A Legislature Elected by the People

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According to the lawyer and philosopher Montesquieu, who lived in the 1700s, there has to be a legislative, an executive and a judiciary power in a country, if it is not to turn into a dictatorship, and those three powers must be independent of one another. The three powers must be separate in terms of actual functions, as well as in terms of who perform those functions. No person may exercise more than one of the three powers.

Contrary to what many believe, Montesquieu was no democrat, and he did not write about democracy. He was in favour of enlightened despotism, and it was in this context he wrote about the separation of the three powers. That the legislative, executive and judicial powers are separate, does thus not in itself constitute a democracy, but it is a prerequisite for one.

To be a democracy, the legislature must be a parliament elected by the people, and all adult citizens must have the right to vote and be eligible for parliament as well.

Some countries have parliaments that are unicameral, while others are bicameral. Thus, in Denmark and Sweden the parliaments have one chamber only, called Folketinget and Riksdagen respectively, while the United Kingdom has the House of Lords and the House of Commons, and the United States has the U.S. Congress which consists of the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Next chapter: A Government Backed by a Legislative Majority