Navigation

The Tradition of Czech Parliamentarism

Navigation

Bohemian Land Diets and the Birth of Czech Parliamentarism

The origins of parliamentarism in the Czech lands can be found in the period of the actual birth of modern Czech politics, namely in the middle of the nineteenth century, when elected representative bodies became part of the political system and began their efforts gradually to emancipate themselves from the executive power. Nevertheless, it would be wrong to overlook the previous rich tradition of the Bohemian land diets, going back to the Middle Ages. Land diets (in German Landtage), the forerunners of modern representative assemblies, had already been part of political life in Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia from the thirteenth century. Their tradition of several centuries was not only one of the symbols of the enduring Czech statehood but also an important argumentative support for the legal struggles of Czech politics in the second half of the nineteenth century. This was despite the fact that the actual importance of the land diets had, from the seventeenth century, steadily declined in comparison with the growing power of the central authorities of the Habsburg Monarchy. The assemblies of that time had long since ceased to be the self-confident institutions that had formed a counterweight to the sovereign power, delimiting its boundaries and, in the epoch of the estates monarchy, having a direct influence on the election or confirmation of the sovereign. The loss of credit was reflected in the low activity of the diets and the low participation in their deliberations. Regardless of the changes in the powers of the assemblies, however, their essential characteristic, distinguishing them from modern parliaments, was the fact that they were unelected bodies whose composition was based on the organisation of society into estates and the mandate of their members was reserved for noblemen or was associated with a position in the church hierarchy or municipal administration.

In the period before March 1848, preceding the revolutionary year, further parliamentary development was foreshadowed by two diet-related tendencies. The activity at the Bohemian Land Diet increased with the emergence of the so-called opposition of the estates. Its political manifesto found support in the historically peculiar legal position of the Kingdom of Bohemia. The requirements of the aristocracy were aimed primarily against the power of royal officials with the intent of raising the legal as well as financial position of the land. For Czech noblemen, the diet was a means of asserting their political influence in their struggle against Viennese centralism. The debates on the form of the diet also included the idea of expanding the plenum by representatives of the ‘third estate’ – the bourgeoisie, whose social status was based on acquired property or education. The social and economic rise of these people was to be accompanied by their partial participation in political power like in the lands of Western Europe. Nevertheless, the bold proposals to reform the diet were not translated into practice, and the representation of broader social classes was thus not resolved until the events of 1848. Therefore, the involvement of the increasingly self-confident bourgeoisie was channelled into interest organisations outside the assembly, such as the Union for the Promotion of Industry (Jednota pro povzbuzení průmyslu v Čechách) and Burgher Beseda (Měšťanská beseda – burgher society). These forums became a space for sharingand crystallising the views of political liberalism. Moreover, in the case of the Bohemian bourgeoisie, activity in the associations was inherently linked to national agitation. The societies became a valuable school of politics, where it was possible to experience the atmosphere of discussion conflicts and tactical negotiations. It is no coincidence that the faces of many prominent deputies active later could first be seen in these institutions.



The Beginnings of Modern Czech Politics in 1848

The process of the transformation of the old diets of the estates in the lands of the Habsburg Monarchy gained new momentum with the arrival of the revolutionary spring of 1848. The opponents of the absolutist system were emboldened by the news of the revolutionary wave sweeping through the cities of Europe. The field of the politically active public expanded not only thanks to the activities of the societies but also because of the agitation of the press, which systematically influenced public opinion. The programme for the transformation of the political system formed an important part of the demands of the reform-minded public. In the face of the revolutionary wave, the representatives of the old regime initially chose a tactic of a systematic retreat, bearing in mind the dramatic events of the European revolutions in the last half-century. Fearing their repetition, they rather decided to accede to some of the demands. Emperor Ferdinand I promised to issue a constitution and to convene a parliament; he composed the government of liberal ministers and recognised basic civil rights.

Czech politicians, led by representatives of the bourgeoisie, extended the liberal and social demands common in the countries of Western Europe to include state and language requirements. The reaction to their petitions was the Emperor’s Cabinet Paper of 8 April 1848, which represented a substantial gain in the programme of Czech state autonomism. It contained the election rules for the Bohemian Land Diet, which was to convene on a more democratic basis. The assembly was to be composed not only of non-elected representatives of the existing old estates diets, but newly also of elected representatives of the people, although the right to vote was linked to property census.

Nevertheless, a precondition for the practical implementation of the ruler’s promises in Bohemia was peace and reconciliation between the two nationalities– Czech and German. The revolution of 1848, however, also fully revealed the antagonism between the two national societies, which, as a result of their uncompromising adherence to their language and political demands, could not but become rivals. For that matter, the attention of the Germans in Bohemia turned mainly to Frankfurt am Main, where representatives of the German lands were to meet and discuss the possible issue of German unification. Also the politician and historian František Palacký was invited to represent the Czech lands at the session of the Frankfurt Interim Parliament. Palacký declined this invitation, and his justification for this step became the formulation of the modern Czech political manifesto. It was based on the conviction that the Czech lands belonged within the reformed Habsburg Monarchy, whose importance lay in maintaining the balance in Central Europe. According to Palacký’s proposal, a commonwealth transformed into a constitutional and federalised monarchy of equal nations was the best guarantee for the successful development of individual national societies and for the functionality of the Central European power. Palacký’s thinking contrasted with the views of the representatives of the German liberal bourgeoisie, who considered Bohemia (or the Czech lands) to be part of the future German state. They thus assumed that the Czech lands would also hold elections to the Frankfurt parliament. The elections eventually took place in May 1848 in about one-third of the precincts in the Czech lands, being boycotted in the rest.

Czech politicians pinned their hopes on the deliberations of the Bohemian Land Diet, which was expected to prepare a land constitution, regulating the relationship between the Kingdom of Bohemian and the Habsburg Monarchy. Nevertheless in June 1848, when parliamentary elections were taking place in many precincts, Whitsun storms erupted in Prague, after which martial law was declared in the city. The holding of the diet was cancelled. For the moderate wing of Czech politics, represented primarily by František Palacký, this event was a cruel blow that made the call for autonomous state demands more difficult.

The situation developed differently in Moravia, where the traditional estates diet convened in Brno in March 1848. From the first moments, it demonstrated its readiness to expand its plenum to include representatives of other social classes. The assembly meetings were soon attended by town representatives, and the representati on of peasantry and the university of Olomouc was planned for future. The estates diet prepared the election rules for the elected land diet that met in Brno from 31 May 1848. The most important resolutions of this ‘peasant’ diet included the abolition of corvée and the approval of thedraft of the land constitution.



