Legislative period

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The legislative period (from the Latin lex, legis f .: law), electoral period or legislative period is the term of office of a legislative representative body ( parliament ). The maximum length of a legislative period is usually set by law, regularly in constitutional laws . In addition, there is often the possibility of shortening the legislative period by ending it early. Depending on the constitution, the parliament either dissolves itself or is dissolved, whereupon new elections are announced.

In many democratic countries, a legislature lasts four or five years. The United States , among others, is a significant exception ; its House of Representatives is elected every two years; The same is true of the lower houses of most of the US states . The Senate, on the other hand, is elected to a third every two years, with a senator's term of office being six years. In the state senates of the federal states there is usually an election every two years, with one half of the chamber being re-elected and the terms of office thus being four years.

In the event that individual MPs leave the parliament during the legislative period (e.g. through death), different regulations have emerged:

  • In countries with proportional representation , the next candidate on the party list usually moves up to parliament
  • In countries with majority voting rights, by-elections are usually held in the constituency of the departed MP , and the winner of these elections enters parliament

European Union

The European Parliament is elected for five years. The term of office of the President of the Council of the European Union lasts six months.

Federal Republic of Germany

In official usage in Germany in the summer of 1920 the term “legislative period” was replaced by the term “electoral period”. An electoral term in the German parliaments usually lasts four or five years if it is not shortened by the premature dissolution of the parliament.


For the German Bundestag , Article 39, Paragraphs 1 and 2 of the Basic Law (GG) provides:

“(1) Subject to the following provisions, the Bundestag is elected for four years. His electoral term ends with the assembly of a new Bundestag. The new election will take place at the earliest forty-six and at the latest forty-eight months after the beginning of the electoral term. If the Bundestag is dissolved, new elections will take place within sixty days.

(2) The Bundestag shall meet no later than the thirtieth day after the election. "

This regulation, which is based on the 33rd law amending the Basic Law of 23 August 1976 ( Federal Law Gazette I p. 2381 ), ensured that there is no longer any “parliament-free” period at the federal level. In contrast to traditional constitutional law, the dissolution of the Bundestag is no longer associated with an immediate termination of the Bundestag's electoral term. The dissolution is now only an order of an unscheduled new election. This new regulation also eliminates the "Standing Committee of the Bundestag", which according to Art. 45 GG in the version valid until December 13, 1976, "the rights of the Bundestag the federal government between two electoral terms ”.


Change from four to five years

In the German federal states, the term of the state parliaments is now five years. Only in Bremen is the citizenship elected for four years. In Hamburg , after a decision on February 13, 2013, citizenship has also been elected for five years since 2015 .

At the beginning of the 1990s, a legislative period of four years was still the rule; At that time, only North Rhine-Westphalia and Saarland were elected for five years . The state parliament was elected for the first time for five years in 1947 in Saarland, 1970 in North Rhine-Westphalia, 1991 in Rhineland-Palatinate , 1994 in Brandenburg , Saxony and Thuringia , 1996 in Baden-Württemberg , 1998 Bavaria and Lower Saxony , 1999 in Berlin , 2000 in Schleswig -Holstein , 2003 in Hesse , 2006 in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Saxony-Anhalt and 2015 in Hamburg .

Beginning of the electoral term

The provisions in the state constitutions regarding the point in time when the electoral term begins are different and sometimes inaccurate or not formulated at all. In most countries, the electoral period begins with the first meeting of the state parliament and ends with the meeting of the next state parliament. This is not or only partially defined explicitly in the constitutions of Bremen and Hamburg. In Baden-Württemberg and Hesse, the electoral term begins at the end of the previous electoral term, but if the state parliament is dissolved, it begins on the day of the new election. In North Rhine-Westphalia and Baden-Württemberg the electoral term ends five years after it begins. In Saarland and Saxony, the electoral period ends with the meeting of the new parliament, even if the state parliament is dissolved.

Time of constitution

In eight countries, the new state parliament has to meet no later than 30 days after the election. In Bavaria this period is 22 days, in Rhineland-Palatinate 60 days, in Hamburg three weeks and in Berlin six weeks. In Bremen the new citizenship must meet within one month, in Baden-Württemberg the new state parliament within 16 days of the end of the electoral period. In Hesse and North Rhine-Westphalia, the new state parliaments do not meet for the first time before the end of the (previous) electoral period, but otherwise within 20 days (NRW) or 18 days (Hesse) after the election. If the appointment in Hesse fell on a Sunday, it would be postponed to the next but one working day.

Time of the regular election

A new state parliament is elected in Berlin and Lower Saxony 56–59, in Saxony-Anhalt, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Brandenburg 57–59, in Thuringia 57–61, in Schleswig-Holstein and Rhineland-Palatinate 58–60 months after the beginning of the electoral term in Bavaria, however, 59–62 months after the previous election. In North Rhine-Westphalia the next state parliament is elected in the last quarter of the year, in Bremen in the last month of the electoral period. In Baden-Württemberg, Hesse and Saxony, the election only has to take place before the end of the (previous) election period.

