Seats of Power: The Biggest Parliament in the World

In the intricate and complex machinery of governance, parliaments stand as the cornerstone of representation within a structured legislative framework. But in which country is the biggest parliament in the world, and where is the world’s largest parliament building? Read on to find out.

Building Big Engineering
29 February 2024

A parliament, in its essence, is a legislative body of government with the power to enact, amend, and repeal laws. As well as legislation, it’s often a forum for debate, scrutiny, and the oversight of government, reflecting the multifaceted interests of its constituents.

Parliaments vary greatly in size – from the world’s largest parliament to the seven members of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State which looks after the microstate’s 800-or so residents – and they also vary in structure. These range from unicameral systems, with a single legislative chamber, to bicameral ones, comprising two distinct chambers usually denoted as the lower house and the upper house. The UK is an example of a bicameral legislature, with the House of Commons as the lower house, and the House of Lords as the upper.

The largest parliament in the world can be measured in a number of different ways, including total number of seats in the lower house, total number of seats in the upper house, the ratio of lower house to upper house seats, or even the total population divided by the number of members.

For this article the metric we are going to use is perhaps the simplest – the number of seats in the lower house. The list below is a snapshot of the contenders for the biggest parliament in the world. For a full list of the top twenty, scroll to the bottom of the page.

The Oldest Parliament in the World

Selective focus of a gavel hammer on a wooden table top. (Credit: seng kui Lim / 500px via Getty Images)

The historical tapestry of parliamentary democracy is rich and varied. While it isn’t the world’s largest parliament, the unicameral 63-seat Althing in Iceland holds the title of the oldest extant parliament in the world. Established in 930 AD in Thingvellir, it initially served as a national assembly to legislate and resolve disputes. Although briefly disbanded in 1799, it resumed in Reykjavik in 1845, marking a major step towards Iceland’s independence. This journey culminated in the creation of the Republic of Iceland in 1944.

Parlement Français | France | 577 Members

French Parliament illuminated at night. (Credit: anouchka via Getty Images)

The French Parliament is a bicameral legislature, with 577 members of the lower house known as the Assemblée nationale, or National Assembly, and 348 members of the Sénat, or Senate.

The parliament, which, aside from exceptional circumstances, usually meets for a single nine-month session every year, meets at the Palais Bourbon. Situated opposite the Place de la Concorde on the left bank of the River Seine, it’s one of the biggest parliament buildings in the world with over 9,000 rooms, and is perhaps most famous for the neoclassical portico added in the early nineteenth century by Napoleon Bonaparte.

Parliament of Egypt | Egypt | 596 Members

The parliament building in central Cairo, Egypt. (Credit: KHALED DESOUKI / Staff via Getty Images)

Comprising the 596-member lower house (the House of Representatives), and the 300-member upper house (the Senate), Egypt’s legislature is a contender for the biggest parliament in the world. The seats are voted for in a number of different ways. Almost two-thirds are elected via the individual candidacy system, 120 are elected through winner-take-all party lists (with quotas for various demographics), and 28 are personally selected by the president.

Parliament of the United Kingdom | UK | 650 Members

Houses Of Parliament upon the River Thames, London, United Kingdom. (Credit: Scott E Barbour via Getty Images)

Formed in January 1801 after the kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland merged under the 1800 Acts of Union, the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the world’s largest bicameral legislature. The lower house, known as the House of Commons, has 650 members, and the upper house, the House of Lords, has 785 members.

The legislature, a contender for the world’s largest parliament, meets at the Palace of Westminster, more commonly referred to as the House of Commons – itself one of the biggest parliament buildings in the world – and is one of the world’s oldest legislatures, sometimes referred to as the ‘mother of parliaments.’

Bundestag | Germany | 736 Members

Dome of the Reichstag Building, part of the Bundestag, Berlin, Germany. (Credit: Hans-Peter Merten via Getty Images)

The successor to the Reichstag, the lower house known as the Bundestag (the upper house is called the Bundesrat) is the biggest parliament in the world measured by just the lower houses.