The Imperial Diet and the Beginnings of Parliamentarism in the Habsburg Monarchy

After the collapse of the Bohemian Diet, the attention of Czech politicians logically had to turn towards Vienna, where a parliament of representatives of all the lands of the monarchy – the Imperial Diet (Reichstag) – was meeting. The Czech representation decided to send its delegation to the diet despite the fact that it thus denied its previous conception according to which the constitutional organisation of the monarchy was to originate from the individual land diets. On the other hand, the Imperial Diet as a central body was expected to prepare and approve the future constitution of the whole empire. However, Czech politicians in June 1848 were aware of thenarrowed room for manoeuvre after thedeclaration of the martial law in Prague.For many of them, moreover, the idea of participating in the deliberations of a modern parliamentary body was the fulfilment of a long-held dream.

The constitution of 25 April 1848, imposed by the ruler and labelled as Pillersdorf Constitution after its author, the Minister of the Interior, assumed the convocation of a bicameral imperial parliament consisting of an elected chambre of deputies and a senate, the latter of which would be filled with owners of large estates and persons appointed by the Emperor. In the revolutionary atmosphere, however, these provisions ran into strong opposition, the reaction to which was the Emperor’s May Declaration, assuming a unicameral diet. The Imperial Diet comprised 383 deputies, not including representatives of the Hungarian lands, Lombardy and Veneto. The Czech lands had 138 mandates. The right to vote was very wide for the time. It was available to men over the age of 24 with the exception of labourers who worked for a daily or weekly wage.

The primary task of the Imperial Diet was to give Austria a new constitution, prepared and authorised by a legislative body. The efforts to transform Austria into a modern constitutional monarchy were complicated by the multinational character of the commonwealth, with national antagonisms transferred into the Hall of the Diet. The deliberations were also made more difficult by the limited political experience of most of the deputies, as a result of which a great deal of time was spent on discussions of basic procedural issues. In response to the heated atmosphere in Vienna, the discussions of the diet were transferred to Kroměříž (Kremsier in German) in Moravia in October 1848. The leading representatives of Czech politics were among the most prominent figures of the diet. František Ladislav Rieger stood out in the diet’s deliberations for his oratorical skills. His plenary speech defending the first article of the constitution, stating that all power comes from the people, won him recognition among all national representations and the press. It should benoted here that the rhetorical skills of the deputies were an important criterion for their success, because it was forbidden to read the speeches in the plenum. Whereas Rieger’s place was at the lectern, František Palacký was one of the most active members of the Constitutional Committee, where he formulated and defended his conception of the legal structure of the monarchy, emphasising the federalist principle.

The final draft of the Kroměříž constitution contained distinctly centrist tendencies. It envisaged the establishment of a bicameral parliament with legislative powers, consisting of the Chamber of the People and the Chamber of the Lands. What was, however, absolutely fundamental was the idea of the sovereignty of the people, which constituted the basic concept of the entire constitution, building on the belief in civile quality. Nevertheless, the constitution was not adopted. Its provisions, however, had logically clashed with the ideas of the anti-reform government, which had, in the meantime, consolidated its position on the political scene. Instead of Ferdinand I, who had been discredited by revolutionary promises, a new ruler ,Franz Joseph I, took the helm of the state. On 7 March 1849, a week before the plenary session of the Kroměříž diet was to debate and vote on the new constitution, government troops occupied the building of the castle and the assembly was dissolved, with a new constitution, called Stadion Constitution, being issued. It was strongly centralist in its conception and, unlike the previous one, it covered the whole monarchy, including the Hungarian lands, Lombardy and Veneto. It assumed the existence of a parliamentary body, albeit elected by a narrow group of voters. However, no elections were ever held. The provisions and institutions of the Stadion Constitution were not translated into political practice. They had no place in the conceptions of the absolutist-minded Franz Joseph. In December 1851, the imposed constitution was repealed by the Silvester Patents, which finally ended the first constitutional era of the Habsburg Monarchy.

Despite the minimal political results,the events of 1848–1849 were crucial to the formation of modern political culture. The public became a direct actor and an important factor in political events. The years 1848/1849 were a battle for public opinion. For the first time, citizens had the opportunity to vote for their representatives. The voters began to learn to develop their opinions under the weight of an election campaign in which the press was heavily involved. For the deputies, on the other hand, the first parliamentary experience was an opportunity to participate in political power and to demonstrate their skills in plenary rhetorical battles.The discord between the various national delegations should not obscure the fact that this was the first, buta lso the last, voluntary assembly of the nations of the monarchy to seek a common compromise solution to the internal organisation of the empire. Centralist or federalist conceptions survived insociety and resurfaced along with manyof the actors of the revolution at theturn of the 1860s.



Austrian Parliamentarism after the Renewal of Constitutionality

In 1859, the Habsburg Monarchy faced a critical situation caused by military failures and the disastrous state of state finances. Emperor Franz Joseph had to revise his ideas of absolutist rule and consult some of the representatives of the wealthy classes, who were counted on in the issue of state loans, oncertain financial policy steps. However, the revolution of 1848/1849 was imperative in the design of the transformations of the political system. Therefore, Franz Joseph was careful to promote reforms from above and announced ‘legislative revisions inreasonable time’, thus indicating a prudent course of action. The changes of the turn of the 1860s proceeded slowly. In comparison with 1848, they involved a gradual expansion of the existing political system. In March 1860, the ruler convened the expanded Imperial Council (Reichsrat). The existing twelve-member advisory body was enlarged to fifty persons by representatives of the individual lands and estates. From the Czech lands, its deliberations were attended by some aristocrats and representatives of the German bourgeoisie. The expanded Imperial Council was not a legislative body yet. Its function was consultative. From the first day of the debates, however, it was clear that the changes proposed on the floor of the Imperial Council would go beyond the Emperor’s intentions and would concern not only budgetary policy. The demands of the aristocracy and the bourgeoisie were aimed at their participation in the legislative process. During the negotiations, two tendencies ofthe legal system crystallised. Whereas the aristocrats of the individual lands built on the concept of historical-political individualities heading towards a federalised empire, the representatives of the German bourgeoisie defended the centralist form ofthe state. On 20 October 1860, following a meetingof the Imperial Council, Franz Joseph issued the so-called October Diploma. Its most important provisionwas the promise that future laws would only be passed in cooperation with land diets or the Imperial Council. The remit of the Imperial Council was clearly defined,thus opening a relatively wide field of competence for the land diets. Legally,the October Diploma thus tended towards a federalist systém while preserving the influence of the old social elites.

