The turn of the twenty-first century witnessed a surprising reversal of the long-observed trend towards the disappearance of second chambers in unitary states, with 28 countries – all but one of them unitary – adopting the bicameral system. This article explores this development by first setting it in the context of the historical evolution of second chambers and the arguments that support bicameralism, and then exploring the characteristics that distinguish today’s second chambers from first chambers. A ‘census’ of second chambers in 2014 is used to provide data on second chambers in federal and unitary states, to facilitate comparison with earlier data, and to distinguish between ‘new’ and longer-established second chambers. The article concludes that newly established second chambers are concentrated predominantly in political systems where liberal democratic principles are not established, suggesting that the debate over their role in democratic states is set to continue.
- legislatures; parliament; bicameralism; second chamber; political reform