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Parliament of Rhodesia
Parliament
Coat of arms or logo
Type
Type
Houses House of Lords (upper, appointed)
House of Commons (lower, elected)
Leadership
King Edward III
Since 25 December 2004
Louise Hague
Since 2 January 2005
Charles HaverleySDP
Since 5 December 2005
Structure
Seats 350 Commoners
2,782 Lords
Structure of the House of Commons of Rhodesia
Commons political groups
350 Seats
  SDP: 217 seats

  CTP: 74 seats

  COP: 28 seats

  RYP: 23 seats

  GNP: 8 seats
Elections
Commons last election
2010 Rhodesia general elections
Meeting place
Saint George's Palace, Salisbury, South Albert, Rhodesia
Saint George's Palace, Salisbury
Website
www.parliament.gov.rh

The Parliament of Rhodesia, commonly referred to as just the Parliament, is the bicameral supreme legislature of the African nation of Rhodesia. It alone possesses legislative supremacy within the government of the nation, and as a result, holds power over all other functions of the government of Rhodesia on a national and local level. The leader of the Parliament is the Prime Minister of Rhodesia, currently Charles Haverley, who serves as the primary representative of the people to the Monarchy of Rhodesia, which itself is represented in the lower house of parliament by the Governor General. The seat of the parliament is Saint George's Palace located in the city of Salisbury, South Albert.

The parliament is made up of the elected House of Commons and the appointed House of Lords. There are 350 members of the House of Commons, known as Parliamentary Commoners, who are elected from their various constituencies across the counties of Rhodesia. Each Parliamentary Commoner represents a base of 95,455 who elect them into power, with a single transferable vote system used to select the most proportionally representative members of the county. In this way, there are no set constituencies outside of the counties themselves, with each county receiving one Parliamentary Commoner according to the numbers of groups of 95,455 people inside each constituency. Thus, the voting system of Rhodesia is the most accurate according to the number of people voting in favour of a party, making the partisan system integral to the elections process of the country. The House of Lords is unelected, with its 2,782 unpaid members consisting of the various Barons, Earls, and Dukes created by the Monarch or past Monarchs and approved by the Parliament with each inheritance of the specific title. The House of Lords has no real legislative power, although it can delay bills and encourage further revision when passed up from the lower House of Commons. The Monarch presides directly over the House of Lords, whereas the Governor General presides over the House of Commons.

Although officially bicameral, parliamentary power is primarily vested within the House of Commons, which is the only chamber of the parliament with the authority to create and amend laws. Although bills must be passed to and approved by the House of Lords, the unelected chamber does not have the ability to amend or reject bills, and thus, the House of Lords can only encourage revision and delay the bill for this revision to occur. Should the House of Lords delay the bill for too long, it reverts back to the House of Commons, and if the bill is delayed after a third time of reversion, it bypasses the House of Lords and is sent directly to the Monarch. While most bills are passed by the House of Lords after reaching a majority in the House of Commons, several, relating directly to the social class system of Rhodesia itself, have sometimes had to have been bypassed to the monarchy directly. Once a bill is passed by the parliament, the monarch may grant it royal assent, and, although the monarch reserves the right to deny a bill, there has been no case of the monarch doing so since the 1901 restoration of parliament.

The House of Commons relies entirely upon a partisan system to create the government, while in the House of Lords political parties are not allowed. As of the 2010 Rhodesia general elections, the Social Democrats have retained a supermajority in parliament of 217 seats (62%) since their first majority in 1935. Although at times coalition governments have been formed, the Social Democrats have always been the lead party in such coalitions, and there has never been a parliament where the Prime Minister has not been a Social Democrat since 1935. The second largest party is the Centre Party which holds 74 seats (21.14%). The following minor parties exist within the parliament; the Co-operative Party with 28 seats (8%), the Royalist Party with 23 seats (6.57%), and the Green Party with 8 seats (2.29%).