The outlined tendency united the German liberal bourgeoisie and representatives of the high bureaucracy in an oppositional formation. The completion of the changes in the political system was subsequently entrusted to the minister Anton von Schmerling. The February (Schmerling) Constitution of 1861, imposed by the ruler again without the approval of the representative body, completely disregarded the claims of the individual lands and planned the Austrian commonwealth as a strongly centralised monarchy. The political system completed by Schmerling had to take into account the main principles essential for the functionality of the monarchy. Besides the legal structure, these included the cooperation of old and new elites in the political system. From the period of the renewal of constitutionality, the Austrian parliament was thus essentially a new-estate body that guaranteed the representation of the aristocracy regardless of electoral gains. This was motivated by the awareness that these old conservative elites constituted the cement of the multinational empire. The emancipated bourgeoisie was then given influence not only because of its unquestionably growing economic power but also in the knowledge that it would not represent a radically destabilising element of the commonwealth and its society either. Nevertheless, the political system continued to be dominated by the executive and the royal court.

The structure of the parliament took all these aspects into account. The central representative body – the Imperial Council (not the Imperial Diet – a term discredited by the revolution) comprised two chambers – the House of Lordsand the House of Representatives. The House of Lords was a conservative body whose composition was influenced by the ruler. Its members included princes of the imperial house, heads of important noble families, virilists (archbishops and bishops of ducal rank), as well as figures appointed by the Emperor for outstanding services to the state or culture. (In some cases, however, appointment to the House of Lords meant being shunted into a political sideline because the main political forum of the monarchy was the House of Representatives. In 1861, the Emperor thus appointed for example František Palacký as a member of the upper chamber.) The House of Lords was intended as a conservative buffer between the Emperor and the House of Representatives, the latter of which had representatives sent from the land diets. Nevertheless, the constitution did not exclude their being directly elected in future. Both chambers were equally powerful. In practice, however, the centre of gravity lay with the House of Representatives, given its legitimacy derived from (initially indirect) elections. The House of Representatives comprised 343 representatives from all over the monarchy, but it never convened in this form. The narrower Imperial Council consisted of 223 representatives from the Austrian part of the monarchy (also called Cisleithania). The Kingdom of Bohemia sent 54 representatives to the Imperial Council, Moravia 22 deputies and Silesia 11. For a law to be passed, it needed to be ratified by both chambers of the Imperial Council and subsequently signed by the Emperor. The problematic Article 13 authorised the ruler to issue decrees with the force of law when the Imperial Council was not in session. The decrees then did not have to be approved by the Imperial Council post facto. The Imperial Council did not have all the powers necessary to perform the functions of a standard parliamentary body. Ministers were not responsible to it, and the members of the chambers did not elect their own Presidents, who were appointed by the Emperor. The Rules of Procedure made it possible to deprive a deputy of his mandate when he was absent for eight session days without an excuse. Deputies were entitled to allowances only on the days when the parliament was in session.

The land ordinances that were part of the February Constitution established land diets in all the lands of the monarchy, hence also in Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia, with the only difference being the number of mandates of the individual bodies. Elections to the land diets were held in three curiae. In the first curia, big land owners voted. It was this curia that became the bulwark of the old political elites. The curia of towns and the chambers of commerce and trade, on the other hand, was controlled by the emerging bourgeoisie. The third curia was reserved for the representatives of rural communities. The number of electoral votes per deputy was naturally unequal. The powers of the land diets were extensively defined, with all other areas pertaining to the responsibility of the Imperial Council.

The centralist character of the constitution, which substantially limited the sovereignty of the historical lands as well as election rules, suited primarily the bureaucracy and German liberals, who hoped that this construction of the empire would form a solid whole and would not be torn by internal antagonisms. Nevertheless, the individual national societies never accepted the February Constitution and regarded the Imperial Council rather as an expanded advisory body of the ruler than as a modern parliament. From the very convening of the council, the representatives from the Hungarian part and the Kingdom of Lombardy–Venetia were absent from the sessions, with the chamber gradually being left by the other national delegations, who had discovered that they would be able to advance very few oftheir political claims in it. In 1863, the Viennese chamber was abandoned by the Czech deputies from Bohemia, followed a year later by the Czech deputies from Moravia. The play at constitutionalism thus took place in the house of parliament, which contemporary observers aptly renamed the ‘Schmerling Theatre’, whose sparsely filled plenary session was attended only by representatives of German liberalism. It was they, however,who decided to use the incomplete parliamentarism as a springboard for the gradual parliamentarisation of the monarchy. They employed every instrument, such as the imperial addresses responding to the ruler’s throne speeches, to expand the field of the legal criticism of the executive. Similarly, they persuaded public opinion, for example, of the need for the legal responsibility of ministers.

A new impetus for the resolution of the constitutional and legal issues ofthe monarchy was again provided by the failures of Austrian foreign policy. The defeat of the German Confederation, including the Austrian part of the empire, in the Austro-Prussian War in 1866 led to its dissolution, as a result of which the Austrian Germans felt politically weakened. At that moment, it was clear that the idea of a monarchy governed from a single centre had to be forgotten. The German liberals found a logical ally in the Hungarian representation. The only alternative to the federalisation of the Empire, comprising individual lands, as also advocated by Czech politicians, was Austro-Hungarian dualism. Within the Austro-Hungarian Compromise (Ausgleich) of February 1867, Hungary gained its own constitution and the Hungarian Diet was given generous powers. The Habsburg commonwealth was transformed into a dual monarchy, sharing only foreign policy, the army and some financial matters.

The form of the political system was then completed by the December Constitution of 1867, which was a collection of four constitutional acts. It only concerned the Austrian (western) side of the monarchy, a whole that actually lacked a name and whose official, complicated title was the ‘Kingdom and Lands Represented at the Imperial Council’. The status of representative bodies was defined by the Act on Imperial Representation. German liberal politicians saw the constitutional changes of 1867 as an opportunity to complete the parliamentarisation of the commonwealth. For them, the failure of 1866 was not only a military defeat of Austria, but also a political defeat resulting from the half-heartedness of Austrian parliamentarism. Contrary to the Emperor’s intentions, the House of Representatives of the Imperial Council took the initiative and became an active body formulating new constitutional laws that contributed to the decentralisation of power and its division into legislative, executive and judicial branches. Ministers were newly made accountable to the Imperial Council; the representatives were granted immunities and could interpellate members of the government. The House of Representatives elected its own Presidents. Article 14 allowed the Emperor to issue decrees with the force of law when the Council was not in session, but they had to be approved by the Imperial Council after it reconvened. The position of the Emperor remained exceptional, for he was sacrosanct, untouchable and unaccountable. Nevertheless, the December Constitution was a groundbreaking document reflecting the perception of liberalism at that time, an essential part of which was also a set of civil rights and freedoms. The Imperial Council continued to consist of two chambers – the House of Lords and the House of Representatives. The powers of the Imperial Council were significantly wider than the jurisdiction of the individual land diets. Because of its centralising tendency, the December Constitution was, despite its liberal diction, rejected by the Czech representation, which continued in not attending the Imperial Council.

