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In legislatures, a hemicycle is a term for a semicircular, or horseshoe shaped, debating chamber (plenary chamber) where deputies sit to discuss and pass legislation. Though composed of Greek roots, the term is French in origin. It may also be known as an amphitheatre.


The circular shape is designed to encourage consensus among political parties rather than confrontation, such as the Westminster system where the government and opposition parties face each other on opposing sets of benches. The design is used in most European countries (and hence was adopted by the European Parliament) and the United States.

The United Kingdom, as the originator of the Westminster system, does not. However its sub-national assemblies, the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly, use hemicycles.


In the case of Australia (see below), the two largest parties are still facing each other, whereas in the Scottish Parliament's hemicycle the largest party sits in the middle. However some hemicycles follow a strict left right arrangement with, for example, a left wing governing party sitting on the left and the right wing opposition on the right. In these cases election results are often portrayed in the hemicycle to show the results of left wing or right wing coalitions (reaching 50% in the centre where centrist third parties are located) for forming a majority.


Some Westminster system countries outside the UK, such as India and Australia, have confrontational...
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