History

The parliament was established in 1705 under the conditions of the Constitution of Rhodesia, which was created as a resolution to the First Rhodesian Civil War. Parliament would be a sovereign body which held powers that the monarch agreed to give up as a concession for the civil war and its causes. The new legislature was balanced between the House of Lords and the House of Commons, which both held the powers to create and influence bills and other acts of parliament with the consent of the monarch. The initial balance between the Lords and the Commoners was established as a method to resolve further disputes of power between the aristocracy and the commontry. Although at first this balance was met with reluctance on either side, it proved an effective method in relegating equality between the two primary portions of Rhodesian society, and the dually equal houses of the parliament were maintained in this status for more than a hundred years after their foundation.

The first parliaments held in session were elected by the landed citizens of Rhodesia, as only men who held property in freehold or in trust were allowed to vote for members of parliament. Early elections revealed a clear, class-based dissonance between the Lords and the Commoners. Most members of the House of Lords, which was composed of those appointed by the monarch or past monarchs until that point as the nobility of the country, were Tories who supported goals of radical monarchism, absolutism, and traditional economics. Most members of the House of Commons, which was elected by freeholding male citizens in local constituencies, were Whigs who detested absolutism and supported constitutional monarchy and laissez faire economics. The clear division between the two houses of parliament ultimately led to power struggles which\ would usually see the House of Lords being favoured by the monarch over the House of Commons. It is because of this early contest for control of the parliament that allowed the upper classes of Rhodesian society to maintain a great deal of control over the economic development of the country, and it was this early favouritism of the House of Lords that saw the monarch retain a prominent political position even after the First Civil War.

The traditional balance between the Lords and the Commoners was brought to an end with the outbreak of the Second Civil War in 1889, when reactionary nationalists under the Society for Greater Rhodesia seized control of the parliament and held most members of the House of Commons hostage during the November Uprising. This act of coup d'état would see the dissolution of the parliament in the beginning of a power struggle between ultra-nationalists and liberals that would come to a head with the Peace of Salisbury and the restoration of the parliament in 1901. With parliament restored, the King Henry II, a staunch liberal, used the opportunity to essentially cull all real powers of the House of Lords and give full control of the legislature to the House of Commons. The electoral process of the nation was also revised, allowing for full universal suffrage regardless of land or gender status. This complete reversal of the legislature saw the rise of progressive Whig dominance in Rhodesia which would go unchallenged for decades.

The parliament would undergo massive changes as a result of the Great Depression in 1929. Although the 1930 elections saw a clear Whig majority take hold, the inability of the party to resolve the economic turmoil led to a massive power shift from the classical liberal Whig party, which would cease to exist, to the younger Social Democratic Party with the elections of 1935. Massive government intervention in the economy would alleviate the catastrophe caused by economic crisis, and the viability of a mixed market economy to the greater public saw a transition in favour from the more fiscally conservative policies of the Whigs to the more fiscally Keynesian policies of the Social Democrats. Opposition to the domination of the Social Democrats would remain in the minority, excluding during the periods of coalition between the Social Democrats and the Co-operatives following the elections of 1975 and 1980, and as of the 2015 elections, no other party has properly challenged the Social Democrat's hold over parliament.

Structure

The parliament is divided into an upper house and a lower house, those being the House of Lords and the House of Commons respectively. Although the House of Lords is considered to exist at a high level than that of the House of Commons, the former has no real political power other than the ability to delay the passage of legislation approved by a majority in the House of Commons. Even then, the House of Lords can only delay specific pieces of legislation three times before they are automatically bypassed and sent directly to the monarch. Hence, all real and supreme legislative power rests with the elected House of Commons, which is seen as the representative of the people in the government of the realm. Both houses of parliament are directly responsible to the monarch, with the monarch being represented in person during sessions of the House of Lord and the monarch being represented by the Governor General during sessions of the House of Commons.

