In the USA the filibuster allows minority parties to prevent passing of bills by the party in power, and is so effective at it that some would argue little get's done in congress since the minority party always filibusters the majority of bills that the majority party is trying to pass.

There have been talks of removing the filibuster, but then any time congress is owned by one party they can pass anything they want, no matter how insane, and these laws will likely be changed every 4-8 years as a new party takes control and overturns everything the last party did. I've heard arguments that allowing anything through is worse the the current status quo of very little making it through since at least that provides more stability in laws that companies can plan around.

I'm wondering if any country has managed a middle ground, where a minority party does have a means of doing a 'filibuster' to prevent laws they are particularly offended by, but where the minority party can't afford to do that for every piece of legislation so less offensive laws can still get passed. I imagine such a system would either make such a 'filibuster' costly enough to implement that a party can't justify doing it all the time, or flat out give a limited number of filibusters allowed in a time period somehow?

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    Bear in mind that in many cases (including the US Senate) opportunities to filibuster arise as an incidental result of rules made for other purposes, rather than by deliberate action.
    – origimbo
    Oct 26, 2021 at 16:06
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    Can you clarify if you mean "filibuster" figuratively (since you put it in scare quotes), i.e. any procedure that would allow a minority veto, or just literally as in taking up the debate time, as some seem to have interpreted your question. Oct 26, 2021 at 20:33
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    If a system allows only for N filibusters, then the majority party can just propose the law they want N+1 times to have it pass.
    – SJuan76
    Oct 26, 2021 at 20:48
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    How about the actual filibuster where the member has to speak continuously for many hours? Oct 27, 2021 at 13:08
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    @Fizz they can propose N ridiculous dummy laws and then the one they want. "All fish are property of the government." "Denied." "All potatoes are property of the government." "Denied." "All hamsters are property of the nearest potato within a 3km radius." "Denied." "Democrats cannot run for government." "Damn we're out of filibusters." Oct 27, 2021 at 13:08

2 Answers 2


Unlike the US, many countries have longer constitutions that are filled with provisions that shouldn't be in the constitution according to the US model. Until you consider that changing stuff in the constitution generally requires more votes than passing laws, so in essence it is "law stuff" that requires more than simple majority to change.

These quotes are from a paper that is highly critical of lengthy constitutions (not in the least because they seem to require more amendments over time), but I'll select here only the indisputable facts:

The US constitution is famous for its brevity; for years, American lawyers have praised this feature as the secret to its endurance and durability. Globally, however, the US constitution has been a model more in the abstract; relatively few countries have directly copied it. In fact, over time, constitutions have grown longer as they have begun to cover more topics.

With regard to the relationship between constitutional length and amendments, Lutz predicts that longer constitutions will be amended more frequently because they are more likely to contain detailed provisions that risk becoming obsolete over time [...] Negretto confirms Lutz’s predictions for constitutions in Latin America insofar as longer constitutions tend to be subject to more frequent amendment. [...] [citing] Negretto, Gabriel L. 2012. Replacing and Amending Constitutions: The Logic of Constitutional Change in Latin America. Law and Society Review 46 (4):749–79.

At approximately 4,090 words, Iceland’s constitution is one of the shortest in the OECD. Under Article 79, a constitutional amendment can be passed by a simple majority of two consecutive sessions of the Althingi, with a general election held in between. Legislators are unlikely to propose an amendment that would prompt voters to vote them out of office, so this requirement imposes relatively little additional burden on the amendment process. Despite the relative ease of amendment, the constitution has only been amended on seven occasions since 1944, most of which expanded the franchise and rights protections.

By contrast, at 50,700 words, Mexico’s 1917 constitution is the longest in the OECD and also one of the most difficult to amend. According to Title VIII, any amendment must be passed not just by two-thirds of the Congress, but also by a majority of state legislatures, which drastically increases the number and diversity of potential veto players in the process. Despite this, the constitution had been amended on over sixty-five occasions between 1917 and 2006 – almost once per year – adding over 500 separate amendments. Moreover, many of these amendments were required to counteract the revolutionary ideology that Mexico’s drafters enshrined in the constitution. Because the constitution is so long and covers so many facets of political life, amendments have been required for relatively mundane matters, such as rules governing the expulsion of expatriates and foreign investment in the energy sector.

Those (Iceland, Mexico) are two concrete forms of veto over "fundamental stuff". The (potentially) alternating parliaments in a unitary state, and the cousin to the US amendment ratification procedure (federal super-majority, plus majority of states legislatures etc.) but applied to a much more encompassing (topics-wise) constitution than the US one. Wikipedia doesn't list Mexico as having any form of filibuster proper.

Of course this kind of veto only works for issues that were added to the constitution at one point.

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    Do you have specific examples in mind? I can think of a few examples but nothing very substantial nor any rules that were put in the constitution specifically to be harder to change. Sometimes things end up in the constitution because it is easier rather than harder to put it there (a bunch of stuff is in the Swiss constitution because there is no right to popular initiative for regular legislation at the federal level).
    – Relaxed
    Oct 26, 2021 at 19:39
  • @Relaxed: Mexico for example as the extreme case from Latin America, which is on a continuum to that; see edit. Oct 26, 2021 at 20:23
  • Thanks, that's interesting (wasn't the downvoter, obviously). The article you're quoting from is also intriguing, it seems to promote a very parochial US view and to ignore legal scholarship entirely in favour of some naive — and self-contradictory — empiricism but is still fascinating.
    – Relaxed
    Oct 26, 2021 at 20:54
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    Is constitutional amendment really what the OP was asking about? Though this answer is interesting as far as constitutional amendments go, it only seems to have tangential relevance to a question about filibustering, which is more akin to a procedural artifice complicating the passage of "normal", non-constitution, laws. Are any of the discussions about the US filibuster right now concerning constitutional changes - except as far as being required to remove said filibuster? No DV, just unclear on relevance to question. Oct 26, 2021 at 23:32

Filibusters do occur in the UK parliament, though they are more difficult to effect than in the US Senate.

Where, in Washington, you can simply read out names from a telephone directory, in Westminster that cannot happen. The same person must continue speaking (if they sit down a vote can be taken)on the subject at hand, and never deviate from it.

And the current rules say that a speech cannot exceed four hours. The longest one this century was 3 hours and 17 minutes. Apart from anything else this can be a severe test for the bladder of the person speaking! They cannot afford to hesitate for more than about five seconds, enough time for the Speaker to call a vote.

This article from The Guardian by Andrew Dismore, one who has successfully filibustered may prove interesting.

In Britain filibusters most often occur with Private Members Bills - i.e. ones that have been introduced by individual members. The practice is not so common against Government business. I am not altogether clear as to why that is - but would welcome explanations from anyone who knows.

  • So you're basically saying that the UK doesn't have working a filibuster, i.e. one that can block majority backed bills. I don't think this is what the question asked though.... although given your answer I think the question is more unclear than I first thought. Oct 26, 2021 at 19:00
  • Interesting point from the article you linked "The speaker judges whether you have deviated from the topic. I once read out a list of London bus routes, but I broke them up and made sure I made a point about each one. I also remember once reading out a long list of shellfish. But it is crucial you stay on topic." So it's basically one MP + the speaker to filibuster. Oct 26, 2021 at 19:04
  • It would help if you added why the 4-hour limit matters. For how long are the bills normally debated? Oct 26, 2021 at 19:08
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    To add to @Fizz's comment, it is very much the norm that the Speaker places time limits (of the order of minutes) on speeches during government business (i.e. Mondays to Thursdays). As mentioned in the Guardian article, filibusters tend to occur during private member's bill debates on Fridays. Oct 27, 2021 at 8:07
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    Also (1) It's very common for the Government to use timetable motions for its own business, which further reduces the opportunity for or effect of filibusters, since any questions will be put to the vote as soon as the time runs out. (2) All of the above applies only to the Commons. The Lords in theory have much greater opportunities for filibusters - but rarely use them. Oct 27, 2021 at 8:08

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