generally open to the public. Obligatory closed sessions are required when dealing with classified issues; apart from that a session may be declared closed upon the proposal of a member of the Senate bodies or a plenary session (but voting on bills, for example, must always be public).
It has already been mentioned that the Senate is a permanent institution; it opening dates back to December 1996, when it was convened, and its activities will terminate if an appropriate amendment to the Constitution is passed. Its functioning is divided into two-year terms of office delimited by elections of one third of Senators. During the term, the Senate calls sessions (usually one in five weeks). The session may be suspended for a maximum period of four months; but this has never happened.
Meetings of the parliamentary chambers are held separately; the Constitution stipulates only two exceptions: presidential elections and President’s oath. Members of both chambers very occasionally meet at common gatherings where foreign statesmen deliver their speeches. With regard to shared competencies of both chambers, joint sessions were rejected in fear of blurring the advantages of the bicameral arrangement.
V. Powers of the Senate
The role of the Senate in a legislative process differs according to the type of bills discussed. Constitutional laws may be adopted only if three-fifths of members of both houses of Parliament grant their consent. The principle of decision-making in the bicameral Parliament is the basic attribute of the Czech Constitution’s rigidity. Electoral laws, the Rules of Procedure of the Senate and the so-called Liaison Law require a simple majority vote in both parliamentary houses to be adopted. In theory, the Constitution provides a “shuttle” mechanism for the process of consideration of these bills until consensus is reached between the two chambers. However, it is not used in practice – the debate ends with repeated voting of the Chamber of Deputies (by passing the Senate’s version or by not passing the bill).
With respect to all other bills, the Senate may be outvoted by the Chamber of Deputies. There is a 30-day time limit for their consideration. In the course of this period, the Senate may pass a bill, defeat it or refer it back with amendments to the Chamber of Deputies. The Senate may also resolve not to consider the bill. In reality, this means that only discussion in the plenary session is eliminated and the bill is considered to have been passed. The same applies if the 30-day time limit expires and no resolution has been adopted.
An ordinary defeated or amended bill is recommitted to the Chamber of Deputies. In case of a defeated bill, the Chamber of Deputies takes a vote on its original version, which passes if 101 Deputies vote in favour. A lower number of votes means that the bill has not passed. If a bill is referred back with amendments, the Chamber of Deputies at first takes a simple majority vote on the version passed by the Senate (with all amendments). If this version is not adopted, a vote is taken on the original version of the Chamber of Deputies. The bill is passed if 101 members vote in favour. If this is not the case, the bill may not be passed. The above said demonstrates that there is a very limited space for searching consensus between the chambers.
Regardless of a type of law, the legislative process always starts in the Chamber of Deputies. The Senate is the second house to consider a bill. The Senate can apply its legislative initiative only as a whole. The Act on State Budget is an exception. This Act is proposed by the Government and considered only by the Chamber of Deputies (the Senate, however, discusses tax laws, laws on public bonds issuance and other finance-related laws by the same way as other ordinary laws). A Committee, Commission or an individual Senator may encourage the application of legislative initiative.
The Senate’s authority to adopt legal measures as a law substitute during the dissolution of the Chamber of Deputies is also important for legislation.
Other constitutional powers include joint decisions on declaring the state of war and state of emergency, joint decisions on dispatching military forces outside the territory of the CR and on the presence of foreign military forces in the Czech Republic, granting consent to the ratification of international treaties, granting consent to the appointment of the Constitutional Court Justices or co-decisions on loss of eligibility of the President of the Republic to hold his office. In all the above mentioned cases, an approving resolution of the Senate is required for the validity of the final act. The houses may take a decision simultaneously or may decide in an arbitrary order. In relation to presidential elections, the Senate is an important participant in the first two rounds of the elections when the voting takes place in separate chambers. In the third round in which the votes of Deputies and Senators are added up the Senate may be majoritised (which happened in 2003). On the contrary, only the Senate may charge the President with high treason before the Constitutional Court.
The Senate or Senators hold also other powers stipulated by ordinary laws. The most significant one is the possibility of contesting a law or another legal provision before the Constitutional Court for contradiction with the constitutional order (followed by a review of constitutionality) by a group of 17 and/or 10 Senators. The Senate or 17 Senators may also require a preliminary review of the constitutionality of an international treaty before it is ratified.
In the creative sphere (creation other State´s institution), the Senate, based on ordinary laws, has become a proponent of candidates for the positions of a public rights protector (ombudsman) and his deputy as well as the President and Inspectors of the Office for Personal Data Protection. Apart from that, it has creative powers given directly by the Constitution (election of the President of the Republic and granting consent to the appointment of the Constitutional Court Justices – candidates are selected and Justices appointed by the President of the Republic). In comparison with the Chamber of Deputies, the extent of creative powers is much narrower as the Chamber of Deputies insists, in ordinary laws, on being in charge of electing representatives of numerous bodies (mainly regulatory ones).