House of Lords

The House of Lords is the upper house of the parliament. The chamber is composed of the peers recognised by the monarch as the possessors of specific titles of inheritance and merit, and its members are appointed directly by the monarch and then approved by the House of Commons. Of the 2,782 current Parliamentary Lords, 2,712 are Barons, 34 are Bishops, 28 are Earls, and 8 are Dukes. Although the legislative powers of the House of Lords have been significantly reduced since the foundation of the chamber, its members are still considered to be members of parliament, and as such, are recognised as special members of the government. The official governing power of the House of Lords also extends in special right in the organisation of the traditional institutions of the Rhodesian state, such as the College of Heralds, the College of Orders, and the Church of Rhodesia.

Of the members of the House of Lords, the Barons and Earls of the chamber are hereditary peers of the realm, in which they have inherited their title from a predecessor. Only 4 of the 2,712 Barons have been appointed by the two most recent monarchs, Edward II and Edward III. While the title of Baron holds no land in trust, Earls are the more powerful members of the gentry, who hold lands in trust with the parliament as a part of their specific Earldoms. Although Barons and Earls share an equal vote within the House of Lords, the Earls are considered to exist at a higher social strata than the Barons. The Bishops of the House of Lords are the elected Bishops of their specific counties that are recognised by the Church of Rhodesia. The Dukes of the chamber are made up of the senior members of the royal family, which consists of the brothers and sisters and the non-heir, adult-age children of the reigning monarch, all of which hold the titles of either Duke or Duchess. The number of seats in the House of Lords is not fixed, unlike the 350-seat House of Commons.

The House of Lords scrutinises bills that have been approved by the House of Commons, and it regularly reviews and requests amendments to bills from the the lower house. While it is unable to prevent Bills passing into law, it can delay bills and force the Commons to reconsider their decisions. In this capacity, the Lords acts as a check on the House of Commons that is independent from the electoral process. Bills cannot be introduced in the House of Lords. Members of the Lords may also take on roles as government ministers.

The speeches of the monarch are typically delivered within the House of Lords. Through the College of Heralds and the College of Orders, which is composed of members of the Lords, the chamber has legislative authority over titles and honours awarded by the government of Rhodesia. The chamber also has total legislative control over the Church of Rhodesia, although only the monarch and the Bishops may propose such legislation by virtue of their specific offices.

House of Commons

The House of Commons is the lower house of the parliament. The Commons is made up of elected members of parliament, known as Commoners, who are accountable to the public at large through the electoral process. There are 350 sitting members of the House of Commons, one of which is the non-voting Prime Minister. The Governor General presides directly over the House of Commons in representation of the monarch. Unlike the House of Lords, the Commons has the ability to create and amend bills, which, when passed by a majority of the Parliamentary Commoners, are sent to the House of Lords and then to the monarch for royal assent. The Commons is wholly partisan body, with the majority party or the majority coalition of parties creating the government through a vote of confidence held within the chamber to determine the prime minister. As the Commons has the power to create legislation, form the government, and control other parts of the government, the House of Commons is considered to hold legislative supremacy over the entirety of the Rhodesian government.

All members of the House of Commons, known as Parliamentary Commoners, are elected through a process of single transferable vote held within each county. Every county receives one seat in the Commons according to the number of the population in proportion to the number of seats in the Commons. Every time the number of people represented by a seat in the chamber rises above 100,000, the number of seats in the Commons is increased by fifty. Hence, the current number of people represented by a single seat in the Commons is 95,455, and each county, as of 2015, receives one seat according to how many times the population of that county can be divided by 95,455.