The basic structure of the legislature did not change much from the 1860s until the dissolution of the monarchy. However, the electoral system and the scope of the right to vote underwent modifications. The proceedings of the Imperial Council were paralysed when the individual land diets did not send their national delegations to the Council. For that reason, direct elections to the House of Representatives were instituted in 1873 and the number of deputies was increased to 353. In the direct elections to the House of Representatives, the representatives were elected to four curiae: the curia of large landed estates, the curia of the chambers of commerce and trade, the curia of towns, and the curia of rural municipalities. The number of votes needed to win a seat inthe first curia was several times lower than in the rural curia. The elections were held on the basis of a majority system. The election rules were gradually democratised. In 1882, the tax census was reduced from 10 to 5 Gulden, and in 1896 a fifth, general curia was created. This virtually meant the introduction of general voting rights for men, which, however, remained unequal because of the persistence of the curia system.

A turning point in the development of the right to vote in the Habsburg Monarchy was the year 1907, when general, equal, direct and secret voting rights were enacted for men over the age of 24. Consequently, the number of deputies rose to 516. The Emperor had decided to take this step in the hope that the ‘people’s’ parliament elected on democratic grounds would bridge the national divisions that increasingly accompanied its sessions. In the plenum, including representatives of eight nationalities and several dozen political parties, political consensus was hard to achieve. Not even the democratisation of the right to vote brought the desired result, and in the years before the First World War, the parliament was permanently paralysed by obstruction.

The outbreak of the world war meant the subordination of all the branches of the state to the needs of the military. Convinced that the parliament would impede the efficient and operational running of the state in wartime, Franz Joseph I dissolved the Imperial Council. It was not reconvened until Emperor Charles I of Austria acceded to the throne. His attempts at a return to parliamentarianism and efforts to reconstruct the empire while taking the wishes of the individual nations into account were no longer successful.



The Land Diets and Czech Politics in the Second Half of the Nineteenth Century

The Imperial Council in Vienna was the most watched political stage throughout the second half of the nineteenth century. Nevertheless, the attention of Czech society was drawn at least to the same extent also to land diets: the Bohemian Land Diet in Prague, the Moravian Land Diet in Brno and the Silesian Land Diet in Opava. The Bohemian Land Diet was to promote the main manifesto point of Czech political efforts – historical Czech state rights. According to this principle, the Czech lands had not lost any of their sovereignty during the rule ofthe Habsburg dynasty; they formed a historically distinct unity within the monarchy, and the relation of the Czech lands to the Habsburg Empire was a relation between the ruler and the Kingdom of Bohemia, which had voluntarily joined a multi-national commonwealth. The coronation as King of Bohemia and the existence of the historical land assembly were important symbols of the continuity of Czech statehood.

In the early 1860s, however, these postulates suffered severe cracks, because the land diets were convened on the basis of imposed land ordinances and election rules that were part of the February Constitution. The land diet thus lost its legal continuity with the traditional estate body. Nevertheless, the Czech representation, led by František Palacký, František Ladislav Rieger and Jindřich Jaroslav Clam-Martinic, recognised the newly constituted assembly as a defined playing field where the battle for the political emancipation of the Czech nation and land would také place. This view contrasted with the position of German politicians in the Czech lands, who regarded the land diets as second-rate bodies eclipsed by the Imperial Council. The whole calculation was motivated by the consideration that whereas in the Czech lands the Germans were a minority, the opposite was true in Cisleithania.

Despite the reduced importance of the land diets, however, April 1861 was a significant turning point in the history of the Czech land diets, because it was the first time that the Bohemian Land Diet met in Prague on the basis of elections. It has already been mentioned in connection with the Imperial Council that, according to the ideas of the time, the political course of the land was influenced only by wealthy and educated persons. This was reflected in the election census, which determined the amount of taxes to be paid for one to obtain the right to vote, as well as in the arrangement into curiae. The electoral rules logically disadvantaged the more numerous but socially weaker Czech society in favour of the Germans in the Czech lands. Therefore, the rules were repeatedly criticised by Czech politicians. Moreover, the electoral geometry tried to draw the electoral districts in such a way as to ensure a sufficiently favourable composition of the plenum for the executive. The Czech politicians thus demanded the extension of the right to vote to wider social classes. Nevertheless, while the right to vote for the deputies to the Imperial Council was gradually democratised, the land diet continued to be based on the principles of curial representation and property census.

The responsibilities of the land diets were limited to legislation in the areas of agriculture, public works and charitable institutions. Municipal, ecclesiastical and educational matters were dealt with by the assembly only after the Imperial Council had expressed itself on them. Important tasks of the assembly included the administration of land property and the approval of the land budget. In Bohemia, the assembly was presided over by a Land Marshal (Grand Marshal of the Bohemian Diet) and in Moravia by a District Commissioner. The presiding officers of the assembly were appointed by the Emperor. At its constitution, the Bohemian Diet had 242 representatives, the Moravian 100 and the Silesian 31. The elected deputies were complemented by virilists, i.e. persons whose mandate was linked to the exercise of an office. In Bohemia, these were the archbishop of Prague, the bishopsof Litoměřice, Hradec Králové and Budějovice, and the chancellor of the Prague university (from 1882 two chancellors), in Moravia the archbishop of Olomouc and the bishop of Brno, and in Silesia the archbishop of Wrocław. The diets were convened by the Emperor, who also had the right to dissolve them. The electoral term was six years.

Czech representatives took approximately one-third of the seats in the diet, the second was taken by representatives claiming to be of German nationality, and the last third then fell to the nationally indifferent aristocracy. Which of the two nationalities would be in opposition in the diet was decided by the results of the elections in the first curia of the large landed estates. The dividing line between the aristocrats was not the adherence to one of the two nationalities, but the attitude towards the constitutional organisation of the monarchy. The group of conservative noblemen advocated the extensive autonomy of the Kingdom of Bohemia, which would guarantee its political influence. For this reason, it became a logical political partner of the Czech National Party. The second group of big land owners saw the future of Austria in the centralised form as conceived in the constitutions of 1861 and 1867 and was thus referred to as the noblemen loyal to the constitution.