It may be said that the position of the Senate in an ordinary legislative process is weaker – it has a correcting role. However, it gets stronger in decisions sensitive for the state sovereignty, basic functioning of the constitutional system, etc. In such cases the constitution-maker did not desire the Chamber of Deputies to be the only one to enforce its will, usually linked to the Government. Therefore, the role of the Senate was stressed. The Senate, together with the Constitutional Court, acts as a stabilising element of the constitutional system.
A significant stabilisation role of the Senate is balanced by the absence of its direct relation to the Government. The Government is liable only to the Chamber of Deputies, which is the only one to take a vote of no confidence in relation to the Government. In an attempt to somehow separate the Senate from the Government, the constitution-maker entrusted the Chamber of Deputies with the right to establish Investigatory Commissions or to interpellate ministers. Senators may ask for information and explanation (not only from ministers, but also from territorial self-government representatives). The contacts of the Senate and the Government are frequent but indirect. The Senate exercises influence over the implementation of its legislative programme, it gives consent to the ratification of international treaties entered into by the Government, it may revoke the decisions based on which the Government dispatches military troops outside the territory of the CR (this power is basically attributed to Parliament, but the Constitution lists exceptions in favour of the Government applicable in specific cases for a maximum period of 60 days).
A new field of co-operation between the Senate and the Government is the co-operation in matters resulting from the EU membership. A legal framework of the Senate’s activities related to the European agenda was specified in detail by a recent amendment to the Rules of Procedure: the Senate may influence the Government’s position for negotiations in the Council (it may express a preliminary opinion on the proposals of legislative acts, communication documents, various summary reports of the Government, etc.). As a result of the difference in opinions of Deputies and Senators in the very early preparatory stage of the so-called Euroamendment of the Constitution no joint committee of both the chambers for European issues was set up. In this case, under the Constitution the Senate’s and the Lower House’s positions equal and the Senate did not want to lose it. The Deputies were, on the contrary, afraid that a joint committee would weaken their exceptional relationship with the Government and they wanted to keep a dominating position in this respect. Both chambers shall therefore act separately. This arrangement will be assessed in approximately one year’s time. The Government would welcome a joint committee.
In the meantime, the Senate’s officials gained access to the key governmental committee for the EU which formulates principles of the Czech policy in the EU. A permanent representation of the Chancellery of the Senate in Brussels has also been established.
The Senate and Senators dispose of powers and information, but they must be exploited in practice by their activities. Currently, domestic forms of communication (Parliament and the Government) still prevail. The general wording of its Rules of Procedure would enable the Senate to accept change if a European Constitutional Treaty is adopted. However, some technical details still need to be settled (computer links between national parliaments, etc.).
The last one of “traditional” powers of the parliamentary chambers is the judicial power. The Senate does not act as a court, nevertheless it may initiate proceedings before the Constitutional Court. Only the Senate may bring a constitutional action against the President of the Republic for high treason which is punished by loss of office and loss of eligibility to regain it. In addition, groups of Senators may initiate proceedings on subsequent review of constitutionality of laws and other legal provisions and/or preliminary review of constitutionality of international treaties. The Senate gets into a direct contact with courts only by taking part in appointing Constitutional Court Justices.
As has been mentioned several times, the Senate does not represent regions either by its composition or by its powers. The regional policy is, however, present due to a keen interest and experience of many Senators who were or are still active at municipalities. However, it might be more precise to speak about municipal policy: there are only a few members of regional self-government authorities and there are no members of regional executive bodies among Senators (compared to mayors, often of big cities).
The natural centre of interest in regional and local issues is represented by the Committee for Rural Development, Public Administration and Environment, which is a reference for the majority of bills dealing with regional issues. The Committee is in regular contact with the Union of Towns and Municipalities and the Association of Regions whose representatives often participate in meetings of the Committee. It also organises seminars and public hearings, some attended by tens of mayors, who thus get a chance to influence the course of a legislative process.
Keeping in touch with segments of civil society does not apply only to the above mentioned Committee, but also to other bodies of the Senate. In particular, public hearings of the Senate and the Senate Committees represent a platform for sharing information and experience. They are held if an important issue is raised and they are attended by governmental officials and representatives of the professional and general public.
