The Chamber of Deputies is headed by the Speaker, who is elected along with the Deputy Speakers by majority secret ballot. Only political groups are entitled to nominate candidates. Neither the Speaker nor the Deputy Speakers can be members of any committee, with the exception of the Steering Committee, where, on the contrary, they are automatically members by virtue of their office.
The position of the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies corresponds to the normal standard encountered in most parliamentary chambers – the Speaker has only organisational powers over the chamber; in the actual decision making of the chamber, his vote has the same weight as the vote of any other member of the chamber.
The Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies remains a member of his or her political group.
The powers of the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies can be divided into three basic groups:
- powers directed towards the proper functioning of this parliamentary chamber: the Speaker thus summons meetings, opens and closes them, presides over them, and cancels them in the event of disorder in the Chamber of Deputies or if it does not have a quorum. He or she further appoints the Secretary General of the Office of the Chamber of Deputies, declares a state of legislative emergency, summons alternates for deputies or consents to the surrender of a detained deputy to the court if he or she has been caught committing a crime.
- powers of the Speaker which are a part of so-called parliamentary diplomacy, where the Speaker participates in a number of foreign trips, receives foreign delegations and negotiates with diplomatic representatives of the respective states.
- the third category of powers of the Speaker is a set of special powers conferred on him or her by the Constitution or by law. These are connected especially to the construction of the division of power in the parliamentary form of government, and in their performance the Speaker thus cannot be replaced by a Deputy Speaker. These include in particular the power to nominate a prime minister if the Chamber of Deputies has twice refused to express confidence in the government. The Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies submits the proposal to the President of the Republic, who must appoint this proposed prime minister. This is intended to make a vote of confidence in the government more likely to succeed, because consultations on the prime minister would take place directly in the Chamber of Deputies, without the involvement of the President. The second of the special functions of the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies is to exercise some of the powers of the President of the Republic when the office of President is vacant or the President is unable to execute it for serious reasons. This includes the powers to call a session of the Chamber of Deputies, dissolve the Chamber of Deputies, entrust the government with interim performance of functions, appoint Justices of the Constitutional Court and appoint members of the Bank Board of the Czech National Bank.
Among the other (by their nature rather formal) powers of the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, the following should be mentioned:
He or she accepts the oath of office of members of the SAO, forwards bills to the Senate and to the President of the Republic, and signs acts and resolutions of the Chamber of Deputies. Finally, the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies performs certain functions provided for by special laws. In particular, he or she determines whether a municipality is a township or town and grants a coat of arms and a flag to a municipality. Furthermore, the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies accepts the oath of the Public Defender of Rights. In the exercise of his or her powers, the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies is not formally bound by a prior decision of the collective governing body of the Chamber of Deputies, namely the Steering Committee. Nevertheless, he or she makes most of his or her decisions after discussion with the Steering Committee and on the basis of its recommendations.
A deputy or a senator who is a member of the government cannot be the Speaker or a Deputy Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies or the Senate, or a member of parliamentary committees, the commission of inquiry or other commissions. Article 32 of the Constitution
The Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies is deputised by Deputy Speakers. Their number is not specified by any regulation and is determined at the constituent meeting. Deputy Speakers stand in for the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies in the order determined by him or her.
In every parliament, committees form the basis of its legislative and oversight activities. Within their framework, the fundamental decisions on the majority of acts are made. The composition or specialisation of the committees in both chambers of the Parliament is partially governed by legislation, namely by the Constitution and by the Act on the Rules of Procedure of the Chamber of Deputies, the latter of which stipulates that the Chamber of Deputies establishes from the deputies:
- the Mandate and Immunity Committee
- the Committee on Petitions
- the Committee on the Budget
- the Committee on Budgetary Control
- the Steering Committee
- the Electoral Committee
- the Committee for European Affairs
- and further committees on which it resolves.
The decision on the establishment of an unlimited number of further committees is thus at the discretion of the Chamber of Deputies, which usually decides on that at its constituent meeting. The committees of the Chamber of Deputies are standing committees; it is not customary to establish new committees or cancel them or divide them during an electoral term.
For example, in the current electoral term (starting in 2021), the Chamber of Deputies has established eighteen committees, fourteen of which deal with the traditional committee agenda (legislative business and oversight of governmental activities) and four have special powers.
Deputies may serve on up to two committees (with the exceptions of the Steering Committee, the Committee on Petitions and the Mandate and Immunity Committee) but can only chair one.
The members of the government who are also deputies cannot be members of any of the committees.
The Speaker and Deputy Speakers of the Chamber of Deputies are members only of the Steering Committee.
