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Representation from the Ground Up

Representation is a core feature of democracies. It may be a factor in the composition and operation of many public institutions such as the executive, the bureaucracy, and the police, to name only a few. The one institution for which representation is critical, however, is the legislature. The legislature performs the all-important function of making new law and, in one way or another, scrutinizing the actions of the executive. Its legitimacy for these purposes depends on representation. All democracies provide for the election of members of the legislature, for periods that vary between three to five years, for most lower Houses. All democratic states have at least a central legislature and many also have legislatures at multiple levels of government.

The focus of the Seventh Melbourne Forum on Constitution Building in Asia and the Pacific was on the nature and quality of representation in legislatures from the perspective of those who are represented; in other words, representation from the ground up.