In the 1870s, also the Czech political representation definitively split into two party camps. The Old Czech Party (Staročeši) was led by Rieger and Palacký. Against them, the Young Czech Party (Mladočeši) crystallised with Julius and Eduard Grégr and Karel Sladkovský at the head, considering passive resistance consisting in boycotting the proceedings of the assembly to be completely ineffective. After long vacillation, the Bohemian representatives returned to the land diet in 1878. A year later, they also joined the deliberations of the Imperial Council, thus ending the sixteen-year period of passive policy. The Czech representatives in Moravia proceeded differently; they had participated in the Moravian Diet already from 1873 and sent representatives to the Imperial Council in 1874. Although the active policy then lacked the ostentation and drama of constitutional proclamations, it brought concrete gains, which primarily contributed to the language equality of Czech with German and the strengthening of the Czech positions in the state administration.

The polarisation of Czech politics was confirmed by the emergence of entirely new parties in the 1890s. Thanks to political and social radicalisation as well as the gradual extension of the right to vote, broader classes of the population entered politics. The nationally uniform camp gradually began to disintegrate ,and the political scene was entered by groupings representing narrower social interests, such as the Social-Democratic, Agrarian, or Christian-Social Parties. Even these parties, however, were created within the individual national societies.

In the 1890s, the national storms were transferred from the streets to the parliamentary grounds and the proceedings became increasingly blocked by dramatic obstructions including the recitation of long speeches, stamping, whistling and, in extreme cases, even direct physical violence in the session hall. What was thrown in the hall were not only loud insults but over time also inkpots and parts of benches. Emperor Franz Joseph finally lost his patience in July 1913, when he dissolved the land diet (by the so-called Anne Patents). The land finances began to be controlled bya land administrative commission, appointed by the Emperor, instead of the land commission, elected by the diet. The Emperor set the new convocation to ‘a suitable time’. The Bohemian Land Diet never met again.

At the Moravian Diet, on the other hand, the national conflicts were blunted thanks to the Moravian Pact of 1905. The election rules were reformed by thei ntroduction of the general curia, modelled on the elections to the Imperial Council. With the exception of the curiaof large landed estates, the proportion of seats allocated to each nationality in the individual curia was subsequently determined.

In spite of the complicated development of the land diets from the early 1860s, it should be emphasised that they are an important link in the chain of the formation of political culture in the Czech lands. The parliament of the newly established Czechoslovakia was able to rely on personnel and, to some extent, procedural continuity with its predecessor from the monarchist period. The Cisleithanian parliament and the land diets were, alongside local authorities, a real school of Czech politics from which it was possible to draw in future. The diets were a permanent reminder of Czech statehood. Without them, the economic, social and cultural rise of Czech society would have been more difficult. They were behind the building of transport infrastructure, health and social institutions; without their subsidies, theatres and scientific institutes could not have been established.

When discussing the contribution of Austrian parliamentarism to the shaping of the Czech parliamentary and political experience, it is also worth mentioning the negative lessons that politicians took away from the period. The failure of Czech constitutional efforts in the form of the collapse of the Fundamental Articles, the futile efforts to change the election rules, as well as the destabilisation of the diet through obstruction contributed to a certain resignation to the belief in standard parliamentary principles and constitutionalism.



The National Assembly of the Czechoslovak Republic

A new opportunity to solve the legal question was provided by the exceptional situation after the outbreak of the First World War. The shape of the future political organisation of the newly formed Czechoslovakia had to emerge from a combinationof the intentions of the foreign resistance led by T. G. Masaryk and domestic politicians, who had renewed their activity after the reconvening of the parliament in 1917. The future parliamentary body had its roots in the thirty-eight-member National Council, a body of domestic, ethnically Czech, representation, which was reorganised in July 1918 according to so-called Švehla’s Key on the basis of the gains made by the political parties in the elections to the Imperial Council in 1911. On 28 October1918, the National Council issued the act on the establishment of the independent Czechoslovak state, in which it declared itself the executor of state sovereignty. The National Council issued the Interim Constitution, on the basis of which the National Assembly, referred to as ‘revolutionary’,met in the Thun Palace in the Lesser Town of Prague on 14 November 1918. Its composition was the result of a sixfold expansion of the National Council, with the addition of 41 deputies representing Slovakia. In total, 256 Czech and Slovak deputies sat in the National Assembly. In March 1919, this number was increased by another 14 Slovak deputies. At their first meeting, the deputies declared the Czechoslovak state a republic, deposed the Habsburgs from the Czech throne and elected Masaryk president by acclamation.

The main task of the Revolutionary National Assembly was to complete the national revolution and adopt the constitution. Representations of national minorities did not attend the Assembly. This fact may be particularly striking in view of the large German minority in the Czech lands. The absence of German deputies was caused not only by the fear of Czech politicians of the highly probable complications in the approval of the basic laws of the new state. What was important was the stance of the Germans from the Czech lands, who still in October 1918 rejected their incorporation into the new state and hoped for representation in the future Austrian parliament. A change in the standpoint of the Czech Germans occurred after international treaties laid down the new arrangement of Central Europe. However, they conditioned their participation in parliamentary proceedings on the dissolution of the National Assemblyand the calling of elections. The Czech political representation rejected this demand, referring to the ‘rights of the revolution’ (a common term in the political and legal terminology of the time) and the recognition of the Czechoslovak government in the conclusion of peace with Austria. Minorities were thus not involved in the work on the Czechoslovak constitution. The intention of the Czech representation was to call parliamentary elections only after its approval and not to risk repeating the national discord and obstruction of the time of the land diet.

The Interim Constitution gave the National Assembly wide powers. The intentions of its creators had been shaped by the experience from Cisleithania, whose political system was dominated by the executive. In the post-revolutionary period, on the other hand, it was the parliament that enjoyed a privileged position in the constitutional system.The National Assembly elected not only the president but also the government. Masaryk’s dissatisfaction with weak presidential powers resulted in an amendment to the Interim Constitution in May 1919, which granted the president the right to appoint ministers. The Interim Constitution did not limit the term of office of the Revolutionary National Assembly. It was up to the discretion of the deputies when to call the first parliamentary elections.

