The Parliament of the Czech Republic - The Chamber of Deputies
Constitution of the Czech Republic
from December 16, 1992
We, the citizens of the Czech Republic in Bohemia, Moravia and Silesia,
at this time of the reconstitution of an independent Czech state,
true to all the sound traditions of the ancient statehood of the Lands of the Crown of Bohemia as well as of Czechoslovak statehood,
resolute to build, protect and develop the Czech Republic in the spirit of the inalienable values of human dignity and freedom,
as the home of equal and free citizens who are aware of their obligations towards others and of their responsibility to the community,
as a free and democratic State founded on respect for human rights and on principles of civil society,
as a member of the family of European and World democracies,
resolute to protect and develop their natural, cultural, material and spiritual heritage,
resolute to take heed to all the well-proven tenets of law-abiding state,
have adopted this Constitution of the Czech Republic through our freely elected representatives.
The Political system of the Czech Republic
The political system of the Czech Republic has free and voluntary origins and is based on the competition of political parties. It respects basic democratic principles and rejects coercion as a means of implementing its interests. Political decisions flow from the will of majority expressed through the freedom of voting. Decisions of majority respect minorities´rights. The Czech Republic is bound by the ratification and declaration of international treaties on human rights and basic freedoms; they are immediately effective and have precedence over the law.
Legislative power in the Czech Republic resides in the parliament. The parliament is divided into two chambers, the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. The Chamber of Deputies has 200 members, who are elected for four-year terms. The Senate has 81 members who are elected every six years, one third of them every two years. Parliamentary elections are conducted by secret ballot, and voting is universal, equal, and direct. Members are elected to the Chamber of Deputies under the proportional system, and to the Senate under the majority system. Every citizen who has reached the age of 21 may stand for election to the Chamber of Deputies, while it is necessary to be at least 40 to stand for the position of a senator. No one may be a member of both chambers simultaneously. The office of the president or a judgeship is incompatible with the position of deputy or senator. Meetings of chambers are continuing.
The Chamber of Deputies appoints and dismisses its Chair and Vice-chair, and likewise, the Senate the Chair and Vice-chair of the Senate. A deputy or senator who is a member of the government may be neither the Chair nor Vice-chair of the Chamber of Deputies or Senate, nor a member of a parliamentary committee or a commission.
The chambers are able to vote when at least one third of the members are present. To pass a bill, a simple majority of the senators or deputies present is necessary. To ratify a constitutional law, a three-fifths majority of all deputies is necessary, and a three-fifths majority of those senators present. A bill may be introduced by a deputy, a group of deputies, the Senate, the government or representative bodies of the higher territorial self-governing units. Bills go to the Chamber of Deputies. International agreements, which require approval of the Parliament, the Parliament approves in the same manner as bills.
Copies of Several Historical Documents on the Origin of the Czech State
Buildings of The Parliament of the Czech Republic
The history of one of the oldest parliamentary buildings in Europe, the Chamber of Deputies of the Czech Republic, begins somewhere near the end of the 17th century or at the beginning of the 18th century. We know that by the year 1720 the Thuns, a rich, artistic and important noble family, had finished building the palace on this piece of land. Approximately 80 years later, the palace became the seat of the Assembly of the Czech Estates, and in 1918, almost 200 years after the building’s completion, its representatives met in the historic Assembly hall shortly after the defeat of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the First World War in order to unseat the Habsburg-Lothringian Dynasty from the Czech Throne and to declare an independent state - the Czechoslovak Republic. After the federalization of that state in 1968, the former regional assembly building was consigned to the legislative Czech National Council, and after the break-up of the Czech and Slovak Republics in 1993, it became the seat of one of the two chambers of the Parliament of the Czech Republic, the Chamber of Deputies.
As early as the Romanesque period, the street which is today called Sněmovní street / Assembly street, was one of the two main roads along which guests and merchants travelled from the ford on the Vltava River to Prague Castle. The street’s importance continued into the Gothic and Renaissance periods in spite of being crossed by several wars and natural disasters, which often resulted in its complete devastation. The remains of the original medieval building can be seen in its massive cellars, gothic portals and thick walls on the ground floor of the buildings. The arches and vaulting on the ground floor of the central part of the Palace, nowadays the Chamber of Deputies, originated in Renaissance when the Czech nobility began to build their residences in the vicinity of the rulers´seat, Prague Castle.
