Constitutional Role of Opposition Legislators in Parliamentary Democracies: A Normative Account

Constitutions should create a regime of opposition powers, i.e., an institutionalized power possessed by a formally designated party group or by a fraction of legislators or by a formally recognized opposition leader, that encompasses but goes beyond rights of individual legislators to speak and vote against government bills. Regimes of opposition powers have three components. First, they create an opposition team through provisions that encourage the aggregation of, or coordination among, opposition legislators to act collectively. Second, they confer rights exercisable by the opposition team or its recognized leaders that further one or both of the key functions of opposition parties: (a) to scrutinize the conduct of the executive and hold it accountable through powers of oversight; and (b) to provide a government-in-waiting through agenda-setting powers. Third, they contain an enforcement mechanism, consisting of constitutional court referrals and/or speakers of the legislature.