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Imperial Congress of Cygnia (Joan of What?)

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Imperial Congress of the Empire of the United Cygnian States
52nd Congress
Coat of arms or logo.
Type
Type Bicameral
Houses National Assembly
Imperial Senate
Leadership
Speaker of the National Assembly Lucian Redford, DLP
since 6 February 2014
President of the Senate Lincoln Freeman, DLP
since 6 February 2014
History
Established 3 July 1793
Preceded by Federation Congress
Structure
Members 462 (380 MNAs, 82 Senators)
NA2014-CYG-GoN.svg
National Assembly Political groups Government (258)
  DLP (258)

Opposition (81)
  NUP (81)

Crossbenchers (41)
  Greens (10)
  Liberal (9)
  Christian Democrats (7)
  Rick Preston Team (7)
  One Nation (5)
  Family First (4)
SN2014-CYG-GoN.svg
Senate Political groups Government (46)
  DLP (46)

Opposition (31)
  NUP (31)

Crossbenchers (4)
  Greens (2)
  Liberal (1)
  Christian Democrats (1)
Election
National Assembly Last election 6 November 2014
Senate Last election 6 November 2014
National Assembly Next election 6 November 2018
Senate Next election 6 November 2018
Meeting place
Congress Hall.jpg
Federation Hall, Swanstone

The Imperial Congress of the Empire of the United Cygnian States, commonly referred to as Congress or the Cygnian Congress, is the bicameral legislature of the imperial government of Cygnia consisting of two chambers: the Senate and the National Assembly. The Congress meets in Federation Hall in Swanstone. Both senators and members of the National Assembly (MNAs) are chosen through direct election. Congress has 462 members: 380 MNAs and 82 Senators. The Chancellor is traditionally the leader of the majority party in the National Assembly.

The members of the National Assembly serve four-year terms representing the people of a single constituency, known as an "Electoral District", of which there are some 380. Electoral districts are apportioned to states by population using Imperial Census results, provided that each state has at least one congressional representative. Each state, regardless of population and size, has four senators; territories have two each. Currently, there are 72 senators representing the 18 states, and another 10 representing the 5 territories. Each senator is elected at-large in their state for a eight-year term, with terms staggered, so every four years approximately half of the Senate is up for election.

Overview

Article I of the Constitution states, "All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the Empire of the United Cygnian States, which shall consist of a Senate and a National Assembly." The Assembly and Senate are equal partners in the legislative process – legislation cannot be enacted without the consent of both chambers. However, the Constitution grants each chamber some unique powers. The Senate ratifies treaties, approves cancellarial appointments and serves as a house of review while the Assembly is the originator of legislation. The Assembly initiates impeachment cases, while the Senate decides them. A two-thirds vote of the Senate is required before an impeached person can be forcibly removed from office.

The term Congress can also refer to a particular meeting of the legislature. A Congress covers four years; the most recent one, the 52nd Congress, began on 16 January 2014. The Congress starts and ends on the sixteenth day of January every four years, and is formally dissolved on the sixteenth day of July three years after it begins. Members of the Senate are referred to as senators; members of the National Assembly are referred to as MNAs, congressmen or congresswomen.

Scholar and MNA Anthony Lark asserted that the "historic mission of Congress has been to maintain freedom" and insisted it was a "driving force in Cygnian government" and a "remarkably resilient institution". Congress is the "heart and soul of our democracy", according to this view, even though legislators rarely achieve the prestige or name recognition of chancellors or Supreme Court justices; one wrote that "legislators remain ghosts in Cygnia's historical imagination". One analyst argues that it is not a solely reactive institution but has played an active role in shaping government policy and is extraordinarily sensitive to public pressure. Several academics described Congress:

Congress reflects us in all our strengths and all our weaknesses. It reflects our regional idiosyncrasies, our ethnic, religious, and racial diversity, our multitude of professions, and our shadings of opinion on everything from the value of war to the war over values. Congress is the government's most representative body ... Congress is essentially charged with reconciling our many points of view on the great public policy issues of the day.

Congress is constantly changing and is constantly in flux. In recent times, the northern islands and east have gained Assembly seats according to demographic changes recorded by the census and has included increasing numbers of minority and female representatives. While power balances among the different parts of government continue to change, the internal structure of Congress is important to understand along with its interactions with so-called intermediary institutions such as political parties, civic associations, interest groups, and the mass media.

The Congress of the Empire serves two distinct purposes that overlap: local representation to the federal government of an electoral district by MNAs and a state's or territory's at-large representation to the federal government by senators.

Most incumbents seek re-election, and their historical likelihood of winning subsequent elections exceeds 90 percent.

The historical records of the National Assembly and the Senate are maintained by the Centre for Legislative Archives, which is part of the National Archives Authority.

History

Régence du duc d'Orléans, Council with Cardinal Fleury

The Senate's inaugural meeting in 1789.

The Federation Congress was first convened by King Alexander I of the United Kingdom following his flight to the Cygnian colonies and the Proclamation of Federation in 1789. It was a gathering of representatives from the six British colonies in Australasia. On 3 April 1792, the Federation Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, referring to the new nation as the "Empire of Cygnia". The Federation Congress became a permanent, bicameral body with an Imperial Senate – composed of Lord Senators, nobles appointed by the King, now the Emperor – and a Federal Assembly, whose members were appointed by the state governments. The Emperor became the head of state, while the former Governor of Swanstone, Frederick Northam, became the Chancellor, who was originally designated to the leadership of the Federal Assembly. The Chancellor in effect became the executive authority of Cygnia.

The new Constitution of 1793 created the position of Speaker of the National Assembly, which replaced the Chancellor as the presiding officer of the chamber. Instead, the Chancellor became exclusively executive, and was elected by members of the Senate.

To protect against abuse of power, each branch of government – executive, legislative and judicial – had a separate sphere of authority and could check other branches according to the principle of the separation of powers. Furthermore, there were checks and balances within the legislature since there were two separate chambers. The new government became active following the conclusion of the War of Independence in 1799.

Early years

The early years of the Congress were characterised by a power struggle between those who favoured the power of the six states, and those who preferred a strong central government. These groups eventually formed the Federalist and United Cygnia parties. With the passage of the Constitution and the Declaration of Rights, the Anti-Federalist movement was exhausted, and the Federalist Party effectively dominated Cygnian politics for the first 20 years of the Empire. Many Lord Senators favoured the Federalist movement, as it offered them more personal freedoms.

However, the election of John Keating to the chancellorship marked a peaceful transition of power between the parties in 1812. Keith Marshall, 4th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court empowered the courts by establishing the principle of judicial review in law in the landmark case Worthington v Allison in 1803, effectively giving the Supreme Court a power to nullify congressional legislation.

1855 marked the beginning of what was known as the Democratisation Period, during which the citizenry became much more integrated into the political process, whereas before government had very much been the realm of the upper class and the nobility. While all adult male citizens could vote in National Assembly elections, the Senate was populated by nobles appointed by the Emperor. The Fifth Amendment enacted in September 1855 introduced direct popular elections for the chancellorship. In 1860, pursuant to the Sixth Amendment, the Senate too became an elected body, with the former Lord Senators transferred to the newly formed Privy Council. The Speaker of the Assembly became extremely powerful under leaders such as Thomas Redwood in 1890 and Jonathan Carr.

Imperial Congress 1927

A joint sitting of the Imperial Congress in 1927

A system of seniority developed in the late 19th century – in which long-time Members of Congress gained more and more power – and encouraged politicians of both parties to serve for long terms. Committee chairmen remained influential in both houses until the fall of the First Empire in 1933. Supreme Court decisions based on the Constitution's commerce clause expanded congressional power to regulate the economy.

Supreme People's Congress

Federation Hall ruins

Ruins of Federation Hall following its destruction by bombing raids

Following the Hellerist coup d'etat in 1933, the National Cygnian Socialist Party seized control of all branches of government, including the Congress. In 1934, the Empire was dissolved and the Congress was replaced with the unicameral Supreme People's Congress, which effectively served as a powerless rubber-stamp body for decisions already made by the party. However, some attempts were made to increase the influence of the legislature during the Hellerist years by their presiding Chief Ministers, most of which ended in failure.

During the Australasian War, Federation Hall was destroyed by Australien bombing raids, and from that point onwards the Supreme People's Congress rarely met; the Chief Minister instead became an adjutant of the chief executive, the Chancellor.

Contemporary era

National-Assembly-Cygnia-GoN

The National Assembly in session

Senate-Cygnia-GoN

The Senate in session

Following the Cygnian Revolution, the end of the war and the reformation of the Empire and of the Imperial Congress, Congress struggled with efficiency in the postwar era partly by reducing the number of committees which had been formed during the Hellerist era. Eastern Democrats became a power force in many influential committees although political power alternated between Democratic Labour and the Unitarians during these years. More complex issues required greater specialisation and expertise, such as space flight and atomic energy policy. In 1959, DLP candidate Otto Humphrey narrowly won the chancellorship and power shifted again to Democratic Labour which dominates Congress to this day.

More to come

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