Rubber stamp (politics)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A rubber stamp, as a political metaphor, is a person or institution with considerable de jure power but little de facto power — one that rarely or never disagrees with more powerful organizations.[1] Historian Edward S. Ellis called this type of legislature a toy parliament.

In situations where this superior official's signature may frequently be required for routine paperwork, a literal rubber stamp is used, with a likeness of their hand-written signