Election of a presiding officer in other
legislatures and assemblies
1. This note summarises
the arrangements for electing presiding officers in legislatures
and assemblies based on Westminster and other models. It is based
on readings of the applicable standing orders and rules of procedure,
supplemented by recommendations and observations made by the relevant
authorities of the legislatures and assemblies cited.
A. Parliaments on the Westminster model
Australia House of Representatives
2. The Clerk administers
the election of the Speaker. At the beginning of a Parliament,
or when there is a vacancy in the Speakership, the Clerk calls
for nominations for the post. Nominations are made orally and
without notice, and must be seconded. If only one member is nominated,
he or she is declared elected. When no further nominations are
forthcoming, the Clerk declares nominations closed. Debate may
then ensue. A Minister may move for closure at any time: if this
motion is carried, or when the debate concludes, the House proceeds
to a ballot.
3. Members write the name of their preferred
candidate on a ballot paper and deliver it to the Clerks. When
all have voted, the Clerks are responsible for counting the votes.
For a candidate to be elected, he or she must achieve a simple
majority of Members present. [NB: the standing orders do not distinguish
between members simply present and members present and voting].
If there are three or more candidates and none gains a simple
majority, the candidate with the least votes is eliminated and
a new ballot is held.
4. Candidates may only withdraw from the process
between the declaration of the result of the first ballot and
the commencement of subsequent ballots.
Canada House of Commons
5. A Speaker, having
indicated his or her intention to resign, is able to preside over
the election of a successor. The election is the first item of
business on the appointed day (the first day of a new Parliament
or when there appears to be a vacancy).
6. Either the retiring Speaker or the Member
with the longest unbroken period of service (who is not a Minister
or an office-holder or party leader) presides over the election.
In certain circumstances the Deputy Speaker may preside over an
election. The presiding Member has all the powers of the Chair:
he may vote in the election, but he does not have a casting vote.
7. No debate on the election is permitted.
8. Members not wishing to stand for election
submit their names to the Clerk by 6pm the evening before the
election. The list, together with names of Ministers and party
leaders, constitutes a list of those ineligible for election.
9. Ballot papers are issued only to those Members
present in the chamber on the day of the election. Members print
the names of their choice on the ballot and place it in a box.
A simple majority of votes cast is required to win. If no candidate
achieves a simple majority, both the candidate polling
the lowest number of votes and any candidates polling less
than 5% of the total votes cast are eliminated, and a new ballot
is held. Candidates may withdraw from the contest before this
second ballot, but are expected to state their reasons. Subsequent
ballots are held until one candidate receives a simple majority.
10. The Canadian General Election took place
on 27 November 2000. The House of Commons elected a Speaker when
the thirty-seventh Parliament first met on 29th January 2001.
Thirty-one Members stood for election, of which twenty-five were
eliminated in the first ballot. In all five ballots were held,
the process taking 4 hours 20 minutes. Following the fifth ballot,
between three candidates, Mr Peter Milliken was declared elected
South Africa National Assembly
11. The Speakership is
an office designated by the Constitution, and the election follows
a constitutionally-defined procedure. The President of the Constitutional
Court, or his or her designate, presides over the election of
a Speaker, and is empowered to make rules governing the procedure
to be followed at the election and the manner in which voting
12. The elected Speaker presides over the election
of a Deputy Speaker. The National Assembly may elect other deputy
presiding officers in accordance with its rules of procedure.
13. The Secretary of the Assembly is responsible
for informing the House that the position of Speaker is vacant.
The election of a new Speaker may take place either forthwith
or at a time announced by the Secretary.
14. The presiding judge calls for nominations,
which must be made on a form designated for the purpose and signed
by two Members of the Assembly. The candidate must indicate his
or her willingness to stand in writing, by signing the nomination
form or otherwise. Names of the candidates are announced by the
presiding judge, but no debate is permitted.
15. If only one candidate is nominated, he or
she is declared elected. If more than one candidate is nominated,
a secret ballot is held. The candidate receiving an overall majority
16. If no candidate receives an overall majority,
the candidate receiving the lowest number of votes is eliminated
and a further ballot held. If two candidates tie for the lowest
number of votes in any round, a further ballot is held to determine
which one of them is eliminated. If, after initial nominations
or elimination, only two candidates remain, and those candidates
receive the same number of votes in the final ballot, a further
meeting is held under the same rules within seven days.