If the state parliament is dissolved, new elections take place in most states within 60 or 70 days, in Lower Saxony within two months, in Berlin within eight weeks. In some constitutions it is explicitly stated that the deadline runs from the resolution, dissolution or referendum. In Rhineland-Palatinate and Bavaria, the new election takes place on the 6th Sunday after dissolution (or recall in Bavaria). In Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania the constitution rules out a new election before the 60th day after the dissolution, the new election takes place 60–90 days after the dissolution of the state parliament.

Extension of terms and common mode

As part of the alleged problem of long-term election campaigns , the extension of election periods and the synchronization of election dates in all federal states are regularly discussed in order to increase the proportion of time windows for material politics in the election periods. A general extension of the federal electoral term to five or six years is also discussed again and again. In addition to the above-mentioned work of parliament and the government on factual issues that is supposedly longer unaffected by the election campaign, it would also be advantageous to relieve the federal budget , since elections and the associated costs would be less frequent. A disadvantage of some constitutional lawyers is a depoliticization or de-democratization of the population if plebiscitary elements such as referendums and referendums are not introduced at the same time , as happened in most state constitutions as part of the extension of the electoral term.

Federal Council

There is no electoral period for the German Bundesrat . The Federal Council consists of members of the state governments who appoint and recall them ( Article 51, Paragraph 1, Basic Law). The President of the Federal Council as chairman is elected annually according to a fixed cycle.


The term “legislative period” is used in official language in Austria.

National Council

For the Austrian National Council , Article 27, Paragraphs 1 and 2 of the Federal Constitutional Law (B-VG) stipulate : “(1) The legislative period of the National Council lasts five years, counted from the day it first meets, but in any case up to that day which the new National Council meets. (2) The newly elected National Council must be convened by the Federal President within thirty days after the election. This is to be arranged by the Federal Government so that the newly elected National Council can meet on the day after the end of the fifth year of the legislative period. "

Until 2007 the legislative period in the National Council was four years. On October 29, 2013 the XXV. Legislative period.


The individual state parliaments usually have a five-year electoral term. The only exception is the Upper Austrian Landtag , which is elected every six years.

Local councils

In most federal states, there is a five-year electoral period for the election of municipal councils . Only the Carinthian, Tyrolean and Upper Austrian municipal councils are only elected every six years.

Federal Council

There is no electoral period for the Austrian Bundesrat . The Federal Council consists of delegates from the state parliaments, but they do not have to belong to them ( Art. 35 Para. 1 and 2 B-VG).


Federal Assembly

Strictly speaking, the four-year legislative periods of the Federal Assembly are those of the National Council . Art. 149 para. 2 of the Federal Constitution (BV) stipulates in relation to this: “A general renewal takes place every four years.” The general election of the National Council takes place in October, after which the first session of the new legislative period (with a new composition) already takes place The winter session is in December of the same year at which the general election of the Federal Council takes place (see Federal Law on Political Rights 161.1 Art. 19 and 53).

The Council of States has no legislative period regulated by federal law, since according to Art. 145 BV, the term of office for the members of the Council of States is determined by the cantons. In fact, however, the constitution of the electoral structure and the way in which the Council of States works have closely aligned with that of the National Council: in all cantons, the members of the Council of States are elected for a term of office of four years and, with the exception of the Canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden, at the same time as the National Council election.

The legislatures lasted three years from 1848 to 1931. The federal resolutions to change the corresponding constitutional articles for a term of office of four years were passed in a referendum on March 15, 1931. After the introduction of proportional representation, there was an exceptional election to the National Council two years later, i.e. in 1917 and 1919.

Cantonal and municipal parliaments

The electoral terms of the cantonal parliaments and municipal councils are also four years in most cases. In the canton of Friborg, the Grand Council is renewed every five years. On the occasion of the complete revision of the cantonal constitution, individual cantons changed to a term of office of five years (Waadt 2003, Geneva 2012). A change was discussed in other cantons, but not pursued.

In contrast to Germany, where a change of government at the state level also has an impact on federal politics - the composition of the (German) Bundesrat changes - this is not the case in Switzerland. Attempts are made to infer an overall political trend in the country from the results of the cantons. In fact, however, Switzerland is constantly involved in a kind of election campaign, since referendums are held at federal, cantonal and municipal level on average every three months, which are supported by the parties' slogans.

United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

House of Commons

For the House of Commons , Article 7 of the Parliament Act 1911 stipulates that the maximum length of the electoral term is five years.

House of Lords

There is no term for the House of Lords . The House of Lords consists of members who have obtained their mandate partly by succession and partly by appointment.


House of Commons (Dáil Éireann)

In Ireland , the parliamentary term of the lower house , the Dáil Éireann, is a maximum of five years.

House of Lords (Seanad Éireann)

The members of the upper house, the Senate ( Seanad Éireann ), are not elected by the people, but are partly appointed by the Prime Minister ( Taoiseach ) and partly elected by various bodies. These appointments or elections must always take place within 90 days of the election of the Dail Éireann.