VI. An Outline of the Constitutional and Political System and the Role of the Senate
The Constitution declares the Czech Republic a democratic legal state, which is based on respect for the rights of a man and a citizen. The constitutional order includes a catalogue of fundamental rights and freedoms, which are protected by judicial power and by the Constitutional Court in particular. All constitutional bodies are established based on people’s will. They are either directly elected (Chamber of Deputies and Senate) or they are constituted by directly elected parliamentary chambers (President of the Republic, Government, Constitutional Court Justices, members of the Supreme Audit Office. Only general court judges and members of the Bank Council of the Czech National Bank are appointed by executive bodies).
The CR Constitution is based on the division of powers which is specified in more detail. The legislative power is shared by the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate, the executive power is shared by the President of the Republic and the Government (the Government is responsible for all issues that do not fall within the presidential powers) and the judicial power is shared by the Constitutional Court and general courts (the Constitutional Court may also review judicial decisions by means of constitutional complaints). One component of each pair is active while the other has a reviewing and “retarding” function. The Constitution does not only establish relations in-between the two particular components, but also between the pairs (for example, a closer link between the Government and the Chamber of Deputies and/or the Senate, the President of the Republic and the Constitutional Court). Apart from that, the Supreme Audit Office and the Czech National Bank are directly established by the Constitution.
Based on the analysis of the Constitution and the constitutional practice the Czech Republic may be called a parliamentary republic with a relatively small number of rationalisation elements known elsewhere in the period after World War II. The most powerful body is the Chamber of Deputies which in an ordinary legislative process may always enforce its will or take a vote of no confidence in relation to the Government (by absolute majority of votes) without being effectively dissolved. The Government holds no special position in the legislative process, it influences neither its speed nor the order of issues to be discussed (Under the threat of dissolution it may only force the Chamber of Deputies to discuss a bill, but not to pass it. It may express its opinion on non-governmental bills. However, these may often undergo substantial changes during parliamentary debates). In an ordinary legislative process, the Senate may only revise the Chamber of Deputies’ activity.
The Government is dependant on trust given to it by the Chamber of Deputies. Its members may (but do not have to) be members of one of the houses; in fact Deputies prevail. Only Deputies may interpellate members of the Government or to establish investigatory boards.
The President of the Republic is elected indirectly, i.e. by Parliament. However, he is not only a ceremonial head of State. The Constitution divides his powers into countersigned ones and those not countersigned. Powers used at his discretion include in particular the election of the Prime Minister, dissolution of the Chamber of Deputies (in cases defined in Article 35 of the Constitution), right to veto bills, right to grant a pardon (discontinuance of criminal prosecution, mitigation or remission of punishment), appointing presidents and vice-presidents of the Constitutional and Supreme Courts or appointing members of the Bank Council of the Czech National Bank. The countersigned powers include, e.g. negotiating and ratifying international treaties, appointing ambassadors, raising generals in rank, etc.
Specific relations among the supreme constitutional institutions are subject to changes depending on political composition. For example, the composition of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies is rather different (the Senate has groupings that are not present in the Chamber of Deputies, there are Senators that do not belong to any faction, the number of members of factions of the same party differs). If it were not the case, the Senate would not probably get involved into political conflicts in relation to essential issues (constitutional changes), but it would limit itself only to making corrections in the legislative process.
Even more important is the relationship between the Government and the Chamber of Deputies. Since 1996, there has not been a strong majority government in the CR, which led, among other factors, to attempts to change the electoral system. After the election in 2002, the Government was formed by the majority of 101 votes. The Government is successful at keeping discipline during final votings, however, the Chamber of Deputies is quite individualised (each Deputy is entitled to use the power to initiate legislation as well as to submit motions to amend in sessions), which results in a number of ad hoc inter-party alliances. The power of the governmental majority is usually tested by some disapproving resolutions of the Senate and/or by presidential vetoes.
Apart from the above mentioned constitutional bodies, the state power is exercised by administrative bodies that essentially come under the Government (ministries and various specialised central and territorial authorities). There is also a growing number of the so-called independent administrative authorities mostly linked, by their formation, to the Chamber of Deputies, exceptionally also to the Senate (the Office for Personal Data Protection). Based on the model of the public administration reform, the state power (public authority) administrators are also self-governing bodies, territorial in particular.
By 1969 Czechoslovakia was a federation, but the Communist Party rule was heavily centralist. Only after 1989, constitutive republics of the federation became real holders of power. In reality, strong centres of power were created in the two republics instead of creating one federal centre. After the formation of the CR, it was necessary to look for a new form of co-existence of the central and regional powers, the fact that was discussed already at the very beginning of the 1990s. As I have mentioned, it took years before the number and borders of the higher territorial self-governing units were determined. Neither powers nor funding have been clearly defined up to now.
Apart from territorial self-governance there is also self-governance of the profession. This includes both universities and professional chambers (doctors, pharmacists, bars, notaries, etc.). They perform public authority within their powers and the bodies of self-governing entities are elected by members themselves.
