Definition of parliament
From Late Latin parlamentum and its sources, Anglo-Norman and Old French parlement ("discussion, meeting, assembly, council"), from parler ("to speak").
parliament (plural parliaments)
- Institution whose elected or appointed members meet to debate the major political issues of the day and usually to exercise legislative powers and sometimes judicial powers.
- (by extension) The collective noun for a group of rooks (the species of bird) or owls.
- (historical) Parliament cake; a type of gingerbread.
* 1869, RD Blackmoore, Lorna Doone, Chapter II:
A certain boy leaning up against me would not allow my elbow room, and struck me very sadly in the stomach part, though his own was full of my parliament.
A parliament is a legislature, especially in those countries whose system of government is based on the Westminster system modeled after that of the United Kingdom. The name is derived from the French parlement, the action of parler (to speak): a parlement is a discussion. The term came to mean a meeting at which such a discussion took place. It acquired its modern meaning as it came to be used for the body of people (in an institutional sense) who would meet to discuss matters of state.
Legislatures called parliaments operate under a parliamentary system of government in which the executive is constitutionally answerable to the parliament. This can be contrasted with a presidential system, on the model of the United States' congressional system, which operate under a stricter separation of powers whereby the executive does not form part of, nor is appointed by, the parliamentary or legislative body. Typically, congresses do not select or dismiss heads of governments, and governments cannot request an early dissolution as may be the case for parliaments. Some states have a semi-presidential system which combines a powerful president with an executive responsible to parliament.
Parliaments may consist of chambers or houses, and are usually either bicameral or unicameral-although more complex models exist, or have existed.
A nation's prime minister ("PM") is almost always the leader of the majority party in the lower house of parliament, but only holds his or her office as long as the "confidence of the house" is maintained. If members of the lower house lose faith in the leader for whatever reason, they can often call a vote of no confidence and force the PM to resign. This can be particularly dangerous to a government when the distribution of seats is relatively even, in which case a new election is often called shortly thereafter. However, in case of general discontent with the head of government, his replacement can be made very smoothly without all the complications that it represents in the case of a Presidentialist system.
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