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The term speaker is a title often given to the presiding officer of a legislative body. The speaker's official role is to moderate debate, make rulings on procedure, announce the results of votes, and the like. The speaker decides who may speak and has the powers to discipline members who break the procedures of the house. The speaker often also represents the body in person, as the voice of the body in ceremonial and some other situations.

As a parliamentary title it is typically Englishmarker, first recorded in the English parliament for Thomas de Hungerford in 1377; in most other cultures other styles are used, mainly translations of Chairman or President. In Canadian French, the Speaker of the House of Commons or a legislature are referred to as Président. By convention, these Speakers are normally addressed in Parliament as Mister Speaker.

Many bodies also have a speaker pro tempore or deputy speaker, designated to fill in when the speaker is not available.

UK and "Westminster system" countries

In many nations, especially those with the Westminster system of government, the position of speaker, modelled after the Speaker of the British House of Commons, is ideally scrupulously politically neutral and is not concerned with substantive issues. In the event of a tie, the speaker is permitted to vote but only according to established conventions. In most cases the speaker is elected from among the members of the assembly by the members, and whip are not allowed to be among the selection. In the UK, a speaker is normally chosen from one of the two largest parties.

Despite being an impartial position, the Speaker in a Westminster system parliament has to stand for re-election if he or she wishes to stay. In the Republic of Irelandmarker the Speaker (Ceann Comhairle) is deemed to have been elected if he or she seeks re-election; in the United Kingdommarker it is a constitutional convention that no major party will put up a candidate against the 'Speaker seeking re-election'. This convention was not respected during the 1987 General Election, when both the Labour Party and the Social Democratic Party fielded candidates against the Conservative Speaker, Bernard Weatherill, who was MP for Croydon North East. In the General Election of 2005, the Scottish National Party put up a candidate against the incumbent Speaker, Michael Martin. There is no such convention in Canada and the major parties routinely field candidates against a Speaker who is seeking re-election.

United States

In the United States, in the House of Representatives and in state legislatures and local government councils, the speaker is usually selected by the members of the majority party and functions as a leader of that party. Thus, though the speaker is supposed to be fair, he or she uses procedural rulings to advance the causes and agenda of his or her own party. Ceremonially, the speaker represents the whole house, but politically is the legislative voice of the party in power.

There is one prominent case of a speaker who is not presiding officer. The New York City Council, the unicameral legislative body for New York Citymarker, has as its presiding officer the Public Advocate, a position formerly known as City Council President, who is elected by all the voters of the city. As the public advocate's role has changed with several city charter revisions, a post of Council Speaker was created. The speaker is, effectively, majority leader of the council.

According to the federal succession statute currently in effect, the Speaker of the House of Representatives in the U.S. Congress is second in line for succession to the presidency; should the president and vice president be unable to serve, the speaker would become president. Some scholars, however, have argued that this provision of the succession statute is unconstitutional.

The Speaker of the United States House of Representatives is currently Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who is the first woman ever to serve as Speaker.

Similar posts

The presiding officer for an upper house of a bicameral legislature usually has a different title, although substantially the same duties.

When the upper house is called a senate, the equivalent title is often President of the Senate. Australia, Chilemarker, the United Statesmarker and many other countries have upper houses with presiding officers titled "president". In several American republics, the vice president of the country serves as the president of the upper house.

This pattern is not universal, however. Some upper houses, including those of Canada and several U.S. states (including Tennessee), have a speaker.

In the United Kingdommarker, the presiding officer of the House of Lordsmarker was until recently the Lord Chancellor, who was also a member of the government (a cabinet member) and the head of the judicial branch. The Lord Chancellor did not have the same authority to discipline members of the Lords that the speaker of the Commons has in that house. (On 4 July 2006 the office was reformed, and the Baroness Hayman took the woolsackmarker as the first Lord Speaker.) (The office of Lord Chancellor remains, though with a modified role and duties.)

The Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliamentmarker have the positions of Presiding Officer which fulfils the same role as the speaker.


Country Legislature (or legislative chamber) Speaker
Australia Australian House of Representatives Harry Jenkins
Bulgariamarker National Assembly of Bulgaria Georgi Pirinski
Canadamarker Canadian House of Commons Peter Milliken
China, People's Republic ofmarker National People's Congress Wu Bangguo
 » Hong Kong SAR Legislative Councilmarker Tsang Yok Sing
 » Macau SARmarker Legislative Assembly of Macaumarker Susana Chou
Croatiamarker Croatian Parliament marker Luka Bebić
Denmarkmarker Parliament of Denmarkmarker Thor Pedersen
Estoniamarker Riigikogu Ene Ergma
Finlandmarker Parliament of Finland (eduskunta/riksdagen) Sauli Niinistö
Ghanamarker Parliament of Ghana Mrs. Justice Joyce Adeline Bamford-Addo
Germanymarker Bundestagmarker Norbert Lammert
Hungarymarker National Assembly of Hungary (Magyar Köztársaság Országgyűlése) Katalin Szili
Indiamarker Lok Sabha Meira Kumar
Irelandmarker Dáil Éireann Seamus Kirk
Isle of Manmarker House of Keysmarker Steve Rodan
Israelmarker Knessetmarker Reuven Rivlin
Kosovomarker Assembly of Kosovo Jakup Krasniqi
Republic of Koreamarker National Assembly of the Republic of Koreamarker Kim Hyong O
Latviamarker Saeima Gundars Daudze
Lebanonmarker Parliament of Lebanonmarker Nabih Berri
Liechtensteinmarker Landtag of Liechtenstein Klaus Wanger
Republic of Macedoniamarker Assembly of the Republic of Macedonia Ljubiša Georgievski
Malaysiamarker House of Representatives of Malaysia (Dewan Rakyat) Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia
Maltamarker House of Representatives of Malta Anton Tabone
Mexicomarker Chamber of Deputies Ruth Zavaleta Salgado
Moldovamarker Parliament Marian Lupu
Montenegromarker Assembly of Montenegro Ranko Krivokapić
The Netherlandsmarker House of Representatives of the Netherlandsmarker Gerdi Verbeet
New Zealandmarker House of Representatives Dr Lockwood Smith
Nigeriamarker National Assembly of Nigeria acting Aminu Bello Masari
Pakistanmarker National Assembly of Pakistan Dr. Fahmida Mirza
Philippinesmarker Philippine House of Representatives Prospero Nograles
The Russian Federationmarker The State Duma Boris Gryzlov
Serbiamarker National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia Slavica Đukić Dejanović
Singaporemarker Parliament of Singapore Abdullah Tarmugi
Sri Lankamarker Parliament of Sri Lanka W. J. M. Lokubandara
Taiwan marker Legislative Yuan Wang Jin-pyng
Thailandmarker House of Representatives of Thailand Chai Chidchob
Ukrainemarker Verkhovna Radamarker Volodymyr Lytvyn
United Kingdommarker House of Commons of the United Kingdommarker John Bercow
 » Northern Irelandmarker Northern Ireland Assembly William Hay
 » Scotlandmarker Scottish Parliamentmarker Alex Fergusson
 » Walesmarker National Assembly for Wales Dafydd Elis-Thomas
United States of Americamarker House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi
Vanuatumarker Parliament of Vanuatu Maxime Carlot Korman
Zimbabwemarker Parliament of Zimbabwe Lovemore Moyo

See also



  1. 3 U.S.C. § 19
  2. See Akhil Reed Amar & Vikram Amar, Is The Presidential Succession Law Constitutional?, 48 Stan. L. Rev. 113 (1995). This issue is discussed in the entry on the United States Presidential Line of Succession

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