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Parliament Houses

India New Lower House Chamber

Sparked by the recent inauguration of India’s brand-new parliament building and having visited a number of parliamentary buildings in several countries, I was curious to see what this new parliament building looked like.

And then I decided to do a compilation and comparison—mostly sourced from information and images from Wikipedia—of various significant old and newer houses of parliament buildings, with an overarching look at the different types of political systems and models these buildings serve in those countries.

Among the many examples of noteworthy parliamentary architecture would be: 
  • Australian Parliament House in Canberra; modernist design by Italian-born architect Romaldo Giurgula (of Mitchell Giurgula Thorp Architects), completed in 1988 
  • Reichstag (German Bundestag) in Berlin; original design by Paul Wallot, subsequent renovations by British architect Norman Foster, completed in 1999 
  • National Assembly of Bangladesh in Dhaka; modernist design by American architect Louis Khan, completed in 1983, nine years after Khan’s death 
  • National Assembly of Kuwait in Kuwait City; modernist design by Danish architect Jorn Utzøn, completed in 1982 
  • National Congress of Brazil in Brasilia; modernist design by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, completed in 1960 
  • Parliament of Malta in Valetta; designed by Renzo Piano, completed in 2015 
  • Hungarian Parliament Building in Budapest; designs in Gothic Revival, Baroque & Renaissance styles by Imre Stendi, completed in 1904 
  • Palace of Westminster in London; designs in Perpendicular Gothic style by Charles Barry and Augustine Pugin, completed in 1016 and later 
  • United Nations Headquarters in New York City; design by a board of designers mediated by Harrison & Abramowitz, with separate projects in Modernist style developed by Le Corbusier and Oscar Niemeyer, completed in 1952


  • Population of India: 1,408 billion
  • No. of members of upper house (Rajya Sabha – Council of States): 245                             
  • No. of members of lower house (Lok Sabha – Council of States): 543
India Parliamentary logo

India's parliamentary system

The Parliament of India is the supreme legislative body of the Republic of India. It is a bicameral legislature composed of the Lok Sabha (House of the People) and the Rajya Sabha (Council of States). The President of India, as head of the legislature, has full powers to summon and prorogue either house of Parliament or to dissolve the Lok Sabha. The president can exercise these powers only upon the advice of the Prime Minister and their Union Council of Ministers.

Those elected or nominated (by the president) to either house of Parliament are referred to as members of Parliament (MPs). The members of parliament of the Lok Sabha are directly elected by the Indian public voting in single-member districts and the members of parliament of the Rajya Sabha are elected by the members of all state legislative assemblies by proportional representation. The Parliament has a sanctioned strength of 543 in the Lok Sabha and 245 in the Rajya Sabha including 12 nominees from the expertise of different fields of literature, art, science, and social service.

The Parliament of India represents the largest democratic electorate in the world (the second is the European Parliament), with an electorate of 912 million eligible voters in 2019.

Parliamentary building & chambers

The New Indian Parliament Building was unveiled and inaugurated on 28 May 2023 by the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi. It is located in New Delhi and sits directly beside and replaces the old one, known as Sansad Bhavan, which has a distinctive circular form and is expected be turned into a museum.

The new Parliament building was touted to don an extremely distinct look from the previous one as it has been laid out in a triangular shape. Speaking about the decision to design the building in this shape, the architect of the new Parliament, Bimal Patel told PTI, “The new Parliament building is designed in a triangular shape since it sits on a triangular plot and has three main spaces — the Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha and a Central Lounge.”

New enlarged Rajya Sabha & Sabha chambers

The new building has a built-up area of approximately 65,000 m2 and a distinctive triangular shape. It houses an expanded Lok Sabha hall, accommodating up to 888 seats, and a larger Rajya Sabha hall, accommodating up to 384 seats, with the Lok Sabha capable of accommodating up to 1,272 seats for joint sessions of Parliament. The Lok Sabha hall draws inspiration from India’s national bird, incorporating a peacock theme, while the Rajya Sabha hall is designed with a lotus theme, reflecting India’s national flower. Additionally, a state-of-the-art Constitutional Hall symbolically and physically places Indian citizens at the heart of democracy.

Old Parliament Building

Old Indian Parliament Building, also known as the Sansad Bhavan, is located beside the new building in Raisina hill, New Delhi. It was designed in 1912-13 by well-known British architects Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker using Indo-Saracenic architecture.  It’s overall form is a distinctive large circular doughut shaped building with a facade characterised by 114 peristyle columns and a huge inner courtyard which houses the various chambers. 

The circular shape of the old Parliament building is said to have been inspired by the Chausath Yogini temple in Morena of Madhya Pradesh, although there is no historical proof of this. 

The Old Parliament Building is expected to be turned into Museum for Indian Democracy.

Visiting the Sansad Bhavan

The Indian Parliament Building is not open to the public for walk-in tours. However, permits are available for organised visits when the house is not in session. One could try signing up for a tour with one of the tour operators for this.

United States of America

  • Population of USA: 331.9 million
  • No. of members of upper house (Senate): 50                             
  • No. of members of lower house (House of Representatives): 435
US Congress logos

USA's parliamentary system

The United States Congress is the legislative arm of the federal government of the United States of America. It is bicameral, composed of a lower body, the House of Representatives, and an upper body, the Senate. It meets in the U.S. Capitol located in Washington, D.C. Senators and representatives are chosen through direct election, though vacancies in the Senate may be filled by a governor’s appointment. Congress has 535 voting members, comprising 100 senators and 435 representatives. The U.S. vice president has a vote in the Senate only when senators are evenly divided. The House of Representatives has six non-voting members.

Parliamentary building & chambers

The seat of the United States Congress, the Capitol Building, is an example of 19th century neo-classical architecture, with domes and porticos inspired by ancient Greek and Roman styles of construction. The enormous structure, which sits atop the Capitol Hill, is about 1.5 million ft 2in size and houses 600 rooms. Constructed in 1793, under the leadership of President George Washington the structure houses the Hall of Commons, the Brumidi Corridors, the old Supreme Court chamber, the Crypt, The Senate and the chamber of the house of representative, among other offices.

Visiting the US Capitol in Washington DC

Free public tours are conducted daily (Monday-Saturday) and advanced bookings are recommended. More details available via their website:

We visited Washington DC in 2009 and were sure not to miss the opportunity for a public tour of the United States Capitol. As can be expected, security at the building was tight. We started our public tour at the visitor’s centre in the basement with an impressive, slick and highly emotive albeit cringey video presentation singing the praises of the country well known for being the “land of the free”, proud of upholding democratic and human rights ideals (despite a chequered history blatantly demonstrating the contrary).

The tour then took us through parts of the building open to the public, including the Crypt (which houses exhibits on the history of the Capitol), the National Statuary Hall (which houses statues donated by states to honour persons notable in their history) and the Capitol Rotunda (a large space located under the dome). Senate and House galleries were not part of the tour.

Little did we expect the hallowed halls of this building would subsequently be desecrated some 11 years later by an embarrassing and violent attack known as the “insurrection” by barbaric mob of Trump supporters protesting their leader’s legitimate loss of a presidential election!


  • Population of Canada: 38.25 million
  • No. of members of upper house (Senate): 105                             
  • No. of members of lower house (House of Representatives): 338
Canada parliamentary logo

Canada's parliamentary system

The Parliament of Canada is the federal legislature of Canada, seated at Parliament Hill in Ottawa, and is composed of three parts: the King, the Senate, and the House of Commons. By constitutional convention, the House of Commons is dominant, with the Senate rarely opposing its will. The Senate reviews legislation from a less partisan standpoint and may initiate certain bills. The monarch or his representative, normally the governor general, provides royal assent to make bills into law.

The governor general, on behalf of the monarch, summons and appoints the 105 senators on the advice of the prime minister, while each of the 338 members of the House of Commons – called members of Parliament (MPs) – represents an electoral district, commonly referred to as a riding, and are elected by Canadian voters residing in the riding. The governor general also summons and calls together the House of Commons, and may prorogue or dissolve Parliament, in order to either end a parliamentary session or call a general election.


The upper house, the Senate, is a group of 105 individuals appointed by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister; all those appointed must, per the constitution, be a minimum of 30 years old, be a subject of the monarch, and own property with a net worth of at least $4,000, in addition to owning land worth no less than $4,000 within the province the candidate seeks to represent. Senators served for life until 1965, when a constitutional amendment imposed a mandatory retirement age of 75. Senators may, however, resign their seats prior to that mark, and can lose their position should they fail to attend two consecutive sessions of Parliament.

House of Commons

The elected component of the Canadian Parliament is the House of Commons, with each member chosen by a plurality of voters in each of the country’s federal electoral districts, or ridings. To run for one of the 338 seats in the lower house, an individual must be at least 18 years old. Each member holds office until Parliament is dissolved, after which they may seek re-election. The ridings are regularly reorganized according to the results of each decennial national census; however, the “senatorial clause” of the Constitution Act, 1867 guarantees each province at least as many MPs as it has senators, and the “grandfather clause” permits each province as many MPs as it had in either 1976 or 1985. The existence of this legislation has pushed the size of the House of Commons above the required minimum of 282 seats.

Parliamentary building & chambers

Parliament Hill, colloquially known as The Hill, is an area on the southern banks of the Ottawa River in downtown Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Its Gothic revival suite of buildings, and their architectural elements of national symbolic importance, is the home of the Parliament of Canada.

Originally the site of a military base in the 18th and early 19th centuries, development of the area into a governmental precinct began in 1859, after Queen Victoria chose Ottawa as the capital of the Province of Canada. Following several extensions to the parliament and departmental buildings and a fire in 1916 that destroyed the Centre Block, Parliament Hill took on its present form with the completion of the Peace Tower in 1927. Since 2002, an extensive $3 billion renovation and rehabilitation project has been underway throughout all the precinct’s buildings; work is expected to be completed after 2028.

Three buildings on Parliament Hill, Ottawa

The Parliament Buildings are three edifices arranged around three sides of Parliament Hill’s central lawn, the use and administration of the spaces within each building overseen by the speakers of each chamber of the legislature. The Centre Block has the Senate and Commons chambers and is fronted by the Peace Tower on the south facade, with the Library of Parliament at the building’s rear. The East Block contains ministers’ and senators’ offices, as well as meeting rooms and other administrative spaces.

The West Block currently serves as the temporary seat of the House of Commons. Renovations began in 2011 and were completed in 2018, restoring and modernizing the building which was originally designed in 1859 by architects Thomas Stent and Augustus Laver in a High Victorian version of the Gothic Revival style. The Interim House of Commons Chamber is in a soaring, glass-roofed structure, built into the central courtyard at the heart of the building.

The East Block (officially the Eastern Departmental Building) is one of the three buildings on Parliament Hill. It contains offices for parliamentarians, as well as some preserved pre-Confederation spaces.

Library of Parliament

This is the main information repository and research resource for the Parliament of Canada. The main branch of the library sits at the rear of the Centre Block on Parliament Hill. The library survived the 1916 fire that destroyed Centre Block. The library has been augmented and renovated several times since its construction in 1876, the last between 2002 and 2006, though the form and decor remain essentially authentic. The building today serves as a Canadian icon, and appears on the obverse of the Canadian ten-dollar bill.

Senate of Canada Building

This is a government building and former railway station that serves as the temporary seat of the Senate of Canada. It was formerly known as Ottawa Union Station and served as the city’s central railway station from 1912 until 1966. From 1966 to 2018, it was operated by the Government of Canada as the Government Conference Centre. The building currently includes a temporary Senate chamber, as well as some Senate offices and committee rooms.

Visiting the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa

Free guided public tours are available to the different component buildings of the Canadian Parliament and can be booked via their website:

United Kingdom

  • Population of the United Kingdom: 67.33 million
  • No. of members of upper house (House of Lords): 778                             
  • No. of members of lower house (House of Representatives): 650
UK Parliament logo

UK's parliamentary system

The United Kingdom is classified as a constitutional monarchy in which the reigning monarch (either a king or queen who is the head of state) does not make any open political decisions. All political decisions are taken by the government and Parliament.