The draft of the new constitution was formulated by Professor J. Hoetzel; the leader of the Agrarian Party Antonín Švehla stood out in the political discussions on the final version of the text. The constitution was adopted after persistent negotiations on 29 February 1920. The Czech origin of the constitution was clear already from its Preamble, which used the term ‘Czechoslovak nation’, with which the representatives of the numerous national minoritiesc ould hardly identify. Unlike the earlier Austrian constitutions valid in the Czech lands, it proceeded from the idea of the sovereignty of the people.

Legislative power was exercised by the bicameral National Assembly, consisting of a 300-member Chamber of Deputies and a 150-seat Senate. The method of election to the two chambers was the same; they were both elected by proportional representation on the basis of the principles of general, equal direct and secret voting rights. There were heated political discussions over the establishment of the Senate. A part of the political representation rejected the existence of a second chamber, recalling its conservative character in the days of the Austrian Imperial Council. The existence of the Senate was opposed primarily by the Social Democrats, whereas other parties wanted to differentiate the form of the Senate from the Chamber of Deputies by the method of election. In some conceptions, the second chambe rwas thus to represent the estate interests of society. Another possibility was that one-third of the senators would be elected in elections, one-third would be appointed by the President of the Republic, and the last third would be appointed by the government from representatives of public corporations. Nevertheless, a compromise establishing the Senate could only be reached if the demand of the Social Democrats that no senator be selected by any means other than election was accepted.

In the end, both chambers were elected similarly, based on a proportional electoral system. The only difference, affecting the composition of the chambers, was the age limit for active and passive right to vote. Citizens over the age of 21 could vote for the Chamber of Deputies; citizens over 30 years of age could stand as candidates. To be eligible to vote for the Senate, the citizens had to be 26 years old, and a candidate for senator had to be 45 years of age. The law set the maximum term of office to six years for the Chamber of Deputies and to eight years for the Senate. However, specific political developments erased even this distinction, and elections to both chambers were held simultaneously from 1925. These circumstances, along with its weaker role in the legislative process, led to the Senate being considered as a less significant institution in the eyes of the public. The sessions of the chambers were convened by the president, who could also dissolve both the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. In order to ensure legislative activity when both chambers were dissolved, a Standing Committee was established with 24 members, of whom 16 were selected by the Chamber of Deputies and 8 by the Senate. The Standing Committee adopted measures that required the approval of the National Assembly. Nevertheless, the measures had to be accepted by both chambers after they were convened, or they ceased to be valid.

The government was accountable to the Chamber of Deputies, which could, on the proposal of 100 deputies, express no confidence in it by a simple-majority vote. For a vote of no confidence, an absolute majority of the deputies present was required. Members of both chambers had the right to interpellate members of the government. Members of the National Assembly had a wide range of immunities, which were to ensure the independence of the legislature. Deputies and senators could not be handed over for criminal or disciplinary prosecution without the consent of the chamber of which they were members. The mandate of a deputy or senator was unfettered; members of the body were not allowed to take orders from anyone and were to make decisions according to their knowledge and conscience. In political practice, however, the mandates became the property of the parties, and any loss of a mandate in the case of a breach of party discipline was decided by the election court, whose members were elected by the Chamber of Deputies. The existence of closed candidate lists also contributed to rigid party discipline. Deputies were entitled to a fixed salary of five thousand crowns per month, which corresponded to approximately five times the average salary. The two chambers met twice a year – in spring and autumn sessions. The right to introduce legislation was vested in the government or one of the chambers of the parliament. The Senate’s veto could be overridden by the Chamber of Deputies.

Political parties were a fundamental pillar of the structure of the political systém of the First Republic. Although the law did not define their activities in any way, they managed to gain a dominant position from the first years of the new state. The influence of the parties was not limited to the activities of the highest bodies; it also intervened substantially in public life at a lower level. The parties represented the national, social, confessional and interest groups of the population. A large number of parties gained representation in the parliament because the election clause was low and was not a barrier to entry to the chamber. The most successful parties in elections regularly included the Agrarian and Social Democratic Parties, with high gains of the Czechoslovak Communists being no exception either. The political scene was highly fragmented, which complicated the formation of government coalitions. This atmosphere was conducive to the creation of groupings that stabilised complicated situations. What was decisive for the functioning of the political system in the first half of the 1920s was the existence of the so-called Committee of Five (Pětka), which was an informal grouping of the representatives of the five strongest state-forming parties (Social Democratic, Agrarian, National Democratic, People’s and National Socialist). They discussed important political steps in advance, and the government and the parliament subsequently made decisions according to the agreed scenarios.

The signatures of the representatives of the Great Powers under the text of the Munich Agreement, by which Czechoslovakia lost its border territories, marked the end of the era of the First Republic. In the critical months of 1938, the parliament was not a significant and active political platform. All decisions were discussed and taken outside its walls. In the critical period between May and September, only the Chamber o fDeputies met for a short time. The Munich Agreement was not debated by the National Assembly, and the state surrendered its land without the approval of the parliament.

The tense atmosphere of the time was also reflected in the change of the constitutional relations of the state. In November 1938, the National Assembly adopted the act on the autonomy of Slovakia and Subcarpathian Rus’. At that time, the National Assembly no longer included deputies elected in the areas ceded to Germany. Czecho-Slovakia, as the new name of the state was, began to change from a democratic to an authoritarian state. The importance of the parliament was minimised by the adoption of the Enabling Act of 15 December, which gave the president and the government extensive legislative powers. At the unanimous proposal of the government, the president could issue decrees changing the wording of the constitution. The government was allowed to issue ordinances witht he force of law with the approval of the president. The parliament then recessed for the holidays and never met again. All of these measures, which were contrary to the democratic system of the separation of powers, were then justified by the exceptionality of the situation and the need to save the country.

In this spirit, even the party spectrum was to be unified, the aim of which was to suppress another of the negative phenomena that burdened the period of the First Republic – the multi-party system. The governmental right-wing entities were concentrated in the Party of National Unity, whereas the left wing United in a tolerated opposition in the National Labour Party. The short period allotted to the Second Republic was ended by the German occupation on 15 March 1939. The day before, an independent state had been proclaimed in Slovakia. In the rest of the Czech lands, the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia was proclaimed. The formal existence of the parliament in the political system was then definitively ended on 21 March, when it was dissolved by President Hácha.

During the Second World War, the parliament did not convene in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia; the activities of political parties were naturally precluded. The only allowed grouping, within which controlled political life was to take place, was the National Partnership. The semblance of a representative body was to be formed by the Committee of the National Partnership. Considering its functions and powers, however, any comparison with a parliament is completely illusory.

