We explain what the Legislative Branch is, its origin and who makes it up. In addition, what are its general characteristics and example.

legislative powerlegislative power
The members of the legislative branch constitute an institution called parliament.

What is the legislative power?

The legislative branch or legislature is called one of the three public powers assigned to the State in modern Republics. It differs from the executive power (the political and administrative leadership of the country) and the judicial power (the execution and interpretation of laws).

The legislative branch normally resides in a legislative assembly, also called congress. In it are the deputies and senators elected by popular vote. Each of them fights for the approval and/or repeal of laws for the better functioning of the Republic.

The total number of members of the legislative branch constitute an institution of debates called parliament, congress or assembly. They act on behalf of the different political parties and tendencies that make up the people.

See also: Supreme Court of Justice

What is the origin of the legislative power?

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Roman assemblies fluctuated in their roles in the monarchy.

parliamentary assemblies They existed primitively in Classical Antiquity. Firstly they arose in Ancient Greece and later in the Roman Empire.

Roman assemblies fluctuated in their roles in the monarchy (naming emperors) and the republic (using the Roman Senate). However, a parliament as we understand it today did not exist until the Middle Ages.

At that moment, the absolutist monarchies that proliferated so much with the Christian era began to find resistance from the new pre-capitalist social classes. Among them, the bourgeoisie (i.e. merchants) pushed for regime change which led to the establishment of democratic republics.

With the new political system the people could elect their representatives to go to debate in a national assembly. The first of these, in fact, was carried out during the French Revolution of 1789. One of its decisions was to proclaim the universality of human rights for the first time.

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Who makes up the legislative branch?

The legislative power is made up of legislators: deputies or senators, also known as congressmen or parliamentarians. All of them are part of a plural body of debates called the Legislative Assembly (or Congress, Parliament, National Assembly, Senate, etc.).

These officials They are elected by free, universal and secret popular vote.. They can belong to different political parties, express different political tendencies and thus represent the diversity of the nation.

Attributions of the legislative power

legislative powerlegislative power
Legislative bodies administer the national budget.

The main functions of the legislative bodies are:

  • The formulation, discussion and approval of the laws that govern the nation.
  • Administration of the national budget and approval of any budget item requested by the other powers.
  • Delimit or supervise the operation of the other public powers, especially the executive, having to ratify in writing any convention, treaty or agreement signed.
  • In the event of a crisis or emergency, Congress may ratify, remove, or investigate any sitting political figure.

Types of Legislative Assembly

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The decisions of the upper house are more important than those of the lower house.

There are two main forms of Legislative Assembly: bicameral or unicameral.

  • The unicameral Legislative Assembly (one chamber only). It is typical of small and more or less homogeneous countries, in which the legislative power corresponds to a single assembly of deputies with voice and vote in all matters.
  • The bicameral Legislative Assembly (two chambers). It is divided into two separate legislative chambers: the lower house, or chamber of deputies, and an upper house, or senate. The decisions of the high have more scope than those of the low, and for a law to be approved, it generally must have the approval of both chambers.

There are also three-chamber or even four-chamber chambers, but they are not usually very frequent, since they imply a tripling or quadrupling of the time necessary to approve each project.

Differences between deputies and senators

In a bicameral legislative regime, deputies and senators are divided into two chambers. The difference between both cameras varies and depends on the specific government regimebut it usually involves two moments of debate.

  • Chamber of Deputies. It is usually the lower chamber of the National Congress, that is, the first to debate bills. Their terms are usually shorter and they are elected by the people in direct voting.
  • Senate. It is the chamber of senators, also called the upper house. Their terms are usually longer and they are elected by indirect vote. In federal republics, they usually correspond to the number of federated states or provinces.
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In some cases, the upper house has greater decision-making power.while in others it plays the role of legal adviser, giving the lower house a new opportunity to modify or reject bills.

What is parliamentarism?

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In Spain there is a Prime Minister elected by Parliament and a King.

Habitually it is denominated «parliamentary regime» to all political system that has an assembly in which laws are debated. However, we are talking about a very specific form of government when referring to parliamentary democracy or parliamentarism.

This is a system of government in which the executive branch is not directly elected by popular vote, but indirectly from the vote of parliamentarians. In other words, the legislative branch elects the executive branch.

Usually this dynamic occurs in countries where, in addition to the head of government (such as a prime minister) there is a head of state (King or President).

At the moment, heads of state have no decision-making power. However, when parliamentary monarchies began, it was the way to oppose a democratic executive power to the monarchical power. This occurs in countries like the United Kingdom and Spain.

Importance of the legislative power

The legislative power is key in a democratic republic, as it serves as an important counterbalance to the rest of the powers. This is because it debates and votes on laws independently of any position of the executive branch.

In addition, their decisions, both of new laws and of necessary modifications in existing laws, mark a path forward for the judiciary. In the field of Law, it can be the expression of the popular will, since it is democratically elected.

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Example: Argentina

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In Argentina, deputies are elected by the entire population.

In the Argentine Republic, Legislative power is exercised by the National Congress, made up of two chambers: that of Deputies and that of Senators. All its members elected by universal, secret and direct suffrage.

Deputies are elected by the entire population, through their political parties, their social organizations, etc. Senators are elected in each province to represent it in the National Congress. This is because it is a federal regime.

Each chamber deals separately with:

  • deputies:
    • Receive bills presented by popular initiative.
    • Start the popular consultation process for a bill.
    • Initiate laws on contributions and recruitment of troops.
    • Publicly question before the Senate any figure of the executive power of the nation.
  • senators:
    • Politically judge those accused by the Chamber of Deputies.
    • Authorize the declaration of a state of siege by the President.
    • Regulate the legal matters of Tax Collection Agreement Law.
    • Approve the laws issued in the Chamber of Deputies.
    • Appoint magistrates, ambassadors, business managers and other officials together with the executive.

What is the judiciary?

The judiciary is the public power in charge of exercising justice. Interpret and apply laws in all possible national fields: criminal, civil, constitutional, procedural, etc.

It is the state arm legal decision maker and therefore capable of exercising punishment, requesting public order forces to capture and detain any citizen found guilty of a crime. It also fulfills other functions that have to do with the nation’s legal framework.

What is the executive branch?

The executive branch is the “head” of the State, that is, the power in charge of leading the Republic and to make strategic decisions, like the captain of a ship. It is made up of the figures of the president, vice president, ambassadors and the ministerial train, that is, those who deal with the work of external relations, maintenance and strategic planning of state resources.


  • “Legislative branch” on Wikipedia.
  • “Legislative Assembly” on Wikipedia.
  • “The legislative power” in Congress of the Argentine Nation.
  • “Legislature” in The Encyclopaedia Britannica.
  • “Limitations of the legislative power”in Political Database of the Americas.
  • “Legislative Power” in Digital Public School.
  • “The legislative power” in Eumed.net.

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