The House of Representatives (Esperanto: Domo de Reprezentantoj) is the national unicameral legislature of the Republic of Bijan. It was established in 1949 by the Constitution of Bijan to be the body in which the legislative power of the state is vested. The House consists of 245 members elected under open-list proportional representation in multi-member constituencies to a term lasting four years. The current House, the 17th since independence, was elected at the election held on 3 March 2013, and will serve, assuming no extraordinary election will be called sooner, until March 2017.
The Constitution does not set a fixed number of members of the House; the House itself can raise or lower the number of its members in the same manner as it would pass any other ordinary law, save for two important exceptions: the number of members can never be fewer than 100, and any alteration to the number of members cannot take effect until after a election has occurred.
The Constitution provided that until the House decides otherwise, it shall have 150 members. In 1965, the addition of 23 leveling seats to ensure better proportionality brought the number of members to 173. In 1997, another 72 seats were added (49 regular and 23 leveling), to keep up with the country's growing population. Since 1997, the House has had 245 members.
Ordinary elections to the House of Representatives take place on the first Sunday in March in the fourth year following the previous election to the House. The Constitution provides four circumstances in which the President may call an extraordinary election prior to the expiration of the four-year term, but this has never taken place.
Elections are held under open-list proportional representation in multi-member constituencies. Political parties file lists of candidates in each county in which they seek election. Electors vote for individual candidates, and the number of votes each candidate receives determines his or her ranking on the party's list, and thus the order in which he or she will win a seat. The order the candidates were ranked on the party's list is used as a tiebreak in the event two candidates receive the same number of votes. Dual candidacy is not permitted, meaning a person can not stand as a candidate for more than one party, nor may a person seek election in more than one county.
Once all 199 constituency seats are filled, the remaining 46 leveling seats are allocated to the parties to ensure the most proportional composition possible of the parties in the House. Although the members filling the 46 leveling seats are technically members-at-large, and therefore represent the entire country, they are selected based on their positions in the party lists of the counties in which they sought election.
Organization and procedure
The House is led by a Speaker and two Deputy Speakers. The Speaker directs the work of the House and acts as a moderator of debates, ensuring the members comply with the standing orders. The Speaker and Deputy Speakers are elected at the first session of the House following an election, and serve for the term of the House unless they resign, are removed, or cease to be a member of the House of Representatives.
Within ten days following the announcement of election results, the House must convene for its first session. This session is formally opened by the President, and begins with the new members taking the oath of office. The bulk of the House's work is done in ordinary session, of which there are two each year: an autumn session from January to June and a spring session from September to December. While in recess, the Speaker may call an extraordinary session upon the request of the President, the Government or one-fifth of the total number of members (currently 49).
Typical sitting day
The House of Representatives sites on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, from 10:00am until 2:00pm, and again from 4:00pm to 7:00pm. The adjournment debate begins at 7:00pm and may continue for an hour, so the actual end of the sitting is often closer to 8:00pm.
The business of the House is conducted in accordance with the Standing Orders, a set of rules which regulate the conduct of the House of the behavior of its Members. The beginning of a sitting day is announced by the ringing of bells for three minutes, to call Members to the Chamber, after which the Speaker enters. The day commences with prayers and pledges of fidelity, read by the Speaker.
Petitions which members which to present are called on as the first item of business. This is the mechanism by which constituents put requests for action directly to the House. Representatives may then give Notice of Questions or Motions for further consideration. These will be placed in the record and dealt with at a later time. After the Notices, the House begins the 90-minute Question Time, during which Ministers may be asked about their portfolio areas and the issues of the day.
Question Time is, for many people, the most significant feature of the day's proceedings. Because of the direct question-and-answer nature, it is usually the most lively stage, and is the time when Ministers dealing with sensitive issues may reveal how these situations are to be handled. It also gives opposition Representatives the chance to show how well informed they are on their shadow responsibilities.
Tabling of Papers and introduction of Bills takes place after Question Time, and is followed by a period when Representatives raise major issues for debate as Matters of Public Importance. This is a chance for a deeper debate on an issue as Question Time may provide simple, basic answers to questions, whereas this procedure allows for discussion of policy, background to issues, and alternative approaches. These, and all other debates in the House, have time limits, which are enforced by the Speaker.
During the day, Representatives may move around, and in and out of, the Chamber, but are required to be in their places when votes are taken, or when the Speaker is addressing the House.
As previously mentioned, bells will be rung during the day to advice Representatives of what is happening. These bells are positioned throughout the House and the Representatives' offices. At the beginning of the sitting day the bells will ring for three minutes to summon Representatives to the Chamber. If a quorum is called because there are insufficient Representatives in the Chamber to continue the debate, the bells may ring until the require numbers are present.
If a division is called because the result of a vote is unclear, the bells will ring for two minutes. At the end of this time, the doors of the Chamber will be locked until the count has been taken. If the sitting has been suspended for any reason, for example to allow a Representative to prepare an amendment, the bells will ring to summon them back to the Chamber. At the end of the sitting day, three bells will ring to announce the adjournment of the House.
Duties and powers
The primary duty of the House of Representatives is to pass laws and resolutions. Another important duty of the House is to elect the President, which it does every six years. After each election, the House must authorize the Chief Minister-designate to form the Government, and the Government must enjoy the support of a majority of members in the House for it to remain in office. The House may bring down a Government or a Minister by a vote of no confidence.
|1st||6 March 1949||150||15 March 1949||21 March 1949||30 January 1953||10 March 1953|
|2nd||1 March 1953||150||10 March 1953||16 March 1953||1 February 1957||12 March 1957|
|3rd||3 March 1957||150||12 March 1957||18 March 1957||3 February 1961||14 March 1961|
|4th||5 March 1961||150||14 March 1961||20 March 1961||5 February 1965||16 March 1965|
|5th||7 March 1965||173||16 March 1965||22 March 1965||31 January 1969||11 March 1969|
|6th||2 March 1969||173||11 March 1969||17 March 1969||2 February 1973||13 March 1973|
|7th||4 March 1973||173||13 March 1973||19 March 1973||4 February 1977||15 March 1977|
|8th||6 March 1977||173||15 March 1977||21 March 1977||30 January 1981||10 March 1981|
|9th||1 March 1981||173||10 March 1981||16 March 1981||1 February 1985||12 March 1985|
|10th||3 March 1985||173||12 March 1985||18 March 1985||3 February 1989||14 March 1989|
|11th||5 March 1989||173||14 March 1989||20 March 1989||5 February 1989||16 March 1993|
|12th||7 March 1993||173||16 March 1993||22 March 1993||31 January 1993||11 March 1997|
|13th||2 March 1997||245||11 March 1997||17 March 1997||2 February 1997||13 March 1997|
|14th||4 March 2001||245||13 March 2001||19 March 2001||4 February 2005||15 March 2005|
|15th||6 March 2005||245||15 March 2005||21 March 2005||30 January 2009||10 March 2009|
|16th||1 March 2009||245||10 March 2009||16 March 2009||1 February 2013||12 March 2013|
|17th||3 March 2013||245||12 March 2013||18 March 2013||9 January 2015|
|18th||15 February 2015||245|