In the meantime in emigration, Edvard Beneš and his associates were trying to ensure the challenged legal continuity of independent Czechoslovakia. In exile, Beneš acted as the president of a still independent state. Along with him, the provisional Czechoslovak state system was represented by the government-in-exile and the forty-member State Council, which was to perform the functions of an advisory and oversight body. The President of the Republic presented the State Council with presidential decrees for assessment – they formed the basis of normative aktivity in the extraordinary war period. The State Council, comprising representatives of various political currents, was thus, to a very limited extent, to replace the parliament.



The Parliament in the Shadow of the Communist Regime

The defeat of Nazi Germany enabled the restoration of Czechoslovakia, but it was also clear that the situation in the new state would have to reflect the circumstances brought about by the course of war. Primarily, it was the growing influence of the Communist Party, backed by its powerful Soviet ally, but alsothe strengthening of left-wing ideas in society. On the basis of a decree of the President of the Republic, the parliament first met on 28 October 1945; its form, however, was modified in comparison with that of the First Republic because of the abolition of the Senate. The representatives of the Interim National Assembly did not come from regular parliamentary elections but were elected indirectly at the land conventions of the National Committees, which represented the bodies of state power after the liberation.

The transformation into the unicameral parliament was not the only alteration in its form. The breadth of the party spectrum from which the deputies were selected was fundamentally narrowed. Based on the agreements concluded in Moscow at the end of the war by representatives of London and Moscow exiles, party and political life took place only within the confines of the National Front. Its members no longer included parties that were labelled as right-wing and, according to conceptions of the time, had contributed by their behaviour and attitudes to the fall of the First Czechoslovak Republic. From the numerous parties of the First Republic, it was thus the People’s, National Socialist, Social Democratic and Communist Parties that continued to exist within the National Front in Bohemia. In Slovakia, only the Democratic and Communist Parties survived. The limited selection of political groupings shows the boundaries of the democratic situation in the post-war period. The creators of this system actually referred to it as the people’s democracy. Besides the classic constitutional institutions (with, for instance, the Constitutional Court not having been restored, however), there were non-standard bodies, which served primarily to promote the influence of the Communists. Nevertheless, it should be added that, according to opinion polls of the time, the vast majority of society was in favour of limiting the party spectrum. The strength of the political parties was evenly distributed in the Interim National Assembly, with the exception of the positions of the Communist Party, which benefited from double the number of deputies, resulting from the independence of the Slovak Communists.

The establishment of the first postwar parliament was received by the public with great enthusiasm, because it proved the stabilisation of the situation and confirmed the return of democracy to Czechoslovakia. The 300-member Interim National Assembly confirmed the mandate of President Beneš and post facto approved the presidential decrees. The main task was then to prepare the constitutional act on the constituent National Assembly.

The first elections to the unicameral  constituent National Assembly after thewar were held in May 1946. Citizens over the age of 18 who were of Czech, Slovak or other Slavic nationality could vote in them. Passive voting rights were given to candidates over 21 years of age. The winners of the elections in Bohemia were the Communists, where as in Slovakia it was the Democratic Party. The body, whose term was to be limited to two years, was to prepare a new constitution. This took place in a continuously intensifying political climate. In February 1848, the struggle for control of the land escalated. After the resignations of the democratic ministers, the government was complemented by persons proposed by the Communist Prime Minister Klement Gottwald. A few days later, in a tense atmosphere, also the National Assembly approved the programme statement of the reconstructed government. The Communists had definitively seized power in the state. Nevertheless, they tried to create the impression of a constitutional character of the coup d’état and the new situation. The constitution, which was adopted in the new conditions on 9 May 1948, thus formally recognised the division of legislative, executive and judicial powers. According to the constitution, the government was both collectively and individually accountable to the National Assembly. In reality, however, these provisions were merely a cover for the nature of a totalitarian regime, where the power of the Communist Party was not subject to any control. The parliament only willingly passed laws and regularly expressed confidence in the governments. In the political structure of the state, all the institutions and bodies were in reality subject to the decisions of the apparatus of the Communist Party.

The total disappearance of the principle sof political pluralism was confirmed by the nature of the parliamentary elections that took place shortly after the adoption of the constitution. Voters could only cast ballots on the unified candidate list of the National Front, which had been prepared under the baton of the Communists. The only possibility to express protest was to turn in a blank ballot, but their number was drastically reduced in the final tally anyway. The degradation of the act of voting became a permanent phenomenon throughout the forty years of Communist rule. From this point of view, it is not appropriate to overestimate an event that would otherwise have rightfully deserved attention, namely a change in the electoral system, which was transformed into a majority systém by the Electoral Act of 1954.

The character of the political situation was not changed much by the new constitution adopted in 1960 either. Its text rather confirmed the conditions which had been established in the state a long time before. The constitution legally enshrined the leading role of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia in the whole society. The achievements to be accomplished by the entire society on the current path to the Communist ideal were also reflected in the name of the state, which was newly the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic. The National Assembly continued to represent the legislative power. Its term of office was shortened from five to four years. The constitution limited the immunity of members of the National Assembly. Deputies were also accountable to their constituents and could be recalled by them at any time.

The year 1968 brought not only the hope in the ability to reform the Communist regime, which was replaced by the total disillusionment of the society after thei nvasion of Warsaw Pact troops. As part of the political and social changes, members of the representative bodies began to become more active. From the spring of1 968, there appeared demands for the real exercise of parliamentary functions, and above all for the control of the bodies ofs tate power, which had hitherto been only a theoretical postulate contained in the constitutional text. An integral part of the reform process was the search for a way to resolve the relationship between Czechs and Slovaks in one state.

The fully emancipated Slovak society was no longer satisfied with the asymmetrical model of state organisation in which also the Slovak National Council had legislative powers along with the central Czechoslovak bodies. Whereas in the Czech part of the republic the central slogan of the Prague Spring was democratisation, the demand of the Slovak representatives was aimed at the overall federalisation of the state.

The specific form of the federation was discussed from the beginning of 1968 at the party and government level. The issue was also dealt with by the Slovak National Council as the national body of state power in Slovakia, whose powers had been considerably limited by the socialist constitution of 1960. The resulting proposal conceived of Czechoslovakia as a union of equal nation-states that ceded part of their powers to a common federal state with a common parliament – the Federal Assembly.