But pluralism in the CR is not represented only by self-governance. There are thousands of interest groups. However, they mostly lack umbrella-type organisations. Exceptions are, for example, trade unions, employers’ associations or sport federations. Trade unions and employers’ associations together with the Government form the so-called tripartite, i.e. the Council for a Social Dialogue, which makes preliminary discussions on governmental measures in the social area. The role of the Government in the tripartite weakens proportionately to a weakening position of the state as an employer. The Government increasingly performs the role of an intermediary.
The Senate in the Czech Republic contributes to the strengthening of democracy. This is given by a different structure of both the chambers, which leads to a necessity for searching rather broad political consensus, as well as by an obligatory consensus on a number of decisions essential for the form and operation of the constitutional system: constitutional and electoral laws, appointment of the Constitutional Court Justices, ratification of international treaties, states of emergency and deployment of military forces, etc. Furthermore, it also functions as a political body for the protection of constitutionality. Without its approval, it is impossible to change the constitutional order, when discussing ordinary bills it often uses constitutionality criteria (which is, apart from the criteria of impacts on the regions and municipalities, probably the most frequent aspect) that are projected in its resolutions, Senators contest unconstitutional laws before the Constitutional Court, etc.
The principles of majority system enable access to Parliament not only to independent candidates (nation-wide known personalities or high-profile regional and municipal politicians), but also to minor political parties, e.g. of regional character. It is interesting to note that among Senators there are several university rectors or highest representatives of nation-wide trade union headquarters. The parliamentary policy thus becomes more varied without endangering governmental stability.
VII. Perspectives of the Senate
In the eyes of the public, the Senate does not have much prestige. In opinion polls, it regularly ranks last among the evaluated institution, but the Chamber of Deputies does not hold a much better position. One of the reasons is the four-year delay in the Senate establishment (”we could do without it”), another is the campaign led against it in the course of the first years of its existence. The feeling of uselessness (and expensiveness) of the second chamber still dwells in the minds of a large group of citizens. This impression is being very slowly modified by open information policy, production of various explanatory leaflets for visitors to the Senate and schools, Senators’ public presentations, opening of the Senate to the wide public, etc. By its intense involvement in the legislative process and consideration of external inputs from the very beginning of 1997, the Senate has managed to prove its relevance at least in the eyes of a large part of the elite. Thus its abolition is no longer on the public agenda, occasional debates over its reform emerge instead. Excesses of the Lower House which could be generally dealt with by the prepared changes of the Constitution always make Senators reopen the question of strengthening the Upper House’s position.
The activities of the Senate are to some extent determined by the limited interest of mass media (the Senate has no impact on the fate of the Government or the state budget, it is not involved in verbal battles between the Government and the opposition). On the other hand, we can hardly say that mass media marginalise the Senate. Neither do social and scientific surveys. Parliament as such has never been widely examined, not even in the former Czechoslovakia: it never really represented the centre of political power. Current works on Parliament (monographs, articles, textbooks) do not ignore the Senate. Most of them, however, concentrate on description and analyses instead of evaluation. The criticised shortcomings of the constitutional position of the Senate may be deduced from the changes proposed by various authors. Nonetheless, little attention is paid to the representative title of the Senate.
More attention is paid to constitutional changes related to the Senate. The drafted proposals may not be considered a true reform as they only further elaborate the current structure of the Senate in the Czech constitutional system (broadening the number of laws to be assented by both chambers, involvement in the voting on laws vetoed by the President, participation in the appointment of the members of the Bank Council of the Czech National Bank). The reform is vaguely dealt with in proposals presented by some politicians (indirect election of Senators by regional self-governments, direct election in regions in case of parity, etc.). In some other versions it could be a ”by-product” accompanying the introduction of the principle of majority vote in the Chamber of Deputies: then the Senate would be elected on the principle of proportional representation in self-governed regions. The essential point is that any reform would require a consensus to amend the Constitution, which is always difficult to reach. First of all, Senators, who are very proud of their direct mandate based on majority vote, would have to approve of the reform. That is why they are currently concerned only with the elaboration of their existing competencies. This, however, is not an answer to the future model of the Senate. Should it differ from the present? Should direct election be petrified, a different electoral system, a different term of office? Should it be elected from a narrower circle of people, should it differ from the Chamber of Deputies, should it enjoy powers which, however, do not permit full performance of the role corresponding to the conception of a monitoring chamber? Should it base its legitimacy on the special representative title or public popularity? Or is something like ”functional legitimacy”, i.e. legitimacy arising from its relevance, sufficient? The answers are yet to be discovered...
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Jan Kysela – Secretary of the Senate Standing Commission on the Constitution and Parliamentary Procedures, Adviser of the President of the Senate