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date: 31 May 2020

Abstract and Keywords

In modern democracies, the legislative power is vested in parliaments with diverse organizational structures. Bicameral legislatures, requiring concurrent deliberation by two bodies, are present in about one-third of the world’s countries. Bicameralism typically serves the important purpose of accommodating the representation of heterogeneous interests from distinct social cleavages or geographic entities, but it is also associated with advantages such as greater stability of policies, increased accountability, and better quality of legislation. These benefits, however, only arise under specific circumstances, and the greater procedural complexity brought about by two chambers is not without costs. Disagreement between the two chambers often leads to costly legislative gridlock. Bicameralism can also open the door to pressure groups advancing their requests for favorable legislation when the chambers do not have time to carefully consider its consequences. The constitutional choice of bicameralism and its optimality ultimately rest on the subtle balance between its costs and benefits.

Keywords: bicameralism, representation, accountability, legislative gridlock, pressure group

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