The political composition of the committees is governed by the principle of proportional representation of all the parliamentary parties. The occupation of the posts of the chairpersons and other committee officials is usually a part of post-election discussions. The chairperson of a committee is elected by the committee itself but is additionally confirmed by the entire Chamber of Deputies. This is done by secret ballot in a two- round election, in the first round of which it is necessary to gain the votes of an absolute majority; in the second round, to which the two most successful candidates from the first round continue, a simple majority is sufficient.
The meetings of the committees are essentially open to the public. They are convened at the discretion of the chairperson of the committee. He or she must do so at the request of the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies or of at least two-fifths of all of the members of the committee. Like with meetings of the Chamber of Deputies, the presence of at least one-third of the members of a committee is necessary to have a quorum; in order for a committee to be able to adopt a resolution, the approval of a simple majority is required.
Deputies who are not members of the committee concerned can attend its meetings; they, however, have only an advisory vote, which means that they can express themselves on the issue being debated and submit proposals concerning it but cannot participate in the voting.
According to the Constitution of the Czech Republic, members of the government and heads of other central administration authorities are obliged to appear in person at meetings of the committee should they be requested to do so by the committee.
The Act on the Rules of Procedure of the Chamber of Deputies allows committees to establish subcommittees to resolve particular issues. Today, there are several dozen such subcommittees.
Each committee of the Chamber of Deputies has its professional base. The Secretariat of the committee is headed by the Secretary of the committee, who organises the activities of the committee. In addition, the most important committees have their own expert advisors.
The Chamber of Deputies can further establish standing or temporary commissions formed by its deputies and other people who are not deputies. The chairperson of such a commission is always a deputy elected by the Chamber of Deputies. A deputy who is a member of the government cannot be a member of a commission, but the Speaker and Deputy Speakers of the Chamber of Deputies can. The commissions’ form of activity and method of procedure are adequately governed by the provisions on the activities and procedures of the committees. Some commissions are mandatory, predominantly those that oversee the activities of the secret services. These commissions are usually headed by an opposition deputy. This should ensure parliamentary control over a defined area of internal security, which otherwise falls within the competence of the executive. A Commission for the Work of the Office of the Chamber of Deputies is also always established to provide the functional support for parliamentary activities. The Electoral Commission then organises elections to all the bodies of the Chamber of Deputies as well as to the bodies of institutions under its control. On the other hand, the other commissions are established on the basis of the current need to solve a specific set of issues that are beyond the focus of the committees.
Commissions of inquiry are an important instrument of parliamentary scrutiny of the executive. The Constitution itself provides for the possibility of their establishment within the Chamber of Deputies. The limitation of the possibility of establishing commissions of inquiry to the Chamber of Deputies is based on the principle that the government is accountable only to the Chamber of Deputies. Parliamentary inquiries are most often used to investigate the activities of certain branches of the state administration.
Delegations of the Parliament of the CR serve to represent the state or parliament in parliamentary and similar bodies of important international organisations. Both chambers of parliament send their representatives to these delegations. Although the representatives outwardly act as one delegation, the organisational support of their operation is left to each chamber separately. In the Chamber of Deputies as well as in the Senate, parts of the delegations are thus constituted as commissions and have the same status as all the other commissions, including the administrative base.
Also the political groups have an essential position in the Chamber of Deputies. The relation between deputies and the apparatus of a political party has a significant impact on the character of the party political system in every country, and especially the relation between the government and the government (or coalition) deputies is then very clearly reflected also within the constitutional system. The Constitution of the CR is based on the principle of a free mandate, when legislators are not bound by any orders in their decision making. Nevertheless, it is clear that the party affiliation of the deputies plays an important role, precisely through the institution of political groups.
The law stipulates that deputies may associate in political groups according to their affiliation to the political parties or political movements for which they were candidates in the elections. Deputies who are members of one political party may form only one political group. Each group elects its chairperson, one or more deputy chairpersons and, where appropriate, other functionaries, who act on behalf of the group or represent it in other bodies of the Chamber of Deputies. The Rules of Procedure regulate the provision of financial, administrative as well as technical bases for the activities of the political groups. Non- -governmental political parties have an advantage in this, as their political groups are entitled to a contribution increased by a coefficient of 1.3.
The institution of the political board is now not enshrined in the Rules of Procedure of the Chamber of Deputies but is still significant. From a legal perspective, the standpoints of the political board have the character of recommendations; nevertheless, they play an essential role in parliamentary practice. Currently, the political board is composed of the Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, his or her Deputy Speakers, and representatives of all the political groups.