Chamber of Deputies (Camera dei Deputati)

The Chamber of Deputies is elected for five years (Art. 60 p. 1 of the Constitution of the Italian Republic).

Senate of the Republic (Senato della Repùbblica)

The Senate of the Republic is elected for five years (Art. 60 p. 1 of the Constitution of the Italian Republic).


Congress of Deputies (Congreso de los Diputados)

The Congress of Deputies is elected for four years (Art. 68, Paragraph 4, Sentence 1 of the Spanish Constitution (Constitución Española - CE) ).

Senate (Senado)

The Senate is elected for four years (Art. 69 Para. 6 S. 1 CE).

United States of America

House of Representatives

In the United States the term of starts House of Representatives of the Congress on January 3 of each odd-numbered year. The fixed date comes from the fact that the election of the House of Representatives is legally always held on the Tuesday of every even year, which is between November 2nd and November 8th. In addition, under the US Federal Constitution, early dissolution of Congress is not possible. The House of Representatives electoral term lasts exactly two years until the first day of the next electoral term.

If a member of the House of Representatives resigns prematurely, a by-election will take place.


As with the House of Representatives, the Senate's electoral term always begins on January 3rd of an odd year. The election date is always Tuesday between November 2nd and 8th. What is special is that the term of office of the individual senators is six years and 1/3 of the senators are re-elected every two years. If a senator resigns prematurely, the governor of the sending state appoints a replacement senator for the remainder of the term of office in the majority of states . In some states, there is also or instead an early by-election.


Unlike z. For example, in the US Congress, where the members of the two chambers have terms of office of different lengths, but the (partial) elections to both chambers and a series of sub-national elections every two years regularly take place at the same time, in Japan the election periods in the National Assembly of the House of Representatives (variable, since dissolvable, maximum and rarely four years) and Senate (half of the members every three years for six-year terms of office) completely independent of one another; In this sense, there is no single electoral term for the national parliament. So far only twice, in 1980 and 1986, in Japan the general House elections and the partial elections to the Senate fell on the same day, in addition, they took place twice, in 1947 and 1953, within one week. More recently, this has resulted in several periods with different majorities in both chambers . Historically, the two chambers of the Reichstag also had independent electoral terms from 1890–1947: the House of Representatives as it is today (only extended to five years in the Pacific War), in the Herrenhaus the elected members had a fixed seven-year electoral term (the majority, however, was automatically a member or due to the rank of nobility Lifetime appointed).

In the prefectures and municipalities of Japan, the parliaments are unicameral parliaments; but in contrast to the parliamentary system of government at the national level, there is a presidential system with directly elected governors and mayors. Each governor and each parliament of each prefecture, as well as each mayor and each parliament of each municipality has a fundamentally four-year, but completely independent electoral period, which can change after recall, no confidence vote, self-dissolution, death etc. and then no longer automatically to other electoral cycles e.g. . B. the respective prefecture or municipality is adapted. Although in April 1947 all elections in the then 46 prefectures and their municipalities took place at the same time in the first uniform regional elections, today (as of April 2014) 36 of the 47 gubernatorial elections, six of the 47 prefectural parliamentary elections, almost three quarters of the 1,741 mayoral elections are and more than half of the 1,741 local parliament elections on largely inconsistent election dates in all four years between the "uniform" regional elections, over all months of the year (with certain clusters on some dates and rarely in early January).

See also

Individual evidence

  1. see also: Referendum on an extension of the election period in Bremen 2017
  2. n-tv.de of February 13, 2013 http://www.n-tv.de/politik/Hamburger-waehlen-ab-16-article10112686.html
  3. ^ Citizenship election in Hamburg: All results. February 15, 2015, accessed May 6, 2016 .
  4. In Bremen the electoral term ends on June 7th of the 4th year after the election. Bremen election ABC. (PDF; 702.5 kB) The State Returning Officer for Bremen / State Statistical Office Bremen, April 2015, p. 32 , accessed on May 6, 2016 .
  5. ^ Constitutions in Germany
  6. New National Council: Start of an unusual legislative period - plenty of conflict material for 5 years. In: ORF.at , October 29, 2013
  7. Previous sessions. In: parlament.ch. Retrieved April 25, 2019 .
  8. See vote by Council of States Inderkum of September 14, 2010 on motion 09.3946.
  9. ^ Dates of the National Council elections since 1848. In: parlament.ch. Retrieved April 25, 2019 .
  10. Art. 39, old Friborg canton constitution of 1857
  11. Art. 95, new cantonal constitution of Friborg from 2004
  12. Art. 92, Cantonal Constitution of Vaud
  13. Message from the Federal Council on the new Geneva Constitution (PDF)
  14. ^ For example, the Canton of Lucerne - constitutional revision. August 2004, archived from the original on September 22, 2007 ; accessed on May 6, 2016 .

Web links

Wiktionary: legislative period  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations