Role of the Opposition in Parliament

Role of the Opposition in Parliament


This article is written to discuss about who are opposition in parliament, what are roles opposition play in parliament. Why their full participation in parliament is important. It also discussed the rights and duties of the opposition as a parliament member, what are responsibilities that Government should conform for the Opposition and how the development of a country can be influenced by the Opposition in the parliament will be discussed in this reflection paper.


If we give a look to the political systems in different countries then we can see that many countries like to practice the system of democracy. The democracy can be achieved by the participation of all citizens or by the elected representative[1]. When the democracy establish in a country with the elected representatives then we can call that representative democracy. If we focus more on representative democracy then we can found in this group one is on strong president that is presidential democracy and other one is on strong parliament that is parliamentary democracy.[2]

Democracy system in politics can be categorized into mainly three types they are:

  • Direct democracy. example: Switzerland
  • Presidential democracy. example: USA, France etc
  • Parliamentary democracy. example: UK, Germany etc

In the parliamentary democracy by the election the majority party becomes the government party and the other parties become the opposition party. And when government proposed any law the debate take place and passed by the parliament. On the other hand .In the presidential democracy the legislature debate and passed bills.  So, we can see in every democracy system parliament the opposition have a very big role. The role is important because opposition party actually hold the government to be accountable to the people .Opposition leaders continuously ask question to the government party about different issues to make government aware about heir roles and responsibilities. [3]That’s why it is important to ensuring the participation of the opposition party to make the parliament more effective and exposure for the people of a country.

Who are the opposition in the parliament?

In every country who follow democracy beginnings their operation with the selection of the government.[4]And the set up of the house of the parliament determine who will be the opposition in the parliament. The party with most non –government members become the opposition party and its leader become the leader of the opposition. it also recognized as the ‘alternative government’. We also can say, the people with whom the lawfully elected representatives discuss alternative policy option we can define them as an opposition party in the parliament .They are not the part of the government and they don’t have any immediate way to making their plans .The leader of the largest party in parliament becomes the leader of the opposition. This type of opposition is accepted constructively to the nation. And with out any disobey the constitution or being disloyal to the nation several countries now accept this.

Now a days voters expect that the representatives will play and active role in parliament whether as a government or as an opposition. The acceptance by society of the role of an opposition itself is one of the foundations for the work of the legislature. The acceptance of the role of the opposition by the government is also equally important .So it is true that opposition plays an important role in a democratically elected legislature.

Opposition members in parliament:

The participation of Opposition member is very essential in the parliament to make it more effective in many compliments the functioning of parliament is based on the division between the government and the opposition. The sitting arrangements is clearly evident this equality in the chamber. The government and the opposition party face each other on opposite sides and two sides of the house have equal time to speak on any matter. In the opposition party like government party they also have different positions holding by their members and they are discussed in the following:

  • The leader of the opposition:

The elected leader of the main non-government party is known as the leader of the opposition. This person would normally be expected to become Prime Minister if the government were losing the office. That’s why the leader of the opposition is a major figure in the political process. He/ she lead the opposition party and hold the position of chief spoken person during the question time. The opposition leader directly criticizes and asks questions about different actions and bills proposed by government or a Minister[5].

  • Shadow Minister:

The opposition leader appointed number of his or her colleagues to assist him /her in the parliament and they are ‘shadow Ministers’ shadow ministers also serve on parliamentary committees. They act as an opposition spokesperson in respect of the responsibilities of one or more Ministers or areas of administration.

  • Manager of opposition Business:

Manager of the opposition is appointed by the shadow minister. Their responsibilities are , consult with his or her leaders and colleagues, negotiation with the leader about many matters  like allocation of time for debate, they also order and priority of consideration of different matters of business.

  • Opposition whips:

The main responsibility of opposition whips is order the arrangement of the number and order of their party’s speakers in debates. He / she also work with the chief government whip to allocate priority and times for committee and   delegation business and also for private member’s business.

  • Opposition back benchers:

The deputy chair of each parliamentary committee can be considered as an opposition member. The responsibility of opposition back bencher is same like government back benchers. They consider government policy and legislation, and help in develop alternative policies for presentation in the parliament and serve the opposition members.

Functions of the opposition in parliament:

The opposition in parliament is a necessary and a vital component of democracy as it helps in proper and smooth function of democracy. Now a day we can figure out that the function of the opposition is increase and they have a great importance on political system. They undertake significant role not only inside the parliament but also out side the parliament. The opposition always keeps their conscious eyes on the functions of government. Mainly they play dual functions one is to place the matters of public interest to the government for action. [6]And the other one is to observe and ensure the actions taken by government is not authoritarian or dictatorial. So because of the exercise check of the opposition in the government actions the function of the government become truly democratic.