Elections work in a similar way to the UK, in that members are elected by the people, and the Bundestag has a minimum of 598 seats to ensure proportional representation, but the actual number can exceed this due to overhang and levelling seats. The German parliament meets at the Reichstag building on the Platz der Republik in Berlin.

National People’s Congress | China | 2,977 Members

The Great Hall of the People, Beijing, China (Credit: Sapphire via Getty Images)

The National People’s Congress in China has 2,977 members and, by number of representatives, is the largest parliament in the world. It is a unicameral body – meaning there is only one legislative chamber – and members sit for a term of five years. It meets for around two weeks every spring in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. Members of the NPC are unpaid and are part-time, with most holding positions in other branches of government.

The Biggest Parliament Building in the World

The Capitol Building, Washington DC, USA. (Credit: ANDREY DENISYUK via Getty Images)

The Palace of the Parliament in the Romanian capital of Bucharest is the world’s largest parliament building. The stunning neoclassical structure was ordered by former president Nicolae Ceaușescu and was built between 1984 and 1997. Home to a legislature of 465 members that make up the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, the 365,000 square metre building, one of the biggest in the world, has 1,100 rooms.

It contains 3,500 tons of crystal ornaments and fittings, 700,000 tons of steel and bronze, a million cubic metres of marble and fifty acres of woollen carpets. The annual heating and electricity bill is said to be around £4.7 million.

Other contenders for the biggest parliament building in the world include –

  • Parliament House | Australia | 250,000 m2 / 2,700,000 ft2
  • Great Hall of the People | China | 171,801 m2 / 1,849,250 ft2
  • Palais Bourbon | France | 124,000 m2 / 1,330,000 ft2
  • Palace of Westminster | UK | 112,476 m2 / 1,210,680 ft2
  • The Capitol Building | USA | 67,000 m2 / 721,200 ft2
  • Reichstag | Germany | 61,166 m2 / 658,390 ft2
  • Palace of the Argentine National Congress | Argentina | 39,210 m2 / 422,100 ft2
  • New Parliament House | India | 20,866 m2 / 224,600 ft2

List of The Largest Parliaments in the World

Indian Parliament in New Delhi, India. (Credit: YinYang via Getty Images)

Note: the list below is for single countries only. The European Parliament has a lower house consisting of 705 members so would sit third in the list below.

Country | Legislature | Lower House Members

  1. People’s Republic of China | National People’s Congress | 2,977
  2. Germany | Bundestag | 736
  3. North Korea | Supreme People’s Assembly | 687
  4. UK | Parliament of the United Kingdom | 650
  5. Turkey | Grand National Assembly of Turkey | 600
  6. Egypt | Parliament of Egypt | 596
  7. France | French Parliament | 577
  8. Indonesia | People’s Consultative Assembly | 575
  9. Ethiopia | Federal Parliamentary Assembly | 547
  10. India | Parliament of India | 543
  11. Uganda | Parliament of Uganda | 529
  12. Brazil | National Congress of Brazil | 513
  13. Thailand | National Assembly of Thailand | 500
  14. Mexico | Congress of the Union | 500
  15. DR Congo | Parliament of the Democratic Republic of Congo | 500
  16. Vietnam | National Assembly | 500
  17. Cuba | National Assembly of People’s Power | 470
  18. Japan | National Diet | 465
  19. Algeria | Parliament of Algeria | 462
  20. Poland | Parliament of Poland | 460

The Corridors of Power: The Biggest Parliament in the World

The chamber of the House of Commons, London (Credit: Jeff Overs / Contributor via Getty Images)

Whether through the streamlined processes of unicameral systems or the nuanced checks and balances of bicameral ones, the world’s largest parliaments continue to evolve, reflecting the changing needs of the societies they serve. From the ancient roots of the Althing to the colossal assembly of the National People’s Congress, parliaments continue to serve at the very heart of political power across the globe.


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