The UK Parliament is the supreme legislative body which possesses legislative supremacy and thereby power over all other political bodies in the UK and its overseas territories. It is bicameral but has three parts, consisting of the sovereign (King-in-Parliament), the House of Lords, and the House of Commons (the primary chamber). In theory, power is officially vested in the King-in-Parliament. However, the Crown normally acts on the advice of the prime minister, and the powers of the House of Lords are limited to only delaying legislation; thus power is de facto vested in the House of Commons.

House of Commons

This is the elected lower chamber of Parliament, with elections to 650 single-member constituencies held at least every five years under the first-past-the-post system. By constitutional convention, all government ministers, including the prime minister, are members of the House of Commons, or less commonly the House of Lords, and are thereby accountable to the respective branches of the legislature. Most cabinet ministers are from the Commons, while junior ministers can be from either house.

Peerage and the House of Lords

The peerages in the United Kingdom are a legal system comprising both hereditary and lifetime titles, composed of various noble ranks, and forming a constituent part of the British honours system. The term peerage can be used both collectively to refer to the entire body of nobles (or a subdivision thereof), and individually to refer to a specific title. British peerage title holders are termed peers of the Realm. There a total of 778 members of the House of Lords, of which only 99 Lords are currently hereditary where they may pass on their title to their heir upon death while the rest are “life peers”.

The recent controversy in which peers were unhappy at not being invited to the recent coronation of their new monarch exposes the contradiction that such an archaic and classist way of representation and decision-making in Parliament should still continue to exist in a country claiming to be a modern democracy! Of the life peers, 25 of these are Senior Church of England bishops. What a bizarre anachronism this is, which Sandy Toksvig recently initiated a campaign to reconsider, given that the majority of the country’s constituents are not practising members of the Church of England. And the current Prime Minister should be a Hindu and the Mayor of London should be Muslim!

Scotland and Wales

Another strange and awkward arrangement in the UK given its history is that Scotland and Wales, which both form member states within the United Kingdom, should have their own “devolved” parliaments, while England should not have its own English Parliament, which is subsumed by the UK Parliament.

The Scottish Parliament is the devolved, unicameral legislature of Scotland. Located in the Holyrood area of the capital city, Edinburgh, it is frequently referred to by the metonym Holyrood. The Parliament is a democratically elected body comprising 129 members known as Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs), elected for five-year terms under the additional member system: 73 MSPs represent individual geographical constituencies elected by the plurality (first-past-the-post) system, while a further 56 are returned as list members from eight additional member regions. Each region elects seven party-list MSPs. Each region elects 15 to 17 MSPs in total.

Parliament of Scotland

Originally this was the national legislature of the independent Kingdom of Scotland and existed from the early 13th century until the Kingdom of Scotland merged with the Kingdom of England under the Acts of Union 1707 to form the Kingdom of Great Britain. As a consequence, the Parliament of Scotland ceased to exist, while the Parliament of England, which sat at Westminster, was subsumed into the Parliament of Great Britain. In practice, all of the traditions, procedures, and standing orders of the English parliament were retained, with the addition of Scottish members in both the Commons and Lords.

Following a referendum in 1997, in which the Scottish electorate voted for devolution, the powers of the devolved legislature were specified by the Scotland Act 1998. The Act delineates the legislative competence of the Parliament – the areas in which it can make laws – by explicitly specifying powers that are “reserved” to the Parliament of the United Kingdom. The Scottish Parliament has the power to legislate in all areas that are not explicitly reserved to Westminster.

Senedd Cymru in Wales

The Senedd (‘parliament’ or ‘senate’), officially known as the Welsh Parliament in English and Senedd Cymru in Welsh is the devolved, unicameral legislature of Wales. A democratically elected body, it makes laws for Wales, agrees to certain taxes, and scrutinises the Welsh Government. It is a bilingual institution, with both Welsh and English being the official languages of its business. From its creation in May 1999 until May 2020, the Senedd was known as the National Assembly for Wales.

Parliamentary building & chambers

The UK Parliament operates at the Palace of Westminster, London.  This complex of buildings serves as the meeting place for both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, the two houses of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Informally known as the Houses of Parliament, the Palace lies on the north bank of the River Thames in the City of Westminster, in central London, England.

Its name, which derives from the neighbouring Westminster Abbey, may refer to several historic structures but most often: the Old Palace, a medieval building-complex largely destroyed by fire in 1834, or its replacement, the New Palace that stands today. The palace is owned by the Crown. Committees appointed by both houses manage the building and report to the Speaker of the House of Commons and to the Lord Speaker.

History of Westminster site

The UK Parliament operates at the Palace of Westminster, London.  This complex of buildings serves as the meeting place for both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, the two houses of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Informally known as the Houses of Parliament, the Palace lies on the north bank of the River Thames in the City of Westminster, in central London, England.

Its name, which derives from the neighbouring Westminster Abbey, may refer to several historic structures but most often: the Old Palace, a medieval building-complex largely destroyed by fire in 1834, or its replacement, the New Palace that stands today. The palace is owned by the Crown. Committees appointed by both houses manage the building and report to the Speaker of the House of Commons and to the Lord Speaker.

Chamber of the House of Lords

This is located in the southern part of the Palace of Westminster. The lavishly decorated room measures 13.7 by 24.4 metres. The benches in the Chamber, as well as other furnishings in the Lords’ side of the Palace, are coloured red. The upper part of the Chamber is decorated by stained glass windows and by six allegorical frescoes representing religion, chivalry and law.

The chamber of the House of Commons is at the northern end of the Palace of Westminster; it was opened in 1950 after the Victorian chamber had been destroyed in 1941 and re-built under the architect Giles Gilbert Scott. The chamber measures 14 by 20.7 metres and is plainer in style than the Lords Chamber; the benches, as well as other furnishings in the Commons side of the Palace, are coloured green. Members of the public are forbidden to sit on the benches. Other parliaments in Commonwealth nations, including those of India, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, have copied the colour scheme under which the Lower House is associated with green, and the Upper House with red.

Refurbishment starting in 2025

In January 2018, the House of Commons voted for both houses to vacate the Palace of Westminster to allow for a complete refurbishment of the building which may take up to six years starting in 2025. It is expected that the House of Commons will be temporarily housed in a replica chamber to be located in Richmond House in Whitehall and the House of Lords will be housed at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in Parliament Square. Anyone observing an event in either chamber where legitimate members of either house don’t have enough room to sit, jammed together, much like the refugees they vilify, would agree that it is high time the building got upgraded to reflect a basic functionality of accommodating all its members!

Scottish Parliament

Since September 2004, the official home of the Scottish Parliament has been a new Scottish Parliament Building, in the Holyrood area of Edinburgh. The Scottish Parliament building was designed by Spanish architect Enric Miralles in partnership with local Edinburgh Architecture firm RMJM which was led by Design Principal Tony Kettle. Some of the principal features of the complex include leaf-shaped buildings, a grass-roofed branch merging into adjacent parkland and gabion walls formed from the stones of previous buildings.

The debating chamber of the Scottish Parliament has seating arranged in a hemicycle, a design which is common across European legislatures, intended to encourage consensus and compromise. There are 131 seats in the debating chamber. Of the total 131 seats, 129 are occupied by the Parliament’s elected MSPs and two are seats for the Scottish Law Officers—the Lord Advocate and the Solicitor General for Scotland, who are not elected members of the Parliament but are members of the Scottish Government. As such, the Law Officers may attend and speak in the plenary meetings of the Parliament but, as they are not elected MSPs, cannot vote.

Welsh Parliament

The Senedd building is in the former Cardiff Docks, about 3 kilometres south of Cardiff Castle. The building faces southwest over Cardiff Bay, it has a glass façade around the entire building and is dominated by a steel roof and wood ceiling. It has three floors; the first and second floors are accessible to the public and the ground floor is a private area for officials.

The building was designed to be as open and accessible as possible, the architects, the Richard Rogers Partnership (RRP) said “The building was not to be an insular, closed edifice. Rather it would be a transparent envelope, looking outwards to Cardiff Bay and beyond, making visible the inner workings of the Assembly and encouraging public participation in the democratic process.”

The main area in the building is the debating chamber, called the Siambr, including a public viewing gallery. Other areas of the building are the Neuadd, which is the main reception area on the first floor and the Oriel on the second floor. The three committee rooms and the Cwrt are on the ground floor.

Visiting the UK Parliament in London

Various tours of Westminster are available for the public which you can book via their website, including virtual tours and special tours to specific parts of the complex:


  • Population of the Germany: 84.43 million
  • No. of members of the Bundestag: 736                             
German Parliamentary logo

Germany's parliamentary system

The Bundestag (Federal Diet) is the German federal parliament. It is the only federal representative body that is directly elected by the German people, comparable to the United States House of Representatives or the House of Commons of the United Kingdom. The Bundestag was established by Title III of the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany in 1949 as one of the legislative bodies of Germany and thus it is the historical successor to the earlier Reichstag.

The Upper house known as Bundesrag is related to the federal system of government but is not exactly a true second chamber and does not function like an upper house in other countries. The lower house, known as the Bundestag functions as the main legislative body.

The members of the Bundestag are representatives of the German people as a whole, are not bound by any orders or instructions and are only accountable to their electorate. The minimum legal number of members of the Bundestag is 598; however, due to the system of overhang and leveling seats the current 20th Bundestag has a total of 736 members, making it the largest Bundestag to date and the largest freely elected national parliamentary chamber in the world.

The Bundestag is elected every four years by German citizens aged 18 or over. Elections use a mixed-member proportional representation system which combines first-past-the-postelected seats with a proportional party list to ensure its composition mirrors the national popular vote. An early election is only possible in the cases outlined in Articles 63 and 68 of the Grundgesetz.

Parliamentary building & chambers

Since April 1999, the German parliament has again assembled in Berlin in its original Reichstag building, which was built in 1888 based on the plans of German architect Paul Wallot and underwent a significant renovation under the lead of British architect Lord Norman Foster. Parliamentary committees and subcommittees, public hearings and parliamentary group meetings take place in three auxiliary buildings, which surround the Reichstag building: the Jakob-Kaiser-Haus, Paul-Löbe-Haus and Marie-Elisabeth-Lüders-Haus.

The Neo-Renaissance building was built between 1884 and 1894 in the Tiergarten district on the left bank of the River Spree to plans by the architect Paul Wallot. It housed both the Reichstag of the German Empire and the Reichstag of the Weimar Republic.

Reichstag dome

The Reichstag dome is a large glass dome with a 360° view of the surrounding Berlin cityscape. The main plenary hall (debating chamber) is visible directly below. A mirrored cone in the center of the dome directs sunlight into the building, and so that visitors can see the working of the chamber. The dome is open to the public and can be reached by climbing two steel spiralling ramps reminiscent of a double helix.

The glass dome was also designed by Foster to be environmentally friendly and energy efficient; in allowing daylight to shine through the mirrored cone, the use of artificial lighting is significantly reduced, and thus so are carbon emissions. A large sun shield tracks the movement of the sun electronically and blocks direct sunlight which, would not only cause large solar gain, but also dazzle those below. The futuristic and transparent design of the Reichstag dome is intended to symbolize Berlin’s attempt to move away from a past of Nazism and instead towards a future with a heavier emphasis on a united, democratic Germany. Specifically, it symbolizes that the people are above the government, as was not the case during Nazism.

Visiting the Reichstag Building in Berlin

Public guided tours are conducted daily and recommended to be registered in advanced via their website:

We visited the Reichstag on our trip to Berlin in 2017, making sure we registered for a tour well in advanced. The guided tour was highly informative and took us around the corridors, into the party rooms, ending in the plenary hall where the guide explained how sessions would function. We were then allowed to head up to the dome on our own where the public could make their way up the ramp in the glass dome and look down into the plenary hall below before exiting the building at our own time.


  • Population of the Australia: 25.69 million
  • No. of members of upper house (Senate): 76                             
  • No. of members of lower house (House of Representatives): 151
Australian Parliamentary coat of arms

Australia's parliamentary system

The Parliament of Australia (officially the Federal Parliament, also called the Commonwealth Parliament), is the legislative branch of the government of Australia. It is bicameral and consists of three elements: the monarch (represented by the governor-general), the Senate and the House of Representatives.