The main function of opposition is helping the present government to think about the alternative ways. They try to show of and implement their ideas, programmes and policies through motions, resolutions and bills in the legislature to define alternative ways for government. Their alternative should be credible to the government so that it hold them accountable.  [7]To be a credible alternative the opposition should be ready to exercise the responsibilities to desire on durable basis.

In democracy, by the free competition in political program the political life become enrich and by the based of opposition on personal ambition it improvised. In the parliament, opposition party often leads debate on various bills and other matters. [8]When a government party present a bill in to the parliament then opposition party show them the other view of thinking about the policies by taking part in the debate in side the parliament. In outside the parliament it educates the people on all important and valid issues connected to the national and international importance. [9]On vital national and international issues the opposition parties raise public debate, public opinion arrange public meetings and forced government to accept their view point.

In side and outside the parliament the opposition members have the right to question ministers on matters for witch they are administratively responsible. And during question time questions alternates between government and non government members. The government is always tried to defeat the particular matter and this procedures allow the opposition to raise a matter of concern in the parliament. [10]

The parliament likes to check or analyze what the government does and how it spends money in the execution of legislations. The opposition plays and important role in the scrutiny activities of the parliament. And this is one of the main functions of the opposition. It works in analyzing the operations of the executive, they focus on the oversight of the implementation of the law from the angle of performance and accountability and, especially, the use of the finances granted to the executive for its work. Here the opposition can contribute to development of the country and also can show the government party that how government can efficiently contribute to the development and can achieve better result .[11]

To hold government in the right track and accountable they target on the part of government corruption, favoritism, nepotism and bureaucratic efficiency. Opposition exposes the misdeeds of the government and opposes all the measures which they consider as unjust and anti people action of the government. So, we can say that the main function of the opposition is to propose, oppose .expose and depose.

The Opposition party ensures transparency, integrity and efficiency in the conduct of public affairs and with this they protect public interest and prevent abuses on the people by the authorities and individuals. That means without a doubt oppositions are helping to ensure the democracy functions properly by contributes in the promotion and defense of human rights and fundamental freedoms.[12]

The opposition must need to be strong and healthy enough for performing above functions successfully. But opposition’s strength based on its commitments, members, their programs, policies and as well as the public support. A strong opposition only can protect people from the autocracy of the government and high officials. It never permits the government to be self-righteous. Opposition party is always respected, consulted and noticeable by the government. The most important function of the opposition is it prevents the government from involving in corruption and anti people actions.

From discussion over the function of the opposition we can clearly understand that opposition is necessary and indispensable element of democracy and it should be accepted by the government and society for more effectiveness of the democracy.

The opposition’s rights and duties in parliament:

Based on the establish principles in  The International covenant on civil and political Rights (United Nations,1966) The United Declaration of Human Right (united nations1948)The Declaration on Criteria for free and Fair Elections( Inter-Parliamentary union.1994)and The Universal Declaration on Democracy (inter-Parliamentary union 1997)[13] the rights and duties of  the opposition has been figure out and they are  :

The opposition’s rights in parliament:

Like the part of the government majority the members of the opposition should entail full respect and basic rights. Such as, they all have the right to enjoy the right to life. And their political activities and personal properties should be protected from any violation. If the circumstances require personal protection then state must provide then on equal terms with the representatives of the majority.[14]

It is essential for those who participate in the parliament to ensure the freedom of expression and information and particularly the opposition to carry out their parliamentary duties. In the parliament the opposition must be able to criticize freely about the actions of the government and should be fell free to give opinion to the public on what they have noticed by their constitution. [15]They must also enjoy fair excess on equal terms with the majority, to state media in order to broadcast their views and criticize about the government’s actions and situations.[16]

These are the additional privileges for the opposition but generally they also have the right as the Member of Parliament and those are already protected by national laws. Additional rights enable the opposition party to work with the government majority as well as to monitor the action and criticize whenever necessary.

The duties of the opposition in parliament:

In the parliament the opposition must show itself responsible and they should act like a states-man-like manner. The constructive and responsible opposition can show the action of loyal opposition by making counter proposals. The opposition must not seek to get in the way pointlessly in the action of the government rather they should try to encourage it to improve actions in general interest.