The House of Commons has the ability to create and introduce bills, amend bills, and form the government. Bills created and introduced in the Commons are then voted on by the chamber until a majority of Parliamentary Commoners agree and pass the bill to the upper house of the parliament, the House of Lords. If the House of Lords chooses to delay the bill and encourage revision, as is decided by a vote within that chamber, then the bill can be amended by the House of Commons, or, after three delays by the Lords, the bill bypasses that house and is sent directly to the monarch for royal assent. The House of Commons forms the government through the use of parties within the chamber. A vote of confidence is held to determine the prime minister, typically the leader of the majority party or the majority coalition of parties, who then forms the government with the sanction of the monarch. The House of Commons votes on the selections for ministers made by the prime minister, and once approved, the government is formed.

The Commons is presided over by the Governor General, a non-voting officer of the Commons who decides the agenda of the chamber on the advice of the prime minister. The Governor General is appointed by the monarch on the advice of the prime minister, and the appointment typically lasts for the entirety of the reign of the monarch. Holding full legislative supremacy and sovereignty, the House of Commons is the single most important organ of the government of Rhodesia. It has powers which extend over all the affairs of the governance of the state and its interaction with domestic and foreign organisations.

Powers and composition

The parliament as a whole has the ability to create, amend, and enforce enactments with the approval of the monarch through royal assent. The parliament is given reign over the government in the trust of both the people and the crown as the sovereign representative of the people of the realm. Although the parliament as a whole is entitled to this right as per the original language of the constitution, power of governance and legislation is left solely to the House of Commons as the elected body of the legislature, thus making it more accountable to the will of the people rather than the unelected House of Lords. As such, the powers of governance rest within the House of Commons, and the power is not shared with the House of Lords as an unelected body. Hence, the powers entitled to parliament are more accurately described as being entitled to the House of Commons, with the House of Lords being a body further representing the interests of the crown as the non-electoral representative of the Rhodesian people.

The parliament is composed of three essential bodies: the Crown, the House of Commons, and the House of Lords. The Crown, the monarch of Rhodesia, is represented in both houses; in the Lords by the monarch personally and in the Commons by the appointed Governor General. The Crown has the power to set the agenda of the parliament as a whole and appoint specific members of the House of Lords within that chamber. The House of Commons has the power to create, introduce, amend, and enforce enactments. The Commons creates and passes legislation within the chamber, amends legislation delayed by the House of Lords, and creates the government through a vote of confidence in the selection of the prime minister and the election of their appointments for the specific ministers of the state. The House of Lords has the power to delay legislation passed by the Commons to encourage revision and relegate over the traditional symbols of the Rhodesian state, including the ability to create and recognise titles, recognise orders and honours created by the Crown, and influence the official canon and policy of the Church of Rhodesia.

Term and privileges

The terms of the members of the two chambers differs between the Parliamentary Lords and Parliamentary Commoners. Parliamentary Lords hold titles which signify life appointment by right of possession of such a title. Hence, the title held by the member of the Lords in question will never be dropped from membership unless by act of the chamber specific, meaning that the title will remain even without a possessor of the title. Therefore, while the inheritor of a specific title may change, the title itself will always be represented in the Lords unless specifically dropped by the house itself. The term of a Parliamentary Commoner is decided through the election of the specific members of the chamber. Elections are held nationally in Rhodesia every five years, with each member of the Commons competing for election within a specific county of the country. There is no limit to how many times a member of the Commons may be elected, and so, the term of a Parliamentary Commoner is entirely indefinite.

Various privileges are held by members of the parliament on an equal basis of both chambers. Members of the parliament are entitled to the right of free speech while in session, meaning that a member of the parliament may not be tried or held accountable in a court of law based on their speech within the parliament. This does not mean, however, that members of the public may not judge specific members of the parliament based upon their speech within the parliament. Thus, the choice of speech used by members of the parliament is held directly accountable to the public. Members of the parliament are also entitled to protection from criminal accusations so long as they are a member of the parliament. This does not mean that members of parliament are immune from criminal penalties, however, as trials of criminal accusation can be held by both chambers of parliament to determine the guilt of a member in light of such accusations. The only crimes which are exempt from the protection of arrest are treason and breach of peace, which includes violence on the floor against other members of parliament.

See Also

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