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Instytut Nauk Politycznych Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego
Publication date: 2020-01-28
Studia Politologiczne 2002;6
The topic of this article is the construction of the best suited electoral regulations with regard to a parliament with a complex, two house internal structure. The division of parliament enforces the necessary difference in the political projection of the two houses, which in turn requires the creation of different electoral methods. The methods applied, however, are of secondary importance to the a priori determined type of representation, which is reflected in each house of the legislative body. One of the houses is always the forum for political and party representation, the other most often adopts other forms of representation. This can take the form of federal (USA, Germany, Switzerland), territorial or regional (Spain, Italy), self-government (France, Netherlands), or economic representation (Ireland, Slovenia). Only after determining the type of representation, can the number and variety of electoral methods be selected. For this reason, polymorphism is characteristic for electoral systems regarding the latter house, beginning with the hereditary systems, through nominations, indirect election, and finishing with general and direct elections. There are also other combination solutions incorporating several basic methods, and finally, the individual arithmetic methods of counting votes and translating them into mandates. The method of repartitioning the mandates (proportional or by majority) is very often considered a sufficient factor in diversifying the political composition of both houses. In practice, however, it proves to be insufficient, especially where there is a shortage of a clearly defined formula of representation for the upper house, which is forcefully exemplified in the Polish case. A characteristic trait of the election system of members to this house is, additionally, the clearly marked personalisation of the voting act itself. The specific nature of election systems applied in the case of the upper houses also leave their mark on the election campaign – the excitement of the campaign, and more widely of the whole elections ends the moment the composition of the newly elected lower house is set. Elections to the upper house do not generate such fervour, which undoubtedly is the result of this house’s asymmetrical position within the parliamentary arrangement. Without a doubt, the fundamental meaning of the existence of this second house is to moderate and provide a check to the divided seats of power. The presence of a second house has the effect of preventing the potential hegemony of the other house of parliament, or the other “forces” and thus provides stability to the whole political system, which is of particular importance in situations in which there is a lack of clearly defined political constellations, especially in the lower house. In such moments, the upper or second house can reveal itself and its potential strength and serviceability, evolving from a “spare” house into a house with real pouvoir.