The upper house, the Senate, consists of 76 members: twelve for each state, and two each for the territories, Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory. Senators are elected using the single transferable vote proportional representation system and as a result, the chamber features a multitude of parties vying for power.

The lower house, the House of Representatives, currently consists of 151 members, each elected using full-preference instant-runoff voting from single-member constituencies known as electoral divisions (and commonly referred to as “electorates” or “seats”). This tends to lead to the chamber being dominated by two major political groups, the centre-right Coalition (consisting of the Liberal and National Parties) and the centre-left Labor Party.

Each of the six states (i.e. New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania) and two territories (i.e. Northern Territories and Australian Capitol Territory) that make up the Commonwealth of Australia has its own parliament.

Parliamentary building & chambers

The two Houses meet in separate chambers of Parliament House located on Capital Hill in Canberra, Australian Capital Territory.

New Parliament House

The New Parliament House was officially opened in 1988 and was the result of a design competition won by the Philadelphia-based architectural firm of Mitchell/Giurgola, with the on-site work directed by the Italian-born architect Romaldo Giurgola. The design involved burying most of the building under Capital Hill, and capping the edifice with an enormous spire topped by a large Australian flag. The façades, however, included deliberate imitation of some of the patterns of the Old Parliament House, so that there is a slight resemblance despite the massive difference of scale. The building was also designed to “sit above” Old Parliament House when seen from a distance along the ceremonial axis.

Old Parliament House

The Old Parliament House was designed by John Smith Murdoch, the Commonwealth’s Chief Architect and construction completed in 1927. The old building now serves as a venue for temporary exhibitions, lectures and concerts. It is known as Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House.

Visiting the Australian Parliament in Canberra

Various types of tours are available for the public, for a fee, and these look at different aspects of the Australian Parliament Building. Advanced bookings for these tours are recommended and more details are available via their website:

New Zealand

  • Population of the New Zealand: 5.12 million
  • No. of members of House of Representatives: 120                             
NZ Parliamentary logo

New Zealand's parliamentary system

New Zealand Parliament is the unicameral legislature of New Zealand, consisting of the King of New Zealand (King-in-Parliament) and the New Zealand House of Representatives. The King is usually represented by his governor-general. New Zealand decided in 1951 to remove its Upper chamber, known as the  New Zealand Legislative Council, altogether.

The House of Representatives normally consists of 120 members of Parliament (MPs), though sometimes more due to overhang seats. There are 72 MPs elected directly in electorates while the remainder of seats are assigned to list MPs based on each party’s share of the total party vote.

Māori (the indigenous Polynesian people of mainland New Zealand (Aotearoa) were represented in Parliament from 1867, and in 1893 women gained the vote. Although elections can be called early, each three years Parliament is dissolved and goes up for reelection.

Parliament is supreme over all other government institutions. The legislature is closely linked to the executive. The New Zealand Government comprises a prime minister (head of government) and other ministers. In accordance with the principle of responsible government, these individuals are always drawn from the House of Representatives and are held accountable to it.

Neither the monarch (currently King Charles III) nor his governor-general participates in the legislative process, save for signifying the King’s approval to a bill passed by the House, known as the granting of the Royal Assent, which is necessary for a bill to be enacted as law. The governor-general formally summons and dissolves Parliament—the latter in order to call a general election.

Parliamentary building & chambers

Parliament House (Te Whare Paremata), in Lambton Quay, Wellington, is the main building of the New Zealand Parliament Buildings. It contains the Parliament’s debating chamber, speaker’s office, visitors’ centre, and committee rooms. It was built between 1914 and 1922, replacing an earlier building that burned down in 1907.

Parliament started using the yet to be completed building from 1918. Parliament House was extensively earthquake strengthened and refurbished between 1991 and 1995. It is open for visitors almost every day of the year, and is one of Wellington’s major visitor attractions.

Parliament House was designed in an Edwardian neoclassical style. It was deliberately designed to display New Zealand materials; the building is faced with Tākaka marble, with a base course of Coromandel granite. Major architectural features of the building exterior include a colonnade lining the front and a long set of steps leading to the main entrance.

Renovations and additions to Parliament House

During the 1980s, there were discussions about earthquake risk, and the exterior of Parliament House had started to look shabby. There was even discussion about demolishing it. In 1989, the New Zealand Historic Places Trust (now known as Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga) assigned the highest heritage rating to the building – Category I. This helped convince the decision makers to have the building strengthened and renovated, and what was up to then New Zealand’s largest heritage building conservation project began. In 1991, members moved across to Bowen House, where a temporary debating chamber had been built. Base isolation was installed, and at its peak, 400 workers were on site plus an additional 300 people were working offsite on the project. The renovated building was officially opened in November 1995 by Elizabeth II, Queen of New Zealand, after its comprehensive strengthening and refurbishment. The parliamentarians had their first session in the renovated building in February 1996.

The Beehive

The Beehive (Te Whare Mīere) is the common name for the Executive Wing of New Zealand Parliament Buildings, located at the corner of Molesworth Street and Lambton Quay, Wellington. It is so-called because its shape is reminiscent of that of a traditional woven form of beehive known as a skep. It is registered as a Category I heritage building by Heritage New Zealand.

Construction began in 1969 and was completed in 1981. Since 1979, the building has housed the offices of government ministers. Thus, the name “Beehive” is closely linked with the New Zealand Government. It is often used as a metonym for the New Zealand leadership at large, with “the 9th floor” specifically referring to the office of the prime minister, which is based on that floor. Cabinet meets on the top floor.

Visiting the New Zealand Parliament in Wellington

The public is welcome to visit the NZ Parliament, either as an individual, in group guided tours or as part of the public gallery when there is a parliamentary sitting. More info on facilitating a visit is available on their website:


  • Population of the Singapore: 5.64 million
  • No. of members of House of Representatives: 93                             
Singapore Parliamentary coat of arms

Singapore's parliamentary system

The Parliament of Singapore is the unicameral legislature of the Republic of Singapore, which governs the country alongside the elected president of Singapore. Largely based upon the Westminster system, the Parliament is made up of Members of Parliament (MPs) who are elected, as well as Non-constituency Members of Parliament (NCMPs) and Nominated Members of Parliament (NMPs) who are appointed.

Following the last 2020 general election, 93 (currently 87) MPs and two NCMPs from three political parties were elected to the 14th Parliament. Throughout the sitting of Parliament, nine NMPs are usually appointed by the president on a biennial basis.

At present, the effect of the Constitution of Singapore and other legislation is that there can be a maximum of 105 MPs. Ninety-three are elected by the people while up to 12 Non-constituency Members of Parliament (NCMPs) and up to nine Nominated Members of Parliament (NMPs) may be appointed. After the 2020 general election, 93 MPs were elected and two NCMPs were appointed (or, in the terms of the Parliamentary Elections Act, declared elected) to Parliament.

MPs can hold other employment in private sector

Unlike many legislatures in the world, any legislator who is a Member of Parliament in Singapore (representing either the party in Government or in Opposition) and does not possess a portfolio within the executive Cabinet, is free to hold a full-time occupation in the private sector as well as holding executive, advisory and directorship positions within private-sector companies and non-government organisations. In Singapore, Non-Cabinet MPs are commonly employed in the private sector or even may run their own private business as an entrepreneur.

Single Member & Group Representation Constituencies

As of the 2020 general election, for the purpose of parliamentary elections, Singapore was divided into 31 electoral divisions (also known as constituencies). The names and boundaries of the divisions are specified by the Prime Minister by notification in the Government Gazette. Fourteen of these divisions are Single Member Constituencies (SMCs) and 17 are Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs).

In a move that recognised and reinforces racial politics (and effectively entrenches institutional racism in the country) GRCs were introduced in 1991 for the purpose of ensuring representation of the Malay, Indian and other minority communities in Parliament. In a GRC, all the candidates must either be members of the same political party or independent candidates standing as a group, and at least one of the candidates must be a person belonging to the Malay, Indian or some other minority community.

The president, at Cabinet’s direction, declares the electoral divisions that are to be GRCs; the number of candidates (not less than three but not more than six) to stand for Parliament in each GRC; and whether the minority candidates in each GRC are to be from the Malay, Indian, or other minority communities. At all times there must be at least eight divisions that are not GRCs, and the number of Members of Parliament (MPs) to be returned by all GRCs cannot be less than a quarter of the total number of MPs to be returned at a general election.

Each electoral division returns one MP, or if it is a GRC the number of MPs designated for the constituency by the president, to serve in Parliament. A GRC can have a minimum of three and a maximum of six MPs. In other words, a successful voter’s single vote in an SMC sends to Parliament one MP, and in a GRC sends a slate of between three and six MPs depending on how many have been designated for that GRC. At present, SMCs return to Parliament 14 MPs and GRCs 79 MPs. All elected MPs are selected on a simple plurality voting (“first past the post”) basis. A person is not permitted to be an MP for more than one constituency at the same time.

Parliamentary building & chambers

The New Parliament House is located beside the old one and was completed in 1999. It was designed by the Public Works Department, and comprises three new blocks (Chamber Block, Front Block and Public Block) integrated with an existing restored building built in 1864 and which once housed the Attorney-General’s Chambers. The building was built not only as a venue for parliamentary debates, but also a research centre and meeting place for the members of parliament (MPs), as well as a place of interest for students and the general public.

Due to its setting in the richly historical area, the building’s overall design harks back to its more historical neighbours with its slate grey external colour scheme and liberal use of accentuated columns reflective of the colonnade design common in classical architecture.

The new parliamentary chamber has 100 seats and room for 20 more. Generous space is devoted to the Strangers’ Gallery and the Press Gallery, allowing for more members of the public to observe proceedings.

Old Parliament House – now The Arts House

Built in 1827, the Old Parliament House is the oldest government building and perhaps the oldest surviving building in Singapore. The building was home to the Parliament of Singapore from 1965 to 1999, when it subsequently moved to its new home on the adjacent site. It has become a multi-disciplinary performing arts venue, known as The Arts House. The original building was designed as a Neo-Palladian mansion by architect George Drumgoole Coleman for a Scottish merchant, John Argyle Maxwell. However, a dispute over ownership of the land meant that it was never used as a residence.

Visiting the Singapore Parliament

Individuals of the public and groups are welcomed to visit the Singapore Parliament House under certain conditions and only on certain days. More information governing access and requirements for visitors are available via their website:


  • Population of the Malaysia: 33.57 million
  • No. of members of upper house (Dewan Negara – State Assembly): 70                             
  • No. of members of lower house (Dewan Rakyat – People’s Assembly): 222

Malaysia's parliamentary system

The Parliament of Malaysia is the national legislature of Malaysia. It is based on the Westminster system, having been a colony of the British Empire from xxx to xxx. The bicameral parliament consists of the Dewan Rakyat (House of Representatives, ie “People’s Assembly”) and the Dewan Negara (Senate or “State Assembly”). The Yang di-Pertuan Agong (King), as the head of state, is the third component of Parliament.

The Dewan Rakyat consists of 222 members of Parliament (MPs) elected from single-member constituencies drawn based on population in a general election using the first-past-the-post system.

The Dewan Negara consists of 70 members (Senators); 26 are elected by the 13 state assemblies (2 senators per state), 4 are appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to represent the 3 federal territories (2 for Kuala Lumpur, 1 each for Putrajaya and Labuan). The rest 40 members are appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong on the advice of the Prime Minister. Senators must be 30 years or above, and are appointed to a three-year term for a maximum of two terms. The dissolution of the Parliament does not affect the Dewan Negara.

Parliamentary building & chambers

The Parliament assembles in the Malaysian Houses of Parliament, located in the national capital city of Kuala Lumpur. The structure is located at the Lake Gardens in Kuala Lumpur, close to the Malaysian National Monument.

The complex comprises two parts, a 3-story main building and a 17-story 77-metre-tall tower. The main building hosts the Dewan Rakyat (House of Representatives) and the Dewan Negara (Senate) while representatives’ offices are located in the tower.

