The legislative branch of government promotes good governance by enhancing the rule
of law, accountability, participation, and transparency.
the three main functions of the legislative branch are to make laws, to oversee
the activities of the other two branches, particularly of the executive and of bureaucratic
agencies, and to engage in providing services to constituencies. The legislative
function of the parliament is integral to the rule of law. The oversight function
enhances accountability and transparency. Constituency work may further strengthen
accountabilityand transparency, as well as foster participation. in addition, most
legislatures in the arab world also exercise a consultative function in accordance
with the tradition of shura, which aims to bring the government closer to
the people. To the extent that they legislate as well as consult, they tend to develop
checks and balances with the executive.
The country studies discuss the functions and structure of the legislative body.
Parliaments may have a legislative or consultative function, or both; and they may
be assigned additional powers by the constitution. The number of chambers (bicameral
or unicameral), the number of members, and the process of selection (through direct
elections or appointment by the executive branch) are important clues about the
mandate of the institution and its accountability. Seating configurations
according to political party, national electoral thresholds, if any, percentages
of female and minority membership, and quotas may also reflect the quality of representation.
The country studies also note the frequency of legislative sessions, and conditions
under which special and extraordinary sessions can be called.
The process of drafting a law, from the proposal stage to its publication in the
country’s Official Gazette, is also explained in as much detail as space permits.
The committee system is the backbone of the legislative process. Accordingly, the
essays survey the types of committees (standing, temporary, special, and joint)
and their roles. The essays also describe the administrative structure of the parliament,
which may include a parliamentary board, a general secretariat, and an office of
the president or speaker. Wherever applicable, parliamentary by-laws or standing
orders and some of their specific provisions are explained.
The essays also explain procedures for parliamentary oversight, such as a vote of
confidence. The essays note indicators of parliamentary independence, such as whether
members enjoy freedom of expression and immunity from arrests, investigations, and
prosecutions during legislative sessions; whether the rules for dissolution of the
parliament call for new elections within a specified time period; and whether the
executive branch includes a ministry in charge of parliamentary affairs.
Finally, wherever applicable, the essays note institutional power-sharing arrangements.
In some countries, such as Iraq and Palestine, the legislature shares legislative
responsibility with parallel organizations like the Revolutionary Command Council
(RCC) and the Palestine National Council (PNC), respectively. In others, such as
Jordan and Oman, the legislature shares that responsibility with the head of the
state. In Libya, the legislature encompasses a hierarchical system of People’s Congresses
and People’s Committees.
Most of the Arab legislatures are members, as indicated in the country studies,
of the Inter-Parliamentary Union
(IPU) and/or the Arab Inter-Parliamentary