|This article does not cite any references or sources. (January 2008)|
|Legislatures by country|
A parliamentary group, parliamentary party, or parliamentary caucus is a group consisting of members of the same political party or electoral fusion of parties in a legislative assembly such as a parliament or a city council. Parliamentary groups correspond to party caucuses and conferences in the United States Congress. A parliamentary group is sometimes called the parliamentary wing of a party, as distinct from its organisational wing.
Generally, parliamentary groups have some independence from the wider party organisations. It is often thought improper for elected MPs to take instructions solely from non-elected party officials or from the small subset of the electorate represented by party members. In any case, the exigencies of government, the need to cooperate with other members of the legislature and the desire to retain the support of the electorate as a whole often preclude strict adherence to the wider party's wishes. The exact relationship between the parliamentary party and the party varies between countries, and also from party to party. For example, in some parties, the parliamentary and organisational leadership will be held by the same person or people, whether ex officio or not; other parties maintain a sharp distinction between the two offices. Nevertheless, in almost all cases, the parliamentary leader is the public face of the party, and wields considerable influence within the organisational wing, whether or not he or she has any official position there.
The term especially applies to Australia and many European countries including, but not restricted to, Germany (where the term Fraktion is used), Switzerland (fraction/Fraktion/frazione), to Austria (Club), Belgium (fractie/fraction/fraktion), Italy (gruppo), Finland (eduskuntaryhmä/riksdagsgrupp), the Netherlands (fractie), and Romania (grup parlamentar), which all have recognized multiparty systems and strong party discipline. In these and many other countries, the only way that parties and MPs can receive financial and personal support and can join parliamentary committees is by organizing themselves in parliamentary groups. Parliamentary group leaders are often important political players. Parties that are not in government often choose the party's political leader as the chairperson. Parliamentary groups often use party discipline to control the votes of their members. MPs can also choose to leave their own party and (sometimes) set up their own parliamentary group.
The political groups of the European Parliament are similar to parliamentary groups. They are more regulated than other kinds of parliamentary groups: to gain financial support or to join committees, each parliamentary group must consist of no less than 19 MEPs from five different EU member states.
A parliamentary group is typically led by a parliamentary group leader or chairperson, though some parliamentary groups have two or more co-leaders. If the parliamentary group is represented in the legislature, the leader is almost always chosen from among the sitting members; if the leader does not yet have a seat in the legislature, a sitting member of the group may be expected to resign to make way for him or her. If the party is not represented in the legislature for the time being, the leader will often be put forward at a general election as the party's candidate for their most winnable seat. In some parties, the leader is elected solely by the members of the parliamentary group; in others, some or all members of the wider party participate in the election. Parliamentary groups often have one or more whips, whose role is to support the leadership by enforcing party discipline.
In the United Kingdom Parliament there exist associations of MPs called all-party parliamentary groups, which bring together members of different parliamentary groups who wish to involve themselves with a particular subject. This term is in a sense the opposite of the term 'parliamentary group', which designates a group that includes only members of the same party or electoral fusion.