The modernist complex was designed by Ivor Shipley, a British architect in the Public Works Department, and completed in 1963. It was constructed during the period after Malaysia had gained independence from the British Empire when the states of Peninsular Malaya united with North Borneo and Sarawak to form Malaysia. It’s federal government was then based in Kuala Lumpur.

While most government operations has moved to Putrajaya since the late-1990s, the parliament continues to convene at Kuala Lumpur’s Parliament House.

Visiting the Malaysian Parliament in KL

Unfortunately, public tours are not available for the Malaysian Houses of Parliament in KL. However, visits can be arranged, whether individually or in group, institutions, and organizations within and outside of the country can visit the Parliament of Malaysia. Visits are only allowed during working days and visits during public holidays are not allowed. Visitors who wish to visit must first make an application and must abide the rules. Organised visits can be arranged for guests by writing officially to the Corporate Communications Department.

More details for arranging visits are available via their website:


  • Population of the France: 67.75 million
  • No. of members of upper house (Senat – Senate): 349                             
  • No. of members of lower house (Assemblee National – National Assembly): 577
France Parliamentary logos

France's parliamentary system

The French Parliament is the bicameral legislature of the French Republic, composed of two chambers: the upper Sénat (Senate) and the lower Assemblée Nationale (National Assembly), which have 349 and 577 members respectively.

Senators are elected by indirect universal suffrage by the grands électeurs, who consist of deputies, regional councillors, departmental councillors and representatives of municipal councillors. The latter constitute 95% of the electoral body.

The National Assembly’s legislators are known as députés, meaning “delegate” or “envoy” in English; etymologically, it is a cognate of the English word deputy, which is the standard term for legislators in many parliamentary system. There are 577 députés, each elected by a single-member constituency (at least one per department) through a two-round system; thus, 289 seats are required for a majority. Deputies are elected by first past the post voting in two rounds for a term of five years, notwithstanding a dissolution of the Assembly. Each constituency has around 100,000 residents, though some variance of size exists between rural and urban constituencies. For example, the Val-d’Oise constituency has 188,000 electors, while Lozère has just 34,000.

Each house has its own regulations and rules of procedure. Each assembly conducts legislative sessions at separate locations in Paris: the Senate meets in the Palais du Luxembourg and the National Assembly convenes at Palais Bourbon.

Combined Congress convened at Palace of Versailles

However, occasionally they may meet as a single house known as the Congress of the French Parliament (Congrès du Parlement français), which is convened at the Palace of Versailles, to revise and amend the Constitution of France.

The French Parliament, as a legislative body, should not be confused with the various parlements of the Ancien Régime in France, which were courts of justice and tribunals with certain political functions varying from province to province and as to whether the local law was written and Roman, or customary common law.

The word “Parliament”, in the modern meaning of the term, appeared in France in the 19th century, at the time of the constitutional monarchy of 1830–1848. It is never mentioned in any constitutional text until the Constitution of the 4th Republic in 1948. Before that time, reference was made to “les Chambres” or to each assembly, whatever its name, but never to a generic term as in Britain. Its form – unicameral, bicameral, or multicameral – and its functions have varied throughout the different political regimes and according to the various French constitutions.

Parliamentary building & chambers

Senate at Luxembourg Palace

The Luxembourg Palace, which houses the Senate was originally built (1615–1645) to the designs of the French architect Salomon de Brosseto be the royal residence of the regent Marie de’ Medici, mother of King Louis XIII. After the Revolution it was refashioned (1799–1805) by Jean Chalgrin into a legislative building and subsequently greatly enlarged and remodeled (1835–1856) by Alphonse de Gisors. The palace has been the seat of the upper houses of the various French national legislatures (excepting only the unicameral National Assembly of the Second Republic) since the establishment of the Sénat conservateur during the Consulate; as such, it has been home to the Senate of the Fifth Republic since its establishment in 1958.

National Assembly at Palais Bourbon

The Luxembourg Palace, which houses the Senate was originally built (1615–1645) to the designs of the French architect Salomon de Brosseto be the royal residence of the regent Marie de’ Medici, mother of King Louis XIII. After the Revolution it was refashioned (1799–1805) by Jean Chalgrin into a legislative building and subsequently greatly enlarged and remodeled (1835–1856) by Alphonse de Gisors. The palace has been the seat of the upper houses of the various French national legislatures (excepting only the unicameral National Assembly of the Second Republic) since the establishment of the Sénat conservateur during the Consulate; as such, it has been home to the Senate of the Fifth Republic since its establishment in 1958.

Salle des Séances of the National Assembly

The salle des Séances, or meeting chamber of the Palais Bourbon, has the same basic appearance and arrangement as it did in 1832. By the French Constitution, the Assembly is in session for nine months, from the beginning of October until the end of June, but the deputies can be summoned at any time for a special session by the President of the Republic. The 577 deputies, elected for five-year terms, are seated in the hemicycle, with the deputies of the socialists and other parties of the left seated to the left of the speaker, and those of the more conservative parties to the right. The President of the Assembly is seated in the Perchoir, or perch, a desk high up against the wall of the chamber, at the height of the highest back row, symbolizing that the President is a deputy like the others. The armchair was designed by Jacques-Louis David for the Council of Five Hundred, the first legislature to meet in the building.

Deputies vote electronically by pushing a button, and the count is displayed at the front of the Chamber. The sessions of the Chamber are open to the public though access must be requested through the office of a deputy. The sessions are also transmitted live on the Internet site of the Assembly.

Visiting the French Parliament in Paris

The public are welcomed to visit the National Assembly at Palais Bourbon and tickets can be booked via this website:


  • Population of the Hungary: 9.71 million
  • No. of members of House of Representatives: 199                             
Hungarian Parliament logo

Hungary's parliamentary system

The Hungarian National Assembly is the parliament of Hungary. The unicameral body consists of 199 (386 between 1990 and 2014) members elected to 4-year terms. Election of members is done using a semi-proportional representation: a mixed-member majoritarian representation with partial compensation via transfer votes and mixed single vote; involving single-member districts and one list vote; parties must win at least 5% of the popular vote in order to gain list seats assembly. The Assembly includes 25 standing committees to debate and report on introduced bills and to supervise the activities of the ministers. The Constitutional Court of Hungary has the right to challenge legislation on the grounds of constitutionality.

Historically, the Diet of Hungary was a legislative institution in the medieval kingdom of Hungary from the 1290s, and in its successor states, Royal Hungary and the Habsburg kingdom of Hungary throughout the Early Modern period. The name of the legislative body was originally “Parlamentum” during the Middle Ages, the “Diet” expression gained mostly in the Early Modern period. It convened at regular intervals with interruptions during the period of 1527 to 1918, and again until 1946.

The democratic character of the Hungarian parliament was re-established with the fall of the Iron Curtain and the end of the communist dictatorship in 1989. Today’s parliament is still called the Országgyűlés, as in royal times, but is called the ‘National Assembly’ to distance itself from the historical royal diet.

Parliamentary building & chambers

The Hungarian Parliament Building, also known as the Parliament of Budapest after its location, is the seat of the National Assembly of Hungary, a notable landmark of Hungary, and a popular tourist destination in Budapest. It is situated on Kossuth Square in the Pest side of the city, on the eastern bank of the Danube.

The Parliament Building was designed by Hungarian architect Imre Steindl in the Gothic Revival style and was opened in 1902.

It has a symmetrical façade and a central dome. The dome is Renaissance Revival architecture. The parliament is also largely symmetrical from the inside, with two identical parliament halls on the opposing sides of the building. One of the two halls is still in use today for sessions of the Hungarian National Assembly, the other for ceremonies, conferences, and guided tours. The building has been the largest building constructed in Hungary since its completion.

Visiting the Hungarian Parliament in Budapest

Tours lasting 45-minutes are available to the public. While walk in tickets are available by showing up at the ticket office of the Visitors Centre, advanced bookings can only be made online, via


  • Population of the Japan: 125.7 million
  • No. of members of upper house (Sangiin – House of Councillors): 248                             
  • No. of members of lower house (Shugiin – House of Representatives): 465
Japan parliamentary logo

Japan's parliamentary system

The National Diet is the national legislature of Japan. It is composed of a lower house, called the House of Representatives (Shūgiin), and an upper house, the House of Councillors (Sangiin). Both houses are directly elected under a parallel voting system. In addition to passing laws, the Diet is formally responsible for nominating the Prime Minister. The Diet was first established as the Imperial Diet in 1890 under the Meiji Constitution and took its current form in 1947 upon the adoption of the post-war constitution.

Parallel voting system

The houses of the National Diet are both elected under parallel voting systems. This means that the seats to be filled in any given election are divided into two groups, each elected by a different method; the main difference between the houses is in the sizes of the two groups and how they are elected. Voters are also asked to cast two votes: one for an individual candidate in a constituency, and one for a party list. Any national of Japan at least 18 years of age may vote in these elections, reduced from age 20 in 2016. Japan’s parallel voting system is not to be confused with the Additional Member System used in many other nations.

The Constitution of Japan does not specify the number of members of each house of the Diet, the voting system, or the necessary qualifications of those who may vote or be returned in parliamentary elections, thus allowing all of these things to be determined by law. However, it does guarantee universal adult suffrage and a secret ballot. It also insists that the electoral law must not discriminate in terms of “race, creed, sex, social status, family origin, education, property or income”.

Eligibility of candidates

Candidates for the lower house must be 25 years old or older and 30 years or older for the upper house. All candidates must be Japanese nationals. Under Article 49 of Japan’s Constitution, Diet members are paid about ¥1.3 million a month in salary. Each lawmaker is entitled to employ three secretaries with taxpayer funds, free Shinkansen tickets, and four round-trip airplane tickets a month to enable them to travel back and forth to their home districts.

Parliamentary building & chambers

The National Diet Building is the building where both houses of the National Diet of Japan meet, located in Chiyoda, Tokyo. Sessions of the House of Representatives take place in the south wing and sessions of the House of Councillors in the north wing.

The current National Diet Building was a result of a public design competition held in 1918, where 118 designs were submitted. The first prize winner, Watanabe Fukuzo, produced a design similar to German architects Wilhelm Böckmann and Hermann Ende who had been invited to Tokyo earlier in 1886 and 1887 respectively, when they created two plans for a Diet building.

The Diet Building was completed in 1936 and is constructed entirely of Japanese materials, with the exception of the stained glass, door locks, and pneumatic tube system.

Parliamentary chambers

The Chambers of House of Representatives and House of Councillors are large halls are usually called the ‘main chambers’. These are located on the 2nd floor of each House building with a ceiling that opens up to the 3rd floor. The ceiling is partly made from stained glass which lets in sunlight, so the ceiling lights are kept turned off unless there is a plenary assembly in the chamber. The floor is structured in the so-called “continental” fashion; the floor forms a fan shape with the chairman and the podium at its center, and member seats are allotted to each parliamentary group in accordance to their size.

Visiting the National Diet in Tokyo

Public visitors are welcomed to House of Councillors on weekdays. A Diet guard would escort visitors to the Public Gallery, the Emperor’s Room, the Imperial Family’s Room, the Central Hall, the Front Courtyard, and other places and the tour takes 60 minutes. No visitors are admitted from one hour before the opening of the sitting until the closing of the sitting on days when a plenary sitting is held. Group tours can be arranged as well.

More information is available via this website:

South Korea

  • Population of the South Korea: 51.74 million
  • No. of members of National Assembly: 300                             
South Korea parliamentary logo

South Korea's parliamentary system

The National Assembly of the Republic of Korea, often shortened to the National Assembly in domestic English-language media, is the unicameral national legislature of South Korea. Elections to the National Assembly are held every four years. The latest legislative elections were held on 15 April 2020. The National Assembly has 300 seats, with 253 constituency seats and 47 proportional representation seats; 30 of the PR seats are assigned on additional member system, while 17 PR seats use the parallel voting method.

The unicameral assembly consists of at least 200 members according to the South Korean constitution. In 1990 the assembly had 299 seats, 224 of which were directly elected from single-member districts in the general elections of April 1988. Under applicable laws, the remaining seventy-five representatives were elected from party lists. By law, candidates for election to the assembly must be at least thirty years of age. As part of a political compromise in 1987, an earlier requirement that candidates have at least five years’ continuous residency in the country was dropped to allow Kim Dae-jung, who had spent several years in exile in Japan and the United States during the 1980s, to return to political life.