In the logic of this proposal, the initiative to delegate part of the powers to the common federal state needed to come from the representative assemblies of both nation-states. While the Slovak National Council was the representative body in Slovakia, there was no similar body in the Czech part of the republic. Therefore, in June 1968, the Government Committee for State Organisation decided to propose the creation of the Czech National Council. It was established on the basis of the Constitutional Act on the Preparation of the Federal Structure ofthe Czechoslovak Socialist Republic. The law also stipulated that the first members of the Czech National Council would be elected by the National Assembly.

The specific form of the law on the formation of the federation was discussed in a considerably changed atmosphere after the August invasion by the Warsaw Pact states. The discussions mainly focused on the problem of safeguards against majoritarianism, i.e. a mechanism that would prevent simply outvoting the Slovak representation in the representative assemblies. Another question was the method of election to the federal parliament. There was consensus on its bicameral form. However, the Czech representation advocated that one of itschambers should be elected indirectly bythe National Councils.

The Constitutional Act on the Czechoslovak Federation was approved at a meeting of the National Assembly in the Spanish Hall of Prague Castle on 27 October 1968. The Federal Assembly consisted of two chambers – the Chamber of the People and the Chamber of Nations. The Chamber of the People had 200 members, elected by direct suffrage. The Chamber of Nations consisted of 150 deputies, half of whom were elected in the Czech Socialist Republic and half in the Slovak Socialist Republic. The Chamber of Nations was thus intended to highlight the national principle. The electoral term of both chambers was five years. The Federal Assembly also elected the President of the Republic for a five-year term, expressed confidence in the government, and established federal ministries byconstitutional law. The Federal Assemblywas vested with legislative powers in the areas entrusted to the competence of the federation and to the joint competence of the federation and the republics.

The adoption of a resolution required the consent of both chambers. In the case of the discussion of constitutional laws,the election of the president or the expression of confidence in the government, the consent had to be given by three-fifths of Czech and three-fifths of Slovak deputies in the Chamber of Nations. This ban on majoritarianism prevented the outvoting of Slovak deputies. At the national level, the legislative power was represented by the 200-member Czech National Council and the 150-member Slovak National Council.

The mentioned changes in the structure of the parliamentary system affected only the external form of the political system, whose main principles remained untouched. Power in the state continued to be centralised in the hands of the Communist Party, regardless of the formal federalisation of the state. The Parliament met in regular session sin spring and autumn. The plenum of the parliament was to mirror the structure of socialist society. Therefore, it included deputies of a wide variety of professions and occupations, which, after all, the deputies pursued in parallel with the exercise of their mandate.



The Parliament after 1989

The events of the so-called Velvet Revolution logically influenced also the situationin the representative assemblies. The initiative for social changes lay outside the parliament. Nevertheless, it was significant that the groups that were at the forefront of the public dispute – the Civic Forum (Občanské fórum) and the Public against Violence (Verejnosťproti násiliu) – were convinced of the need to pass the revolution through the constitutional path. For this reason, it was necessary for the opposition to have its influence in the parliaments. The nature of the mandate of the deputies was to be changed, a political debate was to be allowed, and the Federal Assembly was to include representatives of the opposition.

On 30 November, the Federal Assembly repealed the article of the Constitution on the leading role of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia in the political system. Václav Havel was elected President of the Republic by the Federal Assembly at the end of 1989. A number of Communist deputies resigned from their posts already before the end of 1989. Other deputies were dismissed based on constitutional law. New deputies were co-opted to také their places, ironically repeating a similar mechanism applied to discredited deputies in the early days of normalisation. In February 1990, the Federal Assembly adopted two constitutional laws that fundamentally changed the form of the parliament. Constitutional Act No.45/1990 Coll. shortened the term of the Federal Assembly (it was originally supposed to last until 1991). Constitutional Act No. 46/1990 Coll., which established the institution of the free mandate of deputies, defined the incompatibility of the exercise of the mandate of the deputies with the exercise of other state functions, reduced the number of the members of the Chamber of the People to 150 and amended the texts of the oaths of a deputy and a member of the government.

In June 1990, the first free parliamentary elections were held for both chambers of the Federal Assembly and for the National Councils. The elections confirmed the predominance of the democratisation political movements, which had originally formed spontaneously for the purpose of negotiations with the representatives of the Communist regime. In the Czech lands, the winner of the elections was the Civic Forum; in Slovakia,it was the Public against Violence. The elections were followed by an overall democratic transformation of the constitutional order. The deputies of the Czechoslovak parliaments emancipated the representative bodies within the political system and formulated competing positions with respect to the governments or the president when discussing many transformation issues. The parliaments thus gradually regained their classical function in political decision making. In this process, the procedural rules of parliamentary deliberation were carried over smoothly from the normalisation era. The Rules of Procedure from the end of socialism were applicable in the new circumstances as well.

The democratisation of society at the beginning of the 1990s was also reflected in the fact that it was possible to reopen and newly resolve the question of the relations between Czechs and Slovaks in the two-member federation. The Slovak representation advocated the federation as a relatively loose union of the two republics that was to have only weak power abroad. The so-called hyphen war in the Federal Assembly, consisting of a debate on changing the name of the state, heralded difficult negotiations on the future of the federation. Between 1990 and 1992, the Federal Constitution was continuously weakened and the powers were gradually transferred to the republics. This state of affairs prevented further, especially economic, reforms, which were necessary for the inclusion of the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic among the standard European liberal states. After the elections of 1992, it was clear that the representatives of the Czech and Slovak Republic would not find a common solution for the future policy of the state. The President of the Republic resigned from his post. The Slovak National Council adopted a new Constitution of the Slovak Republic. In the end, the two groups of representatives agreed on the date of the dissolutionof the state, namely 1 January 1993.

At the end of 1992, the Federal Assembly as well as both National Councils worked together to create the documents that led to the legal and constitutional arrangements of the division. The basic law in this respect was the Constitutional Act on the Dissolution of the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic, which was adopted by the Federal Assembly on 25 November 1992. According to this law, the two new states, the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic ,became equal successor states.

On 16 December 1992, the Czech National Council approved the Constitution of the Czech Republic. For the first time, the representative body of the new state was officially called the Parliament, consisting of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. Like in 1918, also in 1992 there wererecurrent discussions about the senseof the bicameral system. The experience of the First Republic led to a greater separation of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. Whereas the two-hundred-member Chamber of Deputies is elected by proportional representation for four years, the eighty-one senators are elected by a two-round majority system for six years, with partial replacement of one-third of the plenary at two-year intervals. The form of the parliamentary system was not complete at the time of the establishment of the independent Czech Republic. While the Czech National Council was transformed into the Chamber of Deputies immediately at the beginning of 1993, the first elections to the Senate did not take place until the autumn of 1996.