Assemblies (sometimes called ‘parliaments’ or ‘legislatures’) occupy a key position in the machinery of government. traditionally, they have been treated with special respect and status as the public, even democratic, face of government. In written constitutions, for instance, they are usually accorded pride of place, being described before executives and judiciaries. Assemblies are respected because they are composed of lay politicians who claim to represent the people, rather than trained or expert government offi cials. moreover, they act as national debating chambers, public forums in which government policies and the major issues of the day can be openly discussed and analysed. In most cases, they are also invested with formal law-making power, giving them some capacity to shape, or at least infl uence, public policy. Not all assemblies are alike, however. their role and signifi cance is crucially aff ected by wider constitutional and institutional factors – especially whether they operate within a parliamentary, presidential or semi-presidential system – as well as by their internal structures, including whether they comprise two legislative chambers or one.
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