The National Assembly’s term is four years. In a change from the more authoritarian Fourth Republic and Fifth Republic (1972–80 and 1980–87, respectively), under the Sixth Republic, the assembly cannot be dissolved by the president.

Parliamentary building & chambers

The National Assembly Proceeding Hall is the South Korean capitol building. It serves as the location of the National Assembly of the Republic of Korea, the legislative branch of the South Korean national government. It is located at Yeouido-dong, Yeongdeungpo-gu, Seoul.

The current building was completed in 1975. Before 1975 the South Korean government used the current Seoul Metropolitan Council Building, a public hall created during the Japanese occupation of Korea. The plenary chamber has seating for 400 people, ostensibly in preparation for new lawmakers in case Korean reunification occurs.

Visiting the National Assembly in Seoul

Visitors can have access to the visitor’s gallery or enjoy a guided tour of the Plenary Chamber. More information about this can be found on their website:


  • Population of the Netherlands: 17.53 million
  • No. of members of upper house (Eerste Kamer – First Chamber or Senate): 75           
  • No. of members of lower house (Tweeder Kamer – Second Chamber or House of Representatives): 150
Netherlands Parliamentary logo

Netherlands' parliamentary system

The States General of the Netherlands (Staten-Generaal) is the supreme bicameral legislature of the Netherlands consisting of the Senate (Eerste Kamer) and the House of Representatives (Tweede Kamer). Both chambers meet at the Binnenhof in The Hague.

The States General originated in the 15th century as an assembly of all the provincial states of the Burgundian Netherlands. In 1579, during the Dutch Revolt, the States General split as the northern provinces openly rebelled against Philip II, and the northern States General replaced Philip II as the supreme authority of the Dutch Republic in 1581. The States General were replaced by the National Assembly after the Batavian Revolution of 1795, only to be restored in 1814, when the country had regained its sovereignty.

The States General was divided into a Senate and a House of Representatives in 1815, with the establishment of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands. After the constitutional amendment of 1848, members of the House of Representatives were directly elected, and the rights of the States General were vastly extended, practically establishing parliamentary democracy in the Netherlands.

First Chamber - Senate

The Senate (Eerste Kamer der Staten-Generaal, literally “First Chamber of the States General”, or simply Eerste Kamer, sometimes Senaat is the upper house of the States General, the legislature of the Netherlands. Its 75 members are elected on lists by the members of the twelve States-Provincial and four electoral colleges for the Senate every four years, within three months of the provincial elections. All provinces and colleges have different electoral weight depending on their population.

Members of the Senate tend to be veteran or part-time politicians at the national level, often having other roles. They receive an allowance which is about a quarter of the salary of the members of the lower house. Unlike the politically more significant House of Representatives, it meets only once a week.

It has the right to accept or reject legislative proposals but not to amend them or to initiate legislation. Directly after a bill has been passed by the House of Representatives, it is sent to the Senate and is submitted to a parliamentary committee. The committee decides whether the bill can be immediately put on the agenda of the full chamber or if there should first be preparatory study of the bill. If a bill is immediately put on the agenda of the full chamber, it is passed as a formality without a debate.

Second Chamber - House of Respresentatives

The House of Representatives (Tweede Kamer der Staten-Generaal), literally “Second Chamber of the States General”, or simply Tweede Kamer) is the lower house of the bicameral parliament of the Netherlands, the States General, the other one being the Senate. It has 150 seats, which are filled through elections using party-list proportional representation. Generally, the house is located in the Binnenhof in The Hague, however, it has temporarily moved to the former building of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at Bezuidenhoutseweg 67 in the Hague while the Binnenhof is being renovated.

Parliamentary building & chambers

The Binnenhof (Inner Court) is a complex of buildings in the city centre of The Hague, Netherlands, next to the Hofvijver lake. It houses the meeting place of both houses of the States General of the Netherlands, as well as the Ministry of General Affairs and the office of the Prime Minister of the Netherlands. Built primarily in the 13th century, the Gothic castle originally functioned as residence of the counts of Holland and became the political centre of the Dutch Republic in 1584. The Binnenhof is among the oldest Parliament buildings in the world still in use.

Full renovation in 2015

In December 2015 a majority of the Dutch Parliament elected a plan for a full renovation of the complex, which will take approximately 5.5 years and is estimated to cost around €475 million. The first plan was to start the renovations in 2018, however this was postponed several times. The Senate will be temporarily moved during the renovation to the former building of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which has been prepared by a €40 million remodelling. The Prime Minister of the Netherlands and the Ministry of General Affairs will be moved to the Catshuis, where a temporary office building will house several hundred officials. The senate will permanently be moved to Huis Huguetan, the former Supreme Court of the Netherlands building. The house of representatives will be moved to the former building of the secretary of state.

In 2017, the architectural firm Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) received the assignment for designing and preparing the renovation. In early 2019 information was leaked that the projected cost for several ‘activities’ such as painting, carpets and security was off by around €60 million. Also, in 2019, the contract with OMA was discontinued. Another architectural firm, DOK, under the lead of architect Pi de Bruijn, who also designed the new construction for the Senate, was assigned to finish the plans. In the summer of 2021, politicians and officials will be moved to their temporary workplaces and after Prinsjesdag, which is on 21 September 2021, construction will begin in and around the Binnenhof.

Visiting the Binnenhof in Den Hague

The public can visit the House of Representatives at Binnenhof and can register for a visit via their website:


  • Population of the Austria: 8.96 million
  • No. of members of upper house (Federal Council): 61                 
  • No. of members of lower house (National Council): 183
Austria Parliament logo

Austria's Parliamentary system

The Australian Parliament  is the bicameral federal legislature of the Austrian Republic. It consists of two chambers – the National Council and the Federal Council. In specific cases, both houses convene as the Federal Assembly. The legislature meets in the Austrian Parliament Building in Vienna.

The National Council is composed of 183 members elected through proportional representation in a general election. The legislative period lasts five years, elections are held earlier if the National Council prematurely moves for its own dissolution. The National Council is the dominant (albeit ‘lower’) house in the Austrian Parliament, and consequently the terms Parliament and National Council are commonly used synonymously.

Federal Council

The Federal Council is elected indirectly, through the provincial assemblies (Landtage) of the nine States of the Federal Republic, and reflects the distribution of seats in the Austrian Landtage. The states are represented in the Federal Council roughly in accordance to the size of their populations. Seats are redistributed among the states following each general census, and the overall size of the chamber varies slightly as a result. The current Federal Council is composed of 61 delegates. With regard to most issues, the Federal Council only possesses a dilatory right of veto which can be overridden by the National Council. However, the Federal Council enjoys absolute veto powers over bills intended to alter the powers of either the states, or of the Federal Council itself.

Federal Assembly

The Federal Assembly (Bundesversammlung) is a body whose function is mostly ceremonial in nature, and consists of the members of both houses of Parliament. The Federal Assembly convenes only rarely, for instance to witness the inauguration of the Federal President. It might be noted, however, that under exceptional circumstances the Austrian constitution endows the Federal Assembly with significant responsibilities. An example of this would be its pivotal role in the hypothetical impeachment of a Federal President.

Parliamentary building & chambers

The Austrian Parliament Building in Vienna is where the two houses of the Austrian Parliament conduct their sessions. The building is located on the Ringstraße boulevard in the first district Innere Stadt, near Hofburg Palace and the Palace of Justice. It was built to house the two chambers of the Imperial Council (Reichsrat), the bicameral legislature of the Cisleithanian (Austrian) part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Since its construction, the Parliament Building has been the seat of these two houses, and their successors—the National Council (Nationalrat) and the Federal Council (Bundesrat)—of the Austrian legislature.

The foundation stone was laid in 1874; the building was completed in 1883. The architect responsible for its Greek Revival style was Theophil Hansen. He designed the building holistically, aiming to have each element harmonising with all the others. He was therefore also responsible for the interior decoration, such as statues, paintings, furniture, chandeliers, and numerous other elements. Hansen was honoured by Emperor Franz Joseph with the title of Freiherr (Baron) after its completion. Following heavy damage and destruction in World War II, most of the interior has been restored to its original splendour.

The parliament building covers over 13,500 square meters, making it one of the largest structures on Ringstraße. It contains over one hundred rooms, the most important of which are the Chambers of the National Council, the Federal Council, and the former House of Deputies (Abgeordnetenhaus). The building also includes committee rooms, libraries, lobbies, dining rooms, bars and gymnasiums. One of the building’s most famous features is the Pallas Athena fountain in front of the main entrance, built by Carl Kundmann after plans from Hansen, from 1898 to 1902 and it is a notable Viennese tourist attraction.

Visiting Parliament building in Vienna

Free guided tours are available to the Austrian Parliament Building and more details and registration for these tours can be done on their website:

European Union

  • Population of the European Union: 375 million
  • No. of members of European Parliament: 705                             
European Parliament logo

European Union's Parliamentary system

The European Parliament is one of the legislative bodies of the European Union and one of its seven institutions. Together with the Council of the European Union (known as the Council and informally as the Council of Ministers), it adopts European legislation, following a proposal by the European Commission. The Parliament is composed of 705 members (MEPs). It represents the second-largest democratic electorate in the world (after the Parliament of India), with an electorate of 375 million eligible voters in 2009.

Since 1979, the Parliament has been directly elected every five years by the citizens of the European Union through universal suffrage. Voter turnout in parliamentary elections decreased each time after 1979 until 2019, when voter turnout increased by eight percentage points, and rose above 50% for the first time since 1994. The voting age is 18 in all EU member states except for Malta, Austria and Germany, where it is 16, and Greece, where it is 17. Belgian citizens can request to vote from the age of 16 as well.

The European Parliament is not to be confused with the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), which is the parliamentary arm of the Council of Europe, a 46-nation international organisation dedicated to upholding human rights, democracy and the rule of law. The Assembly is made up of 306 members drawn from the national parliaments of the Council of Europe’s member states, and generally meets four times a year for week-long plenary sessions in Strasbourg.

Parliamentary building & chambers

The European Parliament’s headquarters are in Strasbourg, France, and has its administrative offices in Luxembourg City. Plenary sessions are “normally held in Strasbourg for four days a month, but sometimes there are additional sessions in Brussels”, while the Parliament’s committee meetings are held primarily in Brussels, Belgium.

Palace of Europe

The Palace of Europe is a building located in Strasbourg, France, that has served as the seat of the Council of Europe since 1977 when it replaced the “House of Europe”. Between 1977 and 1999 it was also the Strasbourg seat of the European Parliament. The Palace of Europe is square in shape, 106 metres on each side, with a height of 38 metres (nine stories). Its total working area is 64,000 square metres. It has 17 meeting rooms and a thousand offices for staff of the Council of Europe secretariat. The exterior of the building is red, silver, and brown. The Palace of Europe is located in the “European District” of Strasbourg, about two kilometres northeast of the Grande Île.

From the outside, the Palace of Europe resembles a fortress, since the rows of windows are arranged like arrow slits. The Parliament chamber is covered by a giant dome and resembles an enormous shell.

Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe uses the large debating chamber in the centre of the building, called the Hemicycle, famous for its unusual architecture. The Congress of the Council of Europe also holds its plenary sessions in the Hemicycle. The Palace of Europe also accommodates the part of the Council of Europe Secretariat, including the Private Office of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe.

Until 1999, the building also hosted plenary sessions of the European Parliament (an institution of the European Union, which is separate from the Council of Europe). The European Parliament now has its own building, Immeuble Louise Weiss, across the Ill River.

Visiting European Parliament in Brussels

Public visits for individuals, families and small groups are available for the European Parliament Hemicycle and can be booked via their website:

Guided tours are also available to the public for the Council of Europe and these can be booked via their website:


  • Population of Romania: 19.12 million
  • No. of members of upper house (Senat – Senate): 75           
  • No. of members of lower house (Camera Deputatilo – Chamber of Deputies): 330
Romania parliamentary logo

Romania's Parliamentary system

The Parliament of Romania is the national bicameral legislature of Romania, consisting of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. It meets at the Palace of the Parliament in Bucharest, the capital of the country.

