diet (parliamentary body)

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

diet (parliamentary body)

diet, parliamentary bodies in Japan, Poland, Hungary, Bohemia, the Scandinavian nations, and Germany have been called diets. In German history, the diet originated as a meeting of landholders and burghers, convoked by the ruler to discuss financial problems. The imperial diet or Reichstag of the Holy Roman Empire began as a loose assembly of ecclesiastic princes and imperial cities, meeting at irregular intervals. After 1489 three colleges representing electors, princes, and imperial cities arrived at decisions separately—even over war and peace—then combined them. The emperor could ratify the whole or parts. Among the most important diets were those of Worms (1495) and Cologne (1512); see Maximilian I, Holy Roman emperor. The most important diets of the Reformation were Worms (1521), Speyer (1529), and Augsburg (1530, 1547, 1555). The diet declined in importance and after the peace of Westphalia (1648) it became an assembly of independent princes, meeting after 1663 at Regensburg as a conference of ambassadors without legislative power. For the federal diet of 1815–66, which succeeded the imperial diet, see German Confederation. The term was revived for the legislature of the German Empire in 1871, and was used until the end of World War II; see Reichstag.

The Japanese diet was established as the national legislature in 1889. Until 1947, the upper house (Peers) was appointive, the lower (Representatives) elected. Its powers were negative: no bill could become law without its approval, except in an emergency; the government could function with last year's budget if the current one was not approved; legislation was initiated by the executive. After 1947, the upper house was made elective (Councillors). Suffrage became universal, and the lower house gained precedence over the selection of the prime minister, budgets, and treaties; it can override the upper house on bills with a two-thirds majority. Most legislation is initiated by the cabinet. Since 1947 the Japanese diet, once peripheral, is central to Japan's politics; see Japan, under Government and Politics.

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