Elements of Government: the Legislature


posted on: July 1st, 2019


The Legislature is one of three branches of government. The other two are the Executive and the Judiciary or the courts.
The Legislature can be a parliament, congress or national assembly. The Legislature will often be made up of two levels: an upper house and a lower house. Proposed laws must be voted upon and passed in both houses before they become law. South Africa has a lower house – National Assembly – and an upper house – National Council of Provinces.
Some other countries’ legislatures only have one house responsible for passing laws. This is the case in Chad, which only has a National Assembly.


The Legislature is responsible for approving or rejecting laws proposed by the Executive. It can usually change proposed laws before passing them.
In some countries the Legislature has the power to change the people in the Executive, by declaring that it has no support in it, such as in Ethiopia.
This is not always the case. In some cases, the Executive does not need the support of the Legislature and can continue to govern without it. In countries like this (Guinea, for example) the Legislature is not as powerful as in countries where they can remove the Executive members.


The members of a Legislature are usually elected every few years. For instance, Ghana elects both its Parliament and President every four years.
However, sometimes members of the upper house are not directly chosen by the people. For example, the members of South Africa’s National Council of Provinces are chosen by each individual province’s legislature.


The power of the Legislature depends on whether the Executive needs its support in order to run the government. It is responsible for passing and changing laws proposed by the Executive. There are often two levels of the Legislature (the upper and lower house) and both are often necessary to pass laws. They are often both elected by the people but sometimes the upper house can be appointed or may be elected by a smaller group of people. Regardless of the method of election, around half of the countries in Africa have a Legislature made up of two houses with the others only having one.

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