Prior to the modification of the Constitution in 2003, the two houses had identical attributes. A text of a law had to be approved by both houses. If the text differed, a special commission (comisie de mediere) was formed by deputies and senators, that “negotiated” between the two houses the form of the future law. The report of this commission had to be approved in a joint session of the Parliament.

After the 2003 referendum, a law still has to be approved by both houses, but each house has designated matters it gets to deliberate before the other, in capacity of “deciding chamber” (cameră decizională). If that first chamber adopts a law proposal (relating to its competences), it is passed on to the other one, which can approve or reject. If it makes amendments, the bill is sent back to the deciding chamber, the decision of which is final.

In 2009, a referendum was held to consult the population about turning the parliament into a unicameral body and reducing the number of representatives to 300. Although the referendum passed, the results are not binding, a referendum explicitly mentioning the modification of the constitution being required to achieve this.

Parliamentary building & chambers

The Palace of the Parliament (Palatul Parlamentului), also known as the Republic’s House (Casa Republicii) or People’s House/People’s Palace (Casa Poporului), is the seat of the Parliament of Romania, located atop Dealul Spirii in Bucharest, the national capital.

The Palace reaches a height of 84m, has a floor area of 365,000 m2 and a volume of 2,550,000 m3. The Palace of the Parliament is one of the heaviest buildings in the world, weighing about 4,098,500,000 kilograms (9.04 billion pounds; 4.10 million tonnes), also being the second largest administrative building in the world.

The Palace was ordered by Nicolae Ceaușescu (1918–1989), the president of Communist Romania and the second of two long-ruling heads of state in the country since World War II, during a period in which the personality cult of political worship and adoration increased considerably for him and his family.

The building was designed and supervised by chief architect Anca Petrescu, with a team of approximately 700 architects, and constructed over a period of 13 years (1984–97) in Socialist realist and modernist Neoclassical architectural forms and styles, with socialist realism in mind.

Components of the Palace

Known for its ornate interior composed of 23 sections, the palace houses the two chambers of the Parliament of Romania: the Senate (Senat) and the Chamber of Deputies (Camera Deputaților), along with three museums and an international conference center. The museums in the Palace are the National Museum of Contemporary Art, the Museum of Communist Totalitarianism (established in 2015) and the Museum of the Palace.

Though originally named the House of the Republic when under construction (Casa Republicii), the palace became widely known as The People’s House (Casa Poporului) after the Romanian Revolution of December 1989. Due to its impressive characteristics, events organized by state institutions and international bodies such as conferences and symposia take place there, but despite this about 70% of the building remains empty.

Visiting Palace of Parliament in Bucharest

Entry into the building by the public and tourists are only permitted as part of an official, scheduled tour. The building’s operational hours vary according to the time of year. Visits to the Palace of Parliament can be booked at least 24 hours in advance via a phone number. More information on details and pricing can be found on websites of local tour operators.


  • Population of Brazil: 214.3 million
  • No. of members of upper house (Senado Federal – Federal Senate): 81                 
  • No. of members of lower house (Camera dos Deputados – Chamber of Deputies): 513
Brazil Congresso Nacional logo

Brazil's Parliamentary system

The National Congress of Brazil (Congresso Nacional do Brasil) is the legislative body of Brazil’s federal government. Unlike the state legislative assemblies and municipal chambers, the Congress is bicameral, composed of the Federal Senate (the upper house) and the Chamber of Deputies (the lower house). The Congress meets annually in Brasília from 2 February to 22 December, with a mid-term break taking place between 17 July and 1 August.

The Federal Senate (Senado Federal) is the upper house of the National Congress. Created by the first Constitution of the Brazilian Empire in 1824, it was inspired in United Kingdom’s House of Lords, but with the Proclamation of the Republic in 1889 it became closer to the United States Senate. Currently, the Senate comprises 81 seats. Three senators from each of the 26 states and three senators from the Federal District are elected on a majority basis to serve eight-year terms. Elections are staggered so that two-thirds of the upper house is up for election at one time and the remaining one-third four years later.

When one seat is up for election in each State, each voter casts one vote for the Senate; when two seats are up for election, each voter casts two votes, and the voter cannot give his two votes for the same candidate, but, in elections for the renewal of two-thirds of the Senate, each party can present two candidates for election. The candidate in each State and the Federal District (or the first two candidates, when two-thirds of the seats are up for election) who achieve the greatest plurality of votes are elected.

The Chamber of Deputies (Câmara dos Deputados) is the lower house of the National Congress, it is composed of 513 federal deputies, who are elected by a proportional representation of votes to serve a four-year term. Seats are allotted proportionally according to each state’s population, with each state eligible for a minimum of 8 seats (least populous) and a maximum of 70 seats (most populous).

In 2018, 24 out of the country’s 33 political parties were able to elect at least one representative in the Chamber, while sixteen of them were able to elect at least one senator.

Parliamentary building & chambers

In early 1900s, the Brazilian National Congress happened to be in separate buildings in Rio de Janeiro which was then the national capital. The Senate was located near Railway Central Station, beside the Republica Square, at Moncorvo Filho Street, where there is today a Federal University of Rio de Janeiro students’ center. The Federal Chamber of Deputies was located at Misericórdia Street, which would later be the location of the State of Rio de Janeiro’s local Chamber of Deputies. From the 1930s to early 1960s, the Senate occupied the Monroe Palace, which was demolished in the 1970s to allow the construction of the subway Cinelândia Station. The Federal Chamber of Deputies moved to Brasília in the early 1960s, a process that took years to complete.

National Congress at Brasília by Oscar Niemeyer

Since the 1960s, the National Congress has been located in Brasília. As with most of the city’s government buildings, the National Congress building was designed by Oscar Niemeyer.

The semi-sphere on the left is the seat of the Senate, and the semi-sphere on the right is the seat of the Chamber of the Deputies. Between them are two vertical office towers. The building is located in the middle of the Monumental Axis, the main street of Brasília. In front of it there is a large lawn where demonstrations take place. At the back of it, is the Praça dos Três Poderes (‘Three Powers Plaza’), where lies the Palácio do Planalto and the Supreme Federal Court.

On 6 December 2007, the Institute of Historic and Artistic National Heritage (Instituto do Patrimônio Histórico e Artístico Nacional) decided to declare the building of the National Congress a historical heritage of the Brazilian people. The building has also been a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as part of Brasília’s original urban buildings, since 1987.

On 8 January 2023, in a Trump-inspired move, supporters of the former president Jair Bolsonaro invaded and vandalized the Brazilian National Congress as well as other federal buildings in Brasília.

Visiting the National Congress in Brasilia

Information on visits to the National Congress can be found on their website:


  • Population of the Bangladesh: 169.4 million
  • No. of members of Jatiya Sansad (House of the Nation): 350                             
Bangladesh Parliamentary logos

Bangladesh's Parliamentary system

The Jatiya Sangsad ( National Parliament), often referred to simply as the Sangsad or JS and also known as the House of the Nation, is the supreme legislative body of Bangladesh. The current parliament of Bangladesh contains 350 seats, including 50 seats reserved exclusively for women. Elected occupants are called Member of Parliament, or MPs. Elections to the body are held every five years, unless a parliament is dissolved earlier by the President of Bangladesh.

The leader of the party (or alliance of parties) holding the majority of seats becomes the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, and so the head of the government. The President of Bangladesh, the ceremonial head of state, is chosen by Parliament.

The Constituent Assembly of Bangladesh was established on 10 April 1972 after the Bangladesh Liberation War to prepare a democratic constitution and served as its first parliament as an independent nation. The assembly approved the constitution on 4 November 1972, and it took effect on 16 December and the Constituent Assembly became the Provisional Parliament of Bangladesh until the first elections under the new constitution took place in 1973.

Until 10 July 1981 the Constituent Assembly, and the first and second parliaments held their sittings in the building that now houses the Prime Minister’s Office and which is often referred as the old Sangsad Bhaban (old Parliament House). The opening ceremony of the present Parliament House was performed on 15 February 1982. The last session of the second parliament was held in the new house on 15 February 1982.

Parliamentary building & chambers

Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban or National Parliament House, (Jatiyô Sôngsôd Bhôbôn) is the house of the Parliament of Bangladesh, located at Sher-e-Bangla Nagar in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka. Designed while the country was still part of Pakistan by architect Louis Kahn, the complex is one of the largest legislative complexes in the world, covering 200 acres (810,000 m2).

Louis Kahn designed the entire Jatiya Sangsad complex, which includes lawns, lake and residences for the Members of the Parliament (MPs). The architect’s key design philosophy was to represent Bengali culture and heritage, while at the same time optimizing the use of space. The exterior of the building is striking in its simplicity, with huge walls deeply recessed by porticoes and large openings of regular geometric shapes. The main building, which is at the center of the complex, is divided into three parts – the Main Plaza, South Plaza and Presidential Plaza. An artificial lake surrounds three sides of the main building of Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban, extending to the Members of Parliament hostel complex. This skillful use of water to portray the riverine beauty of Bengal adds to the aesthetic value of the site.

Design philosophy

Kahn’s key design philosophy optimizes the use of space while representing Bengali heritage and culture. External lines are deeply recessed by porticoes with huge openings of regular geometric shapes on their exterior, shaping the building’s overall visual impact.

In the architect Louis Kahn’s own words:

In the assembly I have introduced a light-giving element to the interior of the plan. If you see a series of columns you can say that the choice of columns is a choice in light. The columns as solids frame the spaces of light. Now think of it just in reverse and think that the columns are hollow and much bigger and that their walls can themselves give light, then the voids are rooms, and the column is the maker of light and can take on complex shapes and be the supporter of spaces and give light to spaces. I am working to develop the element to such an extent that it becomes a poetic entity which has its own beauty outside of its place in the composition. In this way it becomes analogous to the solid column I mentioned above as a giver of light.

It was not belief, not design, not pattern, but the essence from which an institution could emerge…

The building was featured prominently in the 2003 film My Architect, detailing the career and familial legacy of its architect, Louis Kahn. Robert McCarter, author of Louis I. Kahn, described the National Parliament of Bangladesh as one of the twentieth century’s most significant buildings.

Parliament Chamber

The most important part of the Main Plaza is the Parliament Chamber, which can house up to 354 members during sessions. There are also two podia and two galleries for VIP visitors. The chamber has a maximum height of 36 m with a parabolic shell roof. The roof was designed with a clearance of a single story to let in daylight. Daylight, reflecting from the surrounding walls and octagonal drum, filters into the Parliament Chamber. The efficient and aesthetic use of light was a strong architectural capability of Louis Kahn.

The artificial lighting system has been carefully devised to provide zero obstruction to the entry of daylight. A composite chandelier is suspended from parabolic shell roof. This chandelier in turn consists of a metallic web, spanning the entire chamber, that supports the individual light fixtures.

Upper levels of the block (that contains the Chamber) contain the visitor and press galleries, as well as communication booths, all of which overlook the Parliament Chamber. The block also contains:

  • at level one, a library
  • at level three, MPs’ lounges
  • at the upper level, party rooms.

The lake on three sides of the Bhaban, extending up to the Members’ hostel adds to site’s aesthetics and also portrays the riverine beauty of Bangladesh.

The Parliament building received the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 1989.

Visiting Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban in Dhaka

Although entry to the Bhaban, the Main Building, is limited to authorized members of Parliament and staff, the Jatiyo Sangshad complex is always open to visitors. North of the complex, across the Lake Road, is Crescent Lake and Chandrima Uddan. The two complexes together form a major attraction for tourists in Dhaka, especially during national holidays.

Foreigners can apply to visit the parliament using an official form, available via this link:


  • Population of Malta: 0.53 million
  • No. of members of Kamra tad-Deputati (House of representatives): 79                             
Malta Parliamentary logo

Malta's Parliamentary system

The Parliament of Malta is the constitutional legislative body in Malta, located in Valletta. The parliament is unicameral, with a democratically elected House of Representatives and the president of Malta. By constitutional law, all government ministers, including the prime minister, must be members of the House of Representatives.

Between 1921 and 1933 the Parliament was bicameral, consisting of a Senate (Senat) as well as a Legislative Assembly (Assemblea Leġiżlattiva).

The House of Representatives (Kamra tad-Deputati) is the unicameral legislature of Malta and a component of the Parliament of Malta. The House is presided over by the Speaker of the House. The President of Malta is appointed for a five-year term by a resolution of the House.

The House is composed of an odd number of members elected for one legislative term of five years. Five members are returned from each of thirteen electoral districts using the single transferable vote electoral system, but additional members are elected in cases of dis-proportionality. Since 2022, 12 extra seats are provided to female candidates, as long as they fail to make up 40% of the elected members, leading to a total of 79 MPs after the 2022 election.

Parliamentary building & chambers

The Parliament House (Dar il-Parlament) is the meeting place of the Parliament of Malta located in Valletta, Malta. The current building was constructed between 2011 and 2015 to designs by Renzo Piano as part of the City Gate Project, which also included building a new City Gate and converting the ruins of the Royal Opera House into an open-air theatre. Construction of the Parliament House generated considerable controversy, mainly due to the modern design of the building and the cost of construction, which amounted to around €90 million.

From 1921 to 1976, the meeting place of the Parliament of Malta had been the Tapestry Chamber of the Grandmaster’s Palace, also in Valletta. In 1976, the former armoury of the same palace was converted into a new parliament, and meetings were held there until the opening of the purpose-built Parliament House on 4 May 2015.

Architectural form

The Parliament House consists of two blocks connected together with bridges, one of which houses the chamber of parliament. The two blocks are separate so as not to obscure views of Saint James Cavalier from Republic Street. Each block has three floors. The structure consists of a steel frame clad in Gozitan limestone. The stone slabs are carved in such a way that they seem to have been eroded by nature.

Parliament House is a zero emission building since heat energy is recovered from or given off to the mass of rock below. This is used to heat and cool the building, avoiding any cooling towers or boilers.

Criticism and controversies

The building of the Parliament House, along with the rest of the City Gate project, was controversial. Critics considered it an unnecessary project, proposing to restore Fort Saint Elmo or one of the large dilapidated palaces in the city and converting it into a parliament building, for a fraction of the cost of constructing a new building. Some argued that the square should not have been built up as it was one of the few open spaces in Valletta. Others attacked the modern design of the structure itself, including the Labour MP Carmelo Abela, who called the Parliament House “an ugly building built on stilts”.

The building’s design, particularly the system of cladding, was compared to a dovecote (Barumbara tal-ħamiem) or to a cheese grater by the general public. The cladding were intended to actually represent honeycombs as the name of Malta derives from Melite which means honey. The ultramodern design that contrasts much with the rest of Valletta has gone as far as the UNESCO questioning the city’s title as a World Heritage Site. In 2015, the building was included on The Daily Telegraph’s list of “the world’s best (and worst) new buildings”, although the newspaper did not state in which category the building fell.

Visiting the Maltese Parliament in Viletta

The Parliament House building is closed off to public entry and visitation due to security reasons. However, there is a permanent exhibition on the ground floor that is open to the public.

South Africa

  • Population of South Africa: 59.39 million
  • No. of members of upper house (National Council of Provinces): 90                 
  • No. of members of lower house (National Assembly): 400 
South Africa Parliament logo

South Africa's Parliamentary system

The Parliament of the Republic of South Africa is South Africa’s legislature; under the present Constitution of South Africa, the bicameral Parliament comprises a National Assembly and a National Council of Provinces. The current twenty-seventh Parliament was first convened on 22 May 2019.

From 1910 to 1994, members of Parliament were elected chiefly by the South African white minority. The first elections with universal suffrage were held in 1994.

In 1994 a new interim constitution was introduced after four years of negotiation, finally introduced all-race democracy and enfranchised men and women of all races on equal terms, the minimum age remaining 18 years. Parliament was reconstituted to consist of a Senate and a National Assembly.

The Senate consisted of 90 senators, ten nominated by each of the nine provinces. It was chaired by a President of the Senate elected by the senators from among themselves.

The National Assembly consists of 400 members, elected by voters on a proportional representation/party list system. There are no electoral districts, and each party is allocated a number of seats proportionate to the percentage of the votes it receives across the country. It is chaired by a Speaker elected by the MPs from among themselves.

In 1997, the current Constitution of South Africa came into force, in which the Senate was replaced by a 90-member National Council of Provinces (NCOP), made up of a 10-member delegation from each province (six delegates elected by the provincial legislature, the Premier and three other members of the provincial legislature). The NCOP is chaired by a Chairperson elected by the members from among themselves.

Proportional representation

The parliamentary system uses proportional representation, with voters voting for political parties rather than for candidates. Proportional representation allows for smaller parties to have a chance of acquiring seats in parliament, although these parties often combine in order to have a stronger voice within the political system, especially against the ANC. The Independent Electoral Commission is charged with keeping elections fair, regular, and equal. Parties submit closed lists of candidates to the IEC, and the IEC fills the seats allotted to individual parties using the candidate lists after election results come in. The electoral system has seen little corruption since 1994.

Parliamentary building & chambers

The Houses of Parliament of South Africa are situated in Cape Town where both chambers hold their meetings. The building consists of three main sections: the original building, completed in 1884, and additions constructed in the 1920s and 1980s. The newer additions house the National Assembly (the lower house) and the original building houses the National Council of Provinces (the upper house).

The original parliament building was designed in a Neoclassical style, incorporating features of Cape Dutch architecture. The later additions have been so designed as to blend with the original building.

A fire broke out within the buildings in early January 2022, destroying the session room of the National Assembly. It was decided that the National Assembly would temporarily meet at the Good Hope Chamber.

Visiting the South African Parliament in Cape Town

Tours of the Houses of are currently suspended but would usually be available on weekdays. More information about booking tours can be found on their website:


  • Population of Kuwait: 4.25 million
  • No. of members of Kuwaiti National Assembly: 50                             
Kuwait Parliament logo

Kuwait's Parliamentary system

The National Assembly is the unicameral legislature of Kuwait. The National Assembly meets in Kuwait City. Because political parties are illegal in Kuwait, candidates run as independents. The National Assembly is made up of 50 elected members and 16 appointed government ministers (ex officio members).

The National Assembly is the legislature in Kuwait, established in 1963. Its predecessor, the 1938 National Assembly, was formally dissolved in 1939 after “one member, Sulaiman al-Adasani, in possession of a letter, signed by other Assembly members, addressed to Iraq’s King Ghazi, requesting Kuwait’s immediate incorporation into Iraq.” This demand came after the merchant members of the Assembly attempted to extract oil money from Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, a suggestion refused by him and upon which he instigated a crackdown which arrested the Assembly members in 1939.

The National Assembly can have up to 50 MPs. Fifty deputies are elected by one non-transferable vote to serve four-year terms. Members of the cabinet also sit in the parliament as deputies. The constitution limits the size of the cabinet to 16. The cabinet ministers have the same rights as the elected MPs, with the following two exceptions: they do not participate in the work of committees, and they cannot vote when an interpolation leads to a no-confidence vote against one of the cabinet members.

Kuwaiti women gained the right to vote in 2005. Women first won seats in the National Assembly in the 2009 election, in which four women, Aseel al-Awadhi, Rola Dashti, Massouma al-Mubarak and Salwa al-Jassar, were elected.

Parliamentary building & chambers

The Kuwait National Assembly Building is the legislative building that houses the National Assembly of Kuwait. Designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon in 1972, it was completed in 1982 under the direction of his son Jan. The structural design was by Max Walt. The building was seriously damaged in February 1991 when retreating Iraqi troops set it on fire but has since been restored.

In late 1969, as part of a plan to construct new institutions following independence, the Kuwait authorities invited Jørn Utzon to participate in a competition for a National Assembly building to be located on Arabian Coast Street on the city’s waterfront. Utzon, who was living in Hawaii at the time, prepared preliminary sketches which he sent to Oktay Nayman in London, who made construction drawings, and to his son Jan in Denmark who produced models.

Design intentions

Familiar with Islamic architecture, Utzon based his competition design on a walled miniature city consisting of departments arranged around courtyards and accessed through a central hall, rather like a souk. In his own words, “We had the idea of constructing the building around a central hall, a bazaar street, in such a way that all departments met in side roads off the bazaar road, just as we know from the bazaars in the Middle East and North Africa…”

The hall led through to a ceremonial entrance beside a covered square facing the sea. The complex consisted of a parliamentary chamber, a large conference hall, each with sag roofs, and a free-standing, flat-roofed mosque. Together with the covered square, they formed the corners of an incomplete rectangle. After discussions with the Kuwait authorities, costs had to be lowered to a point at which Utzon realized it would no longer be possible to use a Danish engineer. He fell back on Max Walt from Zurich who agreed to accept a more modest fee, for his services both as structural engineer for the project and draftsman for the construction drawings.

Design changes

Utzon worked on the project for almost three years before deciding, at a late stage in the planning, that the structural elements should be round rather than rectilinear. He immediately demonstrated his new approach by lining up beer bottles. The new columns were tapered cylinders creating colonnades reminiscent of ancient Greece or Egypt. Cylindrical vaulting was also to be used for the ceiling of the central hall, giving the building the appearance of flowing fabric.

After further delays, in 1975 the Emir of Kuwait finally gave the go ahead for construction to begin. Utzon moved to Zurich together with Oktay Nayman, Børge Nielsen and his son Jan and set up office next door to Max Walt, facilitating communications. Adopting an additive approach, he was able to standardize the design approach as the drawings could be based on repetitive grids. However, further modifications to the overall design were still to come. It was decreed that the conference hall should now be eliminated and the mosque should be brought inside the complex. It was even suggested that the covered square should be removed but Utzon was successful in keeping it, explaining that it was “an architectonically necessary link between the great open natural space over the sea and the enclosed building.”

Construction work finally began in July 1978. It had been decided to make maximum use of precast concrete components, facilitating the best use of local resources. Apart from the elements for the two wide-span roofs, which were cast on site and moved into position on so-called “railway tracks”, all the components were indeed prefabricated in standard sizes. The building was completed in 1982.

Design inspiration

The Islamic design of the Kuwait National Assembly was inspired by Utzon’s visit to Iran in 1959. In Isfahan, he was particularly impressed by the structure of the town. His plans for the Assembly with its central axis in the form of a covered main street are reminiscent of Isfahan’s enormous dome-covered bazaar. Like traditional Islamic architecture, Utzon’s interior, including the debating chamber, has no windows while the offices are illuminated only from the courtyards. Indirect light is provided to corridors, the library and the cafeteria by means of skylights in the form of half-barrel vaults which can be seen jutting up from the flat roof. The complex is also inspired by the expansive structure of a tree: the central walkway, 130 m long and 10 m wide, serves as the trunk with corridors and stairs — the branches — supporting ministerial rooms and offices as their foliage.

The overall area of the complex is 18,000 m2 (150 m by 120 m). The main structure consists of a basement housing the services and two upper levels with offices, reception, meeting rooms, the library and the cafeteria. In the centre is the vast assembly chamber, 82 m by 34 m, with 50 seats for the members and the possibility of expansion to 150 seats. The upper tiers offer 1,000 places for observers and spectators. The public square, similar in structure to the assembly hall, has a huge roof covering the entrance to the complex. Apart from these two halls, all the structures in the complex are in reinforced concrete consisting of 12,800 specially shaped precast elements made up of 150 basic types. All the elements are of white cement concrete with a smooth exposed concrete finish.

Concrete shell roof structures

Covering an area of some 40 by 80 metres, the public square has an inclined roof which rises up towards the Persian Gulf. It is supported by two rows of columns with semi-cylindrical shells. Unlike traditional constructions, it consists of 11 inclined semi-cylinders, 7.5 metres wide, post-tensioned with steel cables. The columns display an innovative approach to the economical use of concrete, gaining strength, and visual attraction, from their creative shaping.

