WHY PARLIAMENTS MATTER
The United Nations passed a resolution to recognize the International Day of Parliamentarism (aka World Parliament Day) as “an opportunity to celebrate Parliaments, as the cornerstone of democracy, and as institutions designed to improve the lives of the people they represent.”
Parliament, in South Africa, ensures government by the people through its primary functions:
-Debate the important issues of the day: The legislature provides a national forum for public debate of important issues
-Facilitate public participation
-Scrutinise, oversee and hold the government accountable:
-Pass the budget and oversee government spending
-Initiate, process, amend and repeal legislation
-Recommend statutory appointments
-Ratify International Instruments
These functions are imperative to the effective functioning of democracies. Additionally, the work of Parliament is centred around transparency and openness – this gives the public insight into governance and critical decision-making.
The South African Parliament consists of two Houses – the National Assembly and National Council of Provinces. Parliamentary Committees are established as instruments of the Houses, in terms of the Constitution, to facilitate oversight and monitor government. Committees scrutinise legislation, oversee government action and interact with the public.
The public’s trust in political institutions – including parliaments – remains low and there are various reasons for this. Similarly, the percentage of the population aware of the business of Parliament could be much higher.
The system is imperfect, the institution is flawed and there are legitimate criticisms that one can make but in democratic countries legislative bodies are a vital check and balance on the Executive and a forum that gives expression to the view of citizens.
in a time of deep crisis and uncertainty, the role of Parliament is more vital than ever. In a time when fundamental decisions about our safety and economy are being made, we need more parliamentary action.
About this blog
"That week in Parliament" is a series of blog posts in which the important Parliamentary events of the week are discussed.