India Lok Sabha
Motion taken on the floor
17. The President sets
the date of the election of the Speaker: every member is notified
of the date by the Secretary-General. Nominations close at noon
before the appointed day, and take the form of a notice of a motion
to choose a Member as Speaker. Nominations must be seconded and
accompanied by a statement by the nominated Member of his or her
willingness to serve.
18. The Rules of Procedure do not indicate who
presides over the election process, although Rule 10 indicates
that 'the deputy Speaker or any other member competent to preside
over a sitting of the House under the Constitution or these rules
shall, when so presiding, have the same powers as the Speaker
when so presiding'.
19. The motions are put to the House in the order
they have been moved. Decision is by division if necessary. Once
a motion is carried, the Member proposed is declared elected Speaker.
New Zealand House of Representatives
20. The Clerk, presiding,
reads out the nominations and calls on each Member in turn to
state the candidate for whom he or she will vote. Election is
by simple majority of the votes cast. If no overall majority is
achieved, the candidate with the lowest number of votes is eliminated
and a new vote is held.
Republic of Ireland Dáil Eireann
Motion taken on the floor
21. At the start of a
parliament, the Clerk announces the list of members returned to
serve in the Dáil. Under S.O. 6 the Dáil then proceeds
directly to the election of its Ceann Comhairle [Chairman].
The Clerk chairs the sitting until the Ceann Comhairle
is elected, and has powers to suspend or to adjourn the sitting
until the election has been finalised.
22. Any Member who has taken his or her seat
may, without notice, make a motion that another Member shall be
elected Ceann Comhairle. If only one motion is received,
the question is put in the usual manner: if there is a tie, the
question is negatived.
23. If more than one motion is received, the
questions are put in the order in which they are moved. The order
in which the motions are moved depends on when the proposer is
called by the Clerk when acting as chairman. Once a question is
carried the nominated Member is elected.
24. If a vacancy arises during a session, the
Leas-Ceann Comhairle [Deputy Chairman] takes the chair
pro tem. The Clerk reports the vacancy to the Dáil
at its next meeting. The Dáil then makes an order appointing
the date and time of an election.
25. Under S.O. 14 the Ceann Comhairle
may continue in office "until a successor is appointed".
This has been interpreted to mean the point at which the process
of electing a successor is initiated (after which the Clerk would
then chair proceedings under S.O. 6). S.O. 14 allows a Ceann
Comhairle to discharge various constitutional and statutory
responsibilities which attach to the office, including those as
political head of the Office of the Houses of the Oireachtas,
as a member of the Presidential Commission which may discharge
certain functions in the absence of the President, and as a member
of the Council of State which advises the President, while the
Oireachtas is dissolved.
B. United Kingdom devolved institutions
26. Nominations for the
post of Presiding Officer open two hours before the time of election,
which is determined by the Parliament on the motion of the Parliamentary
Bureau, and close fifteen minutes beforehand. Nominations are
made in writing to the Clerk, and must be seconded. Candidates
must take the oath or affirm before the time of election. Candidates
may withdraw between rounds of voting
27. If there are already two deputy Presiding
Officers from the same party, any nomination of a candidate from
that party is ruled invalid.
28. Voting is by secret ballot. A vote is held
even if there is only one candidate, to allow votes against and
abstentions to be recorded. The winner requires a simple majority
of the votes cast: if no such majority is achieved, the candidate
or candidates with the lowest number of votes is/are eliminated.
The contest is invalid if in any round of voting the number of
votes cast falls below 25% of the total number of seats.
29. The secret ballot is unusual amongst the
procedures of the Scottish Parliament. It has been criticised
as being contrary to the approach of openness adopted in those
procedures. However, it retains overall support in view of the
sensitivity of the vote and the impartiality of the office of
National Assembly for Wales
30. The Clerk presides
over the election of a Presiding Officer, who then presides over
the election of a Deputy. A Member may not be nominated as Deputy
if he or she is of the same political group as the Presiding Officer.
31. The Chair invites nominations, which must
in the first instance be seconded by a member who belongs to a
political group different from that of the nominating Member.
If this condition is not met for any nomination, the session is
adjourned; upon resumption, the Chair may accept nominations which
are seconded by a Member of the same political group.
32. If there is only one nomination, and it is
not opposed, the nominee is declared elected unopposed. If there
is only one nomination, but it is opposed, a secret ballot is
held, and the nominee is declared elected if he or she secures
more than half the votes cast. There is no guidance as to what
should happen if the nominee fails to secure more than half the
votes cast: presumably nominations would be invited again.
33. If there are two or more nominations, a secret
ballot is held. If no candidate receives more than half the votes
cast the candidate with the least number of votes is eliminated
and a new ballot held. In any vote involving just two candidates
(including the situation where other candidates have been eliminated),
the member securing the greater number of votes is elected. In
the event of a tie a further ballot is held.
34. If secret ballots are required, the procedure
broadly follows that adopted in polling stations at parliamentary,
Assembly and local authority elections.
Northern Ireland Assembly
Motion taken on the floor
35. Provision for election
of a Speaker is contained in the Northern Ireland Act 1998, s.
39. S. 39 (7) provides that a Speaker may not be elected who does
not have 'cross-community support'. The Act defines this as "(a)
the support of a majority of the members voting, a majority of
the designated Nationalists voting and a majority of the designated
Unionists voting; or (b) the support of 60 per cent of the members
voting, 40 per cent of the designated Nationalists voting and
40 per cent of the designated Unionists voting."
36. If the outgoing Speaker is not seeking re-election,
and is available, he or she may chair proceedings. If not, the
oldest member of the Assembly not seeking election as Speaker
chairs proceedings as Acting Speaker, and calls for nominations.
37. Nominations take the form of a motion "that
X be Speaker of this Assembly". A nomination is accepted
only if it is seconded. A candidate so nominated may accept nomination
by making an oral or written statement. The Acting Speaker calls
for further nominations; when there are no further nominations,
a debate may ensue in which no Member may speak more than once.
38. At the conclusion of the debate, the question
is put on the first (or only) motion to be proposed. The successful
candidate must achieve a majority and must secure cross-community
support. If it is impossible to elect a Speaker under this arrangement,
and an elected Deputy Speaker is in post, he or she takes the
chair until a new election can be held. If that is not possible,
the oldest elected member takes the Chair as Acting Speaker pro
39. Where more than one Deputy Speaker has been
elected, they shall act in weekly rotation in the order in which
they were elected, insofar as this is possible.
C. Other legislatures
USA House of Representatives
40. Nominations are made
by party spokesmen (i.e. the chairs of party caucuses)
without formal notice but by publicly known direction of the caucuses.
Other nominations are in order, though nominations are normally
closed by unanimous consent.
41. Voting in the House is by roll call, with
each Representative stating the name of his or her preferred candidate.
Members can, and on rare occasions do, give the names of people
other than the two nominated candidates or even people who are
not Members of the House. A response of "present" (equivalent
to an abstention) is void but counts towards the quorum.
42. A majority of at least one more than half
of the votes cast (with a quorum of at least one more than half
of the membership present) is necessary for election.
43. In successive roll-call votes, low-scoring
candidates are not excluded procedurally.
France Assemblée Nationale
44. At the opening sitting
of each Assembly oldest Member of the Assembly (the Doyen d'âge)
takes the chair as Président d'âge: no debate
is permitted while he or she is presiding. The presiding deputy
first informs the Assembly of the names of those elected, and
deals with petitions contesting elections (if any). The Assembly
then proceeds directly to the election of a President. It appears
that there is no formal procedure to deal with the circumstance
where a President in the previous Assembly, who is returned to
the new Assembly, seeks re-election.
45. If a vacancy occurs during an Assembly, and
the Assembly Bureau is functioning, a vice-president may chair
46. Election is by secret ballot. Candidates
may be nominated in advance or nominated in person to the presiding
deputy at the opening of the sitting at which the election
is due to take place. The list of candidates is read out and deputies
leave the chamber to collect ballots. If time permits, ballot
papers are pre-printed with the names of all candidates: if not,
blank ballots are (presumably) made available to deputies who
write in the name of their preferred candidate.