The duties of the opposition, defined by political rules they are not defined by constitutional norms or parliamentary texts. So, the duties do not require codification. They should exercise their responsibilities with due respect for the constitution and the laws in force. They must be protecting themselves from advocating violence as a means of political expression. Undeniably their action should be in keeping with a spirit of mutual tolerance and their aim should be focused for dialogue and concentrated action.[17]

The responsibilities of Government towards Opposition:

As we know that for development, an effective parliament is important in a country, and for an effective parliament the cooperation between Government and Opposition is also a very significant. Government is chosen by majority people in an election but opposition party is also chosen by minority of the people. But as parliaments work for all people of the country so that there should be a mutual understanding between the government and the opposition. A healthy opposition has a power to influence the government action and make alternative ways so that government should be conscious about the relationship with the opposition inside and out side the parliament.[18]

The parliament should be response equally to both government and opposition party as both of their participation is important. The speaker needs to ensure that the opposition party can get the allocated time in the parliament during question time.[19]

The right to information excess for the opposition should be ensured by the government. That means government should be transparent to the opposition and to the public about their action and strategy. And for an effective parliament it is important that all the members should have information excess about every matter.

Opposition shows government alternative ways .They debate on it when the policy is present by the government in the parliament. The government should consider opposition’s view and the opinion so that they can understand those sides that may be overlooking by the legislature.

The opposition should have the right to express their opinion and oppose about the government policy or action in the parliament freely.  Also there should be independent state media to broadcast the views and opinion of the opposition to the public. Government should not interfere in the political programs of the opposition unless it is not violating any constitutional rules[20].

The government is for all people and they are responsible for all people, the opposition party is not outside the population. So, as a citizen and as a human they have some political and human rights so government should be ensuring that those rights are protected from any violation. And if needed government should provide extra protection for the life and properties of the opposition.[21]

Lastly, we can say that by ensuring the free independent and open environment for opposition government should encourage them to participate in the parliament and make the parliament more effective for the wellbeing of the people.[22]


When the voters give vote to their representatives the always expect that they will play an effective role in the parliament weather as government or as an opposition[23]. The acceptance by society of a valid role for the opposition is itself important for the foundation of the work of legislatures. Government acceptance about the role of the opposition is equally important as they give government the chance to think more focus fully to the interest of the people. And as the parliament can’t be run on one party’s wish, so the participation of the opposition is significant for the practice of democracy political system in the parliament of the country. The Government should hold the mentality to work as a team with opposition by considers their views and opinion because their main goal is same and that is the better development of the country. And that can be achieved only by the collaboration between the government and the opposition party.  So, both government and opposition should come forward and work together for the betterment of the people of the country.



1. Kamal Siddiqui, 1994, Local Government in Bangladesh, the University Press Limited.

2. Samsul Huda Harun, 1984, Parliamentary Behavior in A Multinational state , General Secretary Asiatic society of Bangladesh.

3. London School of Economics and Political Science, 2007, Government and opposition, Volume 42, weidenfeld and Nicolson

4.The new roles of parliamentary committees  By Lawrence D. Longley, Roger H. Davidson

5. Parliament today By Andrew Adonis

6. Joseph Boskin, Politics of an opposition party: the Republican Party in the New Deal period, 1936-1940, 1959, University of Minnesota

7. Elements in political science By Frank Bealey, Richard A. Chapman, Michael Sheehan.

8. Opposition and democracy in South Africa By Roger Southall










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[1] Democracy aims essentially to preserve and promote the dignity and fundamental rights of the individual, to achieve social justice, foster economic and social development of the community, strengthen the cohesion of society and enhance national tranquility, as well as create a climate

That is favorable for international peace. As a form of government, democracy is the best way of achieving these objectives; it is also the only political system that has the capacity for self-correction.” (Article 3)


[3] Public life as a whole must be stamped by a sense of ethics and by transparency, and appropriate norms and procedures must be established to uphold them.” (Article 15)

[4] “Individual participation in democratic processes and public life at all levels must be regulated fairly and impartially and must avoid any discrimination, as well as the risk of intimidation by State and non-State actors.” (Article 16)


[6] [6]









[15] “The state of democracy presupposes freedom of opinion and expression; this right implies freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” (Article 21)







[22] “A sustained state of democracy requires a democratic climate and culture constantly nurtured and reinforced by education and other vehicles of culture and information. Hence, a democratic society must be committed to education in the broadest sense of the term, and more particularly civic education and the shaping of a responsible citizenry.” (Article 19)

[23] “Individual participation in democratic processes and public life at all levels must be regulated fairly and impartially and must avoid any discrimination, as well as the risk of intimidation by State and non-State actors.” (Article 16)