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In politics, a national assembly is either a unicameral legislature, the lower house[note 1] of a bicameral legislature, or both houses of a bicameral legislature together. In the English language it generally means "an assembly composed of the representatives of the nation." The population base represented by this name is manifestly the nation as a whole, as opposed to a geographically select population, such as that represented by a provincial assembly. The powers of a National Assembly vary according to the type of government. It may possess all the powers of government, generally governing by committee, or it may function solely within the legislative branch of the government.
The name also must be distinguished from the concept. Conceptually such an institution may appear under variety of names, especially if "national assembly" is being used to translate foreign names of the same concept into English. Also, the degree to which the National Assembly speaks for the nation is a variable. To achieve a quorum, the ancient Athenian Assembly employed Scythian police to arrest citizens at random from the street. On the other hand, the early Parliaments of Europe were mainly of an aristocratic composition. The word had its origins and inspirations from the National Assembly that was responsible for drafting a constitution during the French Revolution.
The exact words, "national assembly," have been used prolifically in the international community of nations since the 18th and 19th centuries, considered the Age of Revolution in western Europe. Nations that formed republics in this age subsequently formed empires. Extensive cross-cultural influences brought much of their language and institutions to the provinces. When these empires collapsed finally, the emancipated countries formed states and other institutions on the model of the former imperial nations. Some examples of international influences are as follows:
In Germany, a Nationalversammlung was elected following the revolutions of 1848–1849 and 1918–1919, to be replaced by a permanent parliament (Reichstag) later. The legislature of the Estado Novo regime in Portugal was known as the National Assembly. The national assembly was also defined in the Republic of China constitution. This is different from the Legislative Yuan by the ROC constitution. In 2005, Taiwan revised the constitution and the national assembly was abolished. Examples have multiplied greatly under the policy of self-determination adopted by the western nations. Many more are to be found in the articles listed below.
Origin of the expression
Perhaps the best known National Assembly was that established during the French Revolution in 1789, known as the Assemblée nationale. Consequently, the name is particularly common in Francophone countries. It was also the name of the legislature during France's First Republic and the Consulate, and since 1946 has been the lower house of the French parliament, first under the Fourth Republic, and from 1958, the Fifth Republic.
The expression, however, did not originate in 1789. It was already in use in the French language of the times. Louis XIII of France (1601–1643), par la grace de Dieu Roy de France & de Navarre, in a Declaration of April 14, 1627, concerning the sovereignty of his kingdom, prohibits ministers of foreign countries from any jurisdiction in France, citing, as precedent, his Lettres de Declaration of April 17, 1623, forbidding religious officials from treating with foreign countries. He describes his Declaration as ordonné qu'en Assemblées Provinciales & Nationales des nosdites sujets. This was the "registration" that the Parlement of Paris refused to perform for Louis XVI of France in 1787–1788. When the Estates-General of 1789 formed the National Assembly of 1789, they did not believe they were instituting anything new. In the Assembly of Notables of 1787, Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette had used National Assembly and Estates General synonymously when he suggested that France needed a national assembly to solve its financial problems.
National Assembly is also found in some Commonwealth countries. Its use there is not a translation of Assemblée nationale, as the phrase is equally embedded in the English language. For example, at the end of the First English Civil War, an Act of Parliament, 1648, "Concerning the Members of the Classical and Congregational Presbyteries, in the several counties of the Kingdom of England, and Dominion of Wales," establishes a national congregational church in England and Wales, corresponding to the presbyteries of Scotland. The language is: "The National Assembly shall be constituted of members chosen by and sent from the several Provincial Assemblies." This National Assembly appears to have no direct link to any French words, although the concept is the same.
Unicameral national legislatures
Lower house of bicameral national legislature
|Algeria||People's National Assembly|
|Bhutan||National Assembly of Bhutan|
|Burundi||National Assembly of Burundi|
|Cambodia||National Assembly of Cambodia||រដ្ឋសភាកម្ពុជា (Rodsaphea)|
|Congo (DRC)||National Assembly of the Democratic Republic of the Congo||Assemblée nationale|
|Congo (Rep.)||National Assembly of the Republic of the Congo||Assemblée nationale|
|France||National Assembly of France||Assemblée nationale|
|Ivory Coast||National Assembly of Ivory Coast||Assemblée nationale|
|Kenya||National Assembly of Kenya|
|Gabon||National Assembly of Gabon|
|Lesotho||National Assembly of Lesotho|
|Madagascar||National Assembly of Madagascar|
|Namibia||National Assembly of Namibia|
|Pakistan||National Assembly of Pakistan||قومی اسمبلی|
|Slovenia||National Assembly of Slovenia||Državni zbor|
|South Africa||National Assembly of South Africa|
Upper house of bicameral national legislature
|Tajikistan||National Assembly of Tajikistan||Majlisi Milliy|
|Nepal||National Assembly of Nepal||Rāṣṭriya sabhā|
Entire bicameral legislature
|Afghanistan||National Assembly of Afghanistan||ملی شورا|
|Bahrain||National Assembly of Bahrain|
|Belarus||National Assembly of Belarus||Нацыянальны сход/Национальное собрание|
|Belize||National Assembly of Belize|
|Haiti||National Assembly of Haiti||Assemblée Nationale|
|Jordan||National Assembly of Jordan||Majlis al-Umma|
|Nigeria||National Assembly of Nigeria|
|Poland||National Assembly of Poland||Zgromadzenie Narodowe|
|Russia||Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation|
|Thailand||National Assembly of Thailand||รัฐสภา|
|Tunisia||National Assembly of Tunisia|
|National Assembly of the Batavian Republic:
- First National Assembly
- Second National Assembly
|1 March 1796 – 31 August 1797
1 September 1797 – 22 January 1798 (coup)
|Republic of China||National Assembly (Beiyang government)
National Assembly of the Republic of China
|1913 – 1925
1947 – 2005
Defunct constitutional convention
|Germany ("Weimar Republic")||Weimar National Assembly||1919 – 1920|
|Nepal||National Assembly of Nepal||1990 – 1997|
|Philippines||National Assembly of Representatives
National Assembly of the Philippines
National Assembly of the Second Philippine Republic
|1898 – 1899
1935 – 1941
25 September 1943 – 2 February 1944
|Portugal||National Assembly of Portugal||1933 – 1974||During Estado Novo dictatorship|
|Iraq||National Assembly of Iraq||2004 – 2005||A constitutional convention|
|Wales||National Assembly for Wales||Cynulliad Cenedlaethol Cymru||July 1, 1999 – May 6, 2020||Can make Acts of the Assembly and Delegated legislation; |
The title 'National Assembly' was formerly used to refer to the Welsh devolved unicameral legislature until 6 May 2020,
when it was renamed to a parliament, "the Welsh Parliament" or the direct Welsh translation "Senedd Cymru" (simply as Senedd)
|Northern Ireland||Northern Ireland Assembly||Tionól Thuaisceart Éireann||Can make Acts of the Assembly and Delegated legislation|
|Quebec, Canada||National Assembly of Quebec||Assemblée nationale du Québec||A unicameral provincial legislative assembly|
|Republika Srpska||National Assembly (Republika Srpska)||Народна скупштина Републике Српске (Narodna Skupština Republike Srpske)||Autonomous entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina.|
- Merriam-Webster (1986). Webster's Third New International Dictionary of the English Language Unabridged with Seven Language Dictionary. Vol. II H to R. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.
- Le Gentil, Jean (1675). Recueil des actes, titres et mémoires, concernant les affaires du clergé de France, augmenté d'un grand nombre de Pieces, & mis en nouvel ordre. Vol. VI. Paris: Frederic Leonard. p. 731.
- Davies, John; Dancer, John (1661). The civil warres of Great Britain and Ireland: containing an exact history of their occasion, originall, progress, and happy end. London: Printed by R.W. for Philip Chetwind. p. 238.