47. The presiding deputy then announces that
voting has begun. Deputies are called to the podium one by one
and place their ballots (sealed in envelopes) in a ballot box.
Voting may take up to one hour. Deputies must vote in person.
When the names of all deputies have been called, voting is declared
closed. Tellers, chosen by lot from among the deputies, retire
to a side-chamber to count the votes, a process which can take
up to 45 minutes. The results are then announced in the chamber.
48. In the first two rounds of voting, candidates
must achieve an absolute majority of votes cast: in subsequent
rounds a simple majority is all that is required. There is no
automatic elimination of candidates between rounds, and nothing
prevents fresh nominations being made between one round and the
next. In the event of a tie the older deputy stands elected.
49. At the opening sitting of the 1997 Assembly,
three nominations were received in advance and one was made at
the commencement of the sitting at 3 pm. The first round of voting
began at 3.35 and was declared closed at 4.35. The results were
announced at 5.10. No candidate received an overall majority.
The Assembly then resolved to move immediately to a second round.
The presiding deputy consulted all four candidates, two of whom
stood down. No new candidates were nominated. The second and final
round of voting ran from 5.15 to 6.15, and the election of the
President was announced at 6.40.
50. Following the resignation of the President
elected in 1997, an election was held on 29 March 2000, at a session
chaired by a vice-president. Two nominations were received in
advance of the sitting, which opened at 3 pm. The single round
of voting took place between 3.10 and 4.10, and the election of
the President was announced at 4.35.
Germany Deutscher Bundestag
51. The oldest elected
Member (by age) chairs the constituent meeting of each Bundestag,
until a President has been elected, and oversees the procedure
for the election of the President. Although in theory each Bundestag
can determine its own rules for electing a President, in practice
the tradition in operation since 1920 dictates that the largest
political group nominates a candidate for President (who is then
52. Once the President of the Bundestag has assumed
office, the Bundestag resolves to adopt its Rules of Procedure.
53. The Bundestag then decides how many Vice-Presidents
there should be, and proceeds to elect them: in 1994 the Rules
of Procedure were altered to give each parliamentary group at
least one vice-presidency. In 1998 one President and five Vice-Presidents
Italy Camera dei Deputati
54. The President of
the Camera is elected by secret ballot. The threshold required
for election is lowered at each round of voting, viz. two-thirds
majority of all deputies; two-thirds majority of all votes cast
(including blank votes); absolute majority of all votes cast (following
which, presumably, candidates begin to be eliminated).
55. Election is by secret
ballot: the successful candidate must achieve a plurality (i.e.
an absolute majority, or over 50%) of all votes cast. If there
is no plurality, a second ballot is held with the same candidates.
If there is still no plurality, a run-off ballot is held between
the top two candidates.
56. The Parliament elects
its President, fourteen Vice-Presidents and five Quaestors at
the opening of a Parliament's term and again half way through
(i.e. every two and a half years).
57. A special sitting is held for the purpose
of electing the President, Vice-Presidents and Quaestors. The
oldest Member present presides until a President is elected, whereupon
he or she vacates the chair. The only business permitted while
the oldest Member is in the chair is the election of the President
or the verification of Members' credentials.
58. Nominations to all posts may be made only
by recognised political groups or by at least thirty-two Members.
A nomination must have the nominee's consent. If the number of
nominations does not exceed the number of posts to be filled,
the candidates are elected by acclamation.
59. The Rules of Procedure state that in electing
the President, Vice-President and Quaestors "account should
be taken of the need to ensure an overall fair representation
of Member States and political views."
60. At the opening of the election, the oldest
Member present announces the list of candidates. A secret ballot
is then held. In counting the ballots, only ballot papers bearing
the names of members nominated are taken into account. An overall
majority is required for election. There is no mechanism for the
elimination of candidates unless, after three ballots, no candidate
has achieved an overall majority. If this is the case, a fourth
ballot is held between the two candidates polling the highest
number of votes in the third ballot. In the event of a tie, the
older candidate is elected.
61. In the election held at the sitting of 20
July 1999, four nominations were received. Mme Nicole Fontaine
received an absolute majority of the votes cast in the only round
of voting and was declared elected.
12 February 2001