Ruthann Haugen

Written by Ruthann Haugen

Published: 03 Jun 2024


Ever wondered what makes a parliament tick? From ancient traditions to modern-day practices, parliaments are the backbone of democratic governance. They pass laws, debate policies, and represent the people's voice. But there's more to these institutions than meets the eye. Did you know that the oldest parliament in the world dates back to 930 AD? Or that some parliaments have quirky traditions like wearing wigs and robes? In this blog post, we'll uncover 28 fascinating facts about parliaments that will leave you amazed and informed. Whether you're a history buff, a politics enthusiast, or just curious, these facts will give you a deeper understanding of how parliaments function and their role in shaping our world.

Table of Contents

What is a Parliament?

A parliament is a legislative body of government. It represents the electorate, makes laws, and oversees the government via hearings and inquiries. Parliaments can be found in many countries around the world, each with unique structures and functions.

  1. The word "parliament" comes from the French word "parler," meaning to talk or speak.
  2. The oldest parliament in the world is the Althing in Iceland, established in 930 AD.
  3. The British Parliament is often referred to as the "Mother of Parliaments" because it has influenced many other democratic legislatures.
  4. The Palace of Westminster, home to the UK Parliament, has over 1,100 rooms and 100 staircases.
  5. The term "MP" stands for Member of Parliament.

Different Types of Parliaments

Parliaments vary widely in their structure and function. Some are bicameral, meaning they have two houses, while others are unicameral with just one house.

  1. The United States Congress is a bicameral legislature, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
  2. Sweden's parliament, the Riksdag, is unicameral and has 349 members.
  3. The German Bundestag is elected every four years and has at least 598 members.
  4. India's Parliament is bicameral, comprising the Rajya Sabha (Council of States) and the Lok Sabha (House of the People).
  5. The Japanese National Diet consists of the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors.

Roles and Functions of Parliaments

Parliaments play crucial roles in governance, from law-making to representing the public.

  1. One of the primary functions of a parliament is to pass laws.
  2. Parliaments also scrutinize and hold the government accountable through questions and debates.
  3. Many parliaments have committees that focus on specific areas like health, education, and defense.
  4. Parliaments often have the power to approve budgets and expenditures.
  5. In some countries, parliaments can impeach or remove government officials.

Interesting Facts About Parliamentary Procedures

Parliamentary procedures can be quite fascinating, with unique traditions and rules.

  1. The UK House of Commons has a ceremonial mace that must be present for the house to meet.
  2. In Canada, the Speaker of the House of Commons wears a black robe and carries a ceremonial key.
  3. The Australian Parliament has a tradition called "Dorothy Dixers," where government members ask pre-arranged questions to ministers.
  4. In the Indian Parliament, members can use a "Point of Order" to raise concerns about the rules of procedure.
  5. The South African Parliament has a "No Confidence" motion that can be used to challenge the government.

Unique Parliamentary Traditions

Parliaments around the world have unique traditions that reflect their history and culture.

  1. The UK Parliament has a tradition called "Black Rod," where a door is slammed in the face of the Queen's representative to symbolize the independence of the Commons.
  2. In Japan, the Emperor ceremonially opens the National Diet by reading a speech from the throne.
  3. The Canadian Parliament has a tradition of "Question Period," where members can ask the Prime Minister and other ministers questions.
  4. In New Zealand, the Speaker of the House wears a wig and gown during formal sessions.
  5. The German Bundestag has a tradition of "Plenary Sessions," where all members meet to discuss and vote on legislation.

Fun Facts About Parliamentary Buildings

Parliamentary buildings are often architectural marvels with rich histories.

  1. The Hungarian Parliament Building in Budapest is one of the largest in the world, with 691 rooms.
  2. The Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., has a crypt intended to house George Washington's remains, though he was never buried there.
  3. The Canadian Parliament Buildings in Ottawa are known for their Gothic Revival architecture and the iconic Peace Tower.

Final Look at Parliament Facts

Parliament has a rich history filled with fascinating details. From its origins in medieval England to its modern-day functions, there's a lot to appreciate. The House of Commons and the House of Lords each play unique roles in shaping laws and policies. Did you know the Prime Minister isn't always the leader of the majority party? Or that the Speaker of the House must remain impartial? These tidbits make Parliament more than just a political institution; it's a living, evolving entity. Whether you're a history buff or just curious, understanding Parliament's intricacies can give you a deeper appreciation for how governments work. So next time you hear about a parliamentary debate, you'll know there's much more going on behind the scenes. Keep exploring, and you'll find even more surprising facts about this cornerstone of democracy.

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