Sněmovní street reached its architectural peak in the Baroque period, when the Thun family gradually bought up the surrounding real estate, tore down the old buildings and built in their place a palace in the present form. Two portals, belonging to the high Baroque period, opened to the street. The portals recall the work of Santini, although the actual architect of the Thun Palace remains unknown due to a lack of historical sources.
The palace was converted into a theatre in 1779, frequently visited by the Emperor Joseph II, the son of Maria Teresa. It is said that the Emperor preferred it to all others. In the summer of 1794 the theatre burned down. That is why, in 1801, the Thun Palace was sold to the Estates of the Czech Kingdom, who decided to convert it into offices, an assembly hall and estate archives. At the same time the regional committee bought a further piece of land which was added to the premises of the building, and began to reconstruct and embellish the building with ornaments. An oval symbol with the crown of St. Wenceslas was placed in the centre over the classicist pediment: leaning diagonally against the pediment are two horns of plenty, to the right of one of them sits Apollo, the protector of the wealth of spirit, and to the left of the other one sits Athena, the patroness of material wealth. They are symbols of the might of the Czech Lands, which the seat of its Assembly should recall.
In 1861, after the fall of Bach´s absolutism, it was necessary to find a new representative premises for the once-again revived regional assembly previously abolished in 1848. A special committee visited the Vladislav Hall at Prague Castle but the Hall did not meet the new demands. The former Assembly building seemed to meet the demands more satisfactorily.. The Assembly hall was thus lengthened and widened and there were red upholstered seats for 241 people installed, each with its own desk and drawer. On five columns opposite the entrance, a gallery for 130 to 150 people was built.
In 1902 and 1903 the Regional Committee of the Czech Kingdom received new premises and buildings, primarily the connected block in Tomášská street beginning at the Auersperg Palace, and also the connected block in Lesser Town Square (the Sternberg and Smiřický Palaces) for its regional offices. In 1903 an arched bridge with a covered walkway was built across the narrow Thunovská Lane, connecting the Assembly hall with the back wing of the Sternberg Palace.
After the year 1918, with the foundation of the independent Czechoslovakia, the character and function of Prague’s Mala Strana (Lesser Town) palaces changed. Many of them began to serve as the institutions of the new state, or alternatively, as diplomatic offices for foreign governments. In the twenties, the building of the former Regional Assembly of the Czech Kingdom was designated as the Senate of the National Council of the Czechoslovak Republic, while the Rudolfinum was converted into the deputies´Assembly hall.
Because of the expanding needs of the new representative bodies, the old assembly building was substantially repaired, adapted and reconstructed in the thirties. In 1933, on the 15th anniversary of the creation of independent Czechoslovakia, a granite memorial tablet was set in the wall south of the portal to Sněmovní street.. It was created by L. Šaloun and F. Foit; the tablet is styled in the spirit of late Cubism, especially the large state symbol.
In the fifties and sixties the building in turns served as the seat of some institutions, for example the Ministry of Health or the Ministry of National Defence. However, from the first day of 1969 the Czech National Council began to work in Sněmovní Street, as one of the three parliaments of the newly federalized Czechoslovakia, the legislative mouthpiece of the Czech Republic.
Understandably, the varied use of the building had not improved its condition. Several rooms could not be used for any purpose and the technical equipment was falling apart. Therefore, from 1985 to 1989, the historical building was completely rebuilt. The reconstruction was one of the biggest makeovers of a historically protected building in Prague.
At the completion of the reconstruction work in all the connecting palaces, which were under a law from 1992 returned to their original purpose from the beginning of the century, the Czech Republic received a respectable seat for its legislative body. The seat, which is able to meet the most modern needs of the parliament of a country with an unfolding democracy, while simultaneously preserving the historical picturesqueness and purpose of the buildings.