The huge shell-concrete canopies are in striking contrast with the modular courtyard structures covered by flat roofs. The first canopy inside the enclosure faces northeast while the second, rather more elongated, lies just outside it, facing northwest towards the sea. Both are supported by precast upwardly tapering concrete columns. A third continuously undulating canopy covers the east–west central hall leading from the main entrance to the open square facing the ocean. Here, politicians could address their people like tribal leaders standing in a tent. Utzon explained the positioning had even stronger natural connotations, commenting: “…The hall seems to be born by the meeting between the ocean and the building in the same natural way as the surf is born by the meeting of the ocean and the beach…”

With few exceptions, the building consists of prefabricated concrete elements. The semi-cylindrical column elements along the central hall were prefabricated in two halves, obliquely cut at the top. The reception hall and office block are also supported by a series of semi-cylindrical columns. Altogether there were some 70 types of element, including those for the mosque which was finally eliminated from the project.

In his book on Utzon, Richard Weston considers that, despite the design and post-completion problems it has faced, “the Kuwait National Assembly Building remains one of the few architecturally compelling achievements by a Western architect in the Middle East… It remains a striking achievement, inviting comparison with the similarly fraught adventures of Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn in the Indian sub-continent.”

Symbol of democracy and religious integration

The integration of religion and democracy in the Kuwait National Assembly (KNA) produced definitions of democracy distinct from others in the region as well as from Kuwait’s own national history. The uniqueness of Kuwait’s democracy in the Arabian Peninsula is primarily due to the establishment of its parliament and constitution, which make it a constitutional rather than an absolute monarchy. The development of Kuwait’s democracy relied heavily on the construction of its monumental national assembly building, designed to mix symbols of democracy as understood in Western discourse (see, for instance, the columniation inspired by the Greek Pantheon) with images inspired by local elements (like the tent): this combination allows the building to produce an image of democracy and independence that resonates with local as well as international populations.

The initial plan for the development of a national assembly building in Kuwait included a mosque that would have become part of the assembly complex. The mosque building was later replaced by a prayer hall inside the KNA building, and at the same time a decision to build a state mosque in a different location within the old city of Kuwait was confirmed. The separation of the two structures can be read, at first glance, as an important symbolic action expressing the separation of the church and state; yet an in-depth analysis of the KNA’s design suggests different conclusions. This chapter explores how the design of the KNA building is apparently rooted in universal laws of spirituality and religion; on a related note, the tent-inspired building reveals a reliance on ancient religious traditions and proportions.

Extension - Members of Parliament Building

An extension to the original complex was designed by HOK International. 

The addition consists of a new five storey Members of Parliament Building, a separate three storey National Information Centre building and a central courtyard garden. Metal clad egg-shaped lecture theatre and function rooms are set in water features and landscaping within the courtyard.

The Members of Parliament Building consists of office suites for all 50 MP’s, each with views to the Arabian Sea and accessed from a large five level curved atrium. The billowing curved forms of Utzon’s original Assembly Building is reflected in the undulating and overlapping curved stone façade of the new Members Building.

Visiting the National Assembly in Kuwait City

The dramatic white National Assembly building is not open to the public, but it’s worth a look from the outside.


  • Population of Angola: 24.5 million
  • No. of members of Assembleia Nacional (National Assembly: 220                             

Angola's Parliamentary system

The National Assembly (Assembleia Nacional) is the legislative branch of the government of Angola. Angola is a unicameral country so the National Assembly is the only legislative chamber at the national level.

The 220 members of the National Assembly are elected by two methods. Ninety are elected in 18 five-seat constituencies, by party-list proportional representation using the d’Hondt method. The other 130 are selected by party-list proportional representation using closed lists, allocated proportionally to the nationwide vote tallies.

The People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) has held a majority in the Assembly since independence. Due to the Angolan Civil War, elections were delayed for years until they were eventually held in September 2008. The first elections under the new constitution were held in 2012, after a new constitution was adopted in 2010, increasing considerably the power of the President, and diminishing that of the National Assembly as well as that of the judiciary.

Parliamentary building & chambers

The original building of the National Assembly from 1980, also called People’s assembly was located in Estúdio/Restauração Cinema in urban district of Ingombota.

The new building inaugurated on 9 November 2015 was initiated on 15 October 2009, while the construction started on 17 May 2010. It is a part of the Political Administrative Centre covering an area of 72,000 m2 and a built area of 54,000 m2. The Centre accommodates Presidential Palace, the Palace of Justice, the Defence Ministry, Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, the Episcopal Palace and the premises of the former National Assembly headquarters.

The New Assembly has 4,600 seats overall with 1,200 in meeting rooms. The compound has four blocks each with six floors, a basement parking that can accommodate 494 vehicles, out of which 34 is reserved for VIPs. The construction was carried out by Portuguese company Teixeira Duarte under the supervision of Special Works Office of the Government of Angola. The building was inaugurated by José Eduardo dos Santos on 10 November 2015.

Visiting the Angolan National Assembly in Luanda

Public access and visits to the Angola National Assembly are not available.

United Nations

  • No. of member countries of UN General Assembly: 193
  • Seating capacity of the General Assembly Hall: 1,800                             

Although not a Parliamentary Building per se, this one is included as a significant assembly hall of a collective organisation of nations.

Parliamentary building & chambers

The United Nations General Assembly Building is part of the headquarters of the United Nations in the Turtle Bay neighborhood of Manhattan in New York City, United States. It contains the main assembly hall of the United Nations General Assembly, the main deliberative, policymaking, and representative organ of the United Nations (UN). The building was designed by a group of architects led by Wallace Harrison. It is connected to the other buildings in the UN headquarters, including the Secretariat Building and the Dag Hammarskjöld Library. Although the building is physically within the US, it is exempt from some local regulations because the site is under UN jurisdiction.

The General Assembly Building is a four-story structure measuring 116 by 49 m, with concave walls to the west and east, as well as a concave roof with a dome. The building contains a lobby for journalists and the general public to the north, as well as a lobby for delegates to the south. The central portion of the General Assembly Building is the General Assembly Hall, which has a seating capacity of 1,800 and measures 50 m long, 35 m wide, and 23 m tall. Each delegation has six seats in the hall, which face south toward a rostrum and a paneled semicircular wall with booths. The building also contains other spaces, including a delegates’ lounge and the president of the United Nations General Assembly’s offices on the second floor; a meditation room on the ground floor; and various shops and conference rooms in the basement.

Development history

The design process for the United Nations headquarters formally began in February 1947. The General Assembly Building was the third building to be constructed at the headquarters, after the Secretariat and Conference buildings. Construction of the General Assembly Building’s steelwork began in February 1950, and the building was formally dedicated on October 10, 1952. The rapid enlargement of the United Nations prompted the UN to modify the hall’s layout several times in the 1960s. The General Assembly Hall was closed for renovation from 1978 to 1979 to accommodate additional delegations. The building started to deteriorate in the 1980s due to a lack of funding, and UN officials considered renovating the complex by the late 1990s, but the project was deferred for several years. As part of a wide-ranging project that began in 2008, the General Assembly Building was renovated from 2013 to 2014.

Design credits

The General Assembly Building was designed in the International Style by a team of ten architects working under planning director Wallace K. Harrison. The Board of Design comprised N. D. Bassov of the Soviet Union; Gaston Brunfaut of Belgium; Ernest Cormier of Canada; Le Corbusier of France; Liang Seu-Cheng of China; Sven Markelius of Sweden; Oscar Niemeyer of Brazil; Howard Robertson of the United Kingdom; G. A. Soilleux of Australia; and Julio Vilamajó of Uruguay. In addition, David Fine of United States Steeloversaw the construction of the General Assembly Building.

The central feature of the building is the General Assembly Hall, which has a seating capacity of 1,800. The room is 50 m long and 35 m wide. The hall occupies the second through fourth stories of the building. During planning, the General Assembly Hall was intended to accommodate 850 delegates, 350 journalists, and 900 members of the public. As built, the main floor could seat either 636 or 750 delegates, while the booths and balconies within the hall could accommodate 234 journalists and 800 members of the public. By 1977, the hall could accommodate 1,060 delegates and alternate delegates; 160 journalists; 336 members of the public; and 542 advisers or guests of delegations.

Visiting UN Headquarters & General Assembly building in NYC

Public multilingual guided tours are available for the UN Headquaters. These tours will take you on a brief journey through the corridors of international diplomacy, where you will learn about the history and work of the United Nations and also visit the famous General Assembly Hall and Security Council Chamber (meetings permitting). More details of these tours and how to register for a tour are available on their website:

Parliament Houses compared

Bicameral vs Unicameral

It has been interesting to explore what kind of parliamentary systems there are in various countries governed by legislators or lawmakers comprised of elected parliamentarians. These systems are usually organised with either a single or double chamber of representatives who legislate for the prevailing government in that country.

As it turns out, only approximately 40% of countries operate in a bicameral system, ie. with two separate chambers in its legislative arm of government. Generally, only those countries that are large enough and usually organised federally with states and/or territories, would be bicameral. The rest—or 60%—are unicameral.



(noun); in some countries, a group of (usually) elected politicians or representatives with the power to make laws for their country.

Origins: Middle English, from Old French ‘parlement’ meaning ‘speaking’, derived from the verb ‘parler’.


(noun); a formal deliberative assembly of princes or estates or any of various national or provincial legislatures.

Origins: Medieval Latin, from ‘dieta’, meaning both ‘parliamentary assembly’ and ‘daily food allowance’, from earlier Latin ‘diaeta’, possibly from the Greek διαιτησία (= arbitration), or transcribing Classical Greek δίαιτα diaita, meaning ‘way of living’, and hence also ‘diet’, ‘regular (daily) work’.

Through a false etymology, reflected in the spelling change replacing ae with e, the word ‘diet’ came to be associated with Latin ‘dies’, ‘date’. It came to be used in postclassical Europe in the sense of ‘an assembly’ because of its use for the work of an assembly meeting on a daily basis or a given day of the time period, and hence for the assembly itself. The association with ‘dies’ is reflected in the German language’s use of ‘Tagung’ (meeting) and -tag —not only meaning ‘day’, as in Montag (Monday) but also ‘parliament’, ‘council’, or other law-deliberating chamber, as in Bundestag or Reichstag.


(noun); a formal meeting of delegates for discussion and action or the chief lawmaking body of a nation and especially of a republic (eg. in the U.S. is made up of the Senate and the House of Representatives)

Origins: late Middle English (denoting an encounter during battle): from Latin ‘congressus’, from congredi ‘meet’, from con- ‘together’ + gradi ‘walk’.


(noun); a deliberative assembly, often the upper house or chamber of a bicameral legislature.

Origins: The name comes from the ancient Roman Senate (Latin: Senatus), so-called as an assembly of the senior (Latin: senex meaning “the elder” or “old man”) and therefore considered wiser and more experienced members of the society or ruling class. However the Roman Senate was not the ancestor or predecessor of modern parliamentarism in any sense, because the Roman senate was not a de jure legislative body.


(noun); a group or assembly of people in a country or part of a country who have the authority to make and change laws. They are often contrasted with the executive and judicial powers of government.

Origins: late 17th century, from legislation, on the pattern of judicature


(noun); a group of people, especially one that meets regularly for a particular purpose, such as government, or, more generally, the process of coming together, or the state of being together, eg. the United Nations General Assembly

Origins: Middle English asemble, assemble “gathering, meeting, group gathered for a purpose, as a deliberative body,” borrowed from Anglo-French asemblee, assemblee, noun derivative from feminine past participle of asembler, assembler “to come together, assemble”


(noun); a group of people elected or chosen to make decisions or give advice on a particular subject, to represent a particular group of people, or to run a particular organization, eg. the United Nations Security Council

Origins: Middle English via Old French counseil (noun), conseiller (verb), from Latin consilium ‘consultation, advice’, related to consulere

ESTATES, also known as STATES

(noun); assembly of the representatives of the estates of the realm, the divisions of society in feudal times, called together for purposes of deliberation, legislation or taxation. A meeting of the estates that covered an entire kingdom was called an estates general.

Origins: French ‘États’, German ‘Landstände’, Dutch ‘Staten’

Videos of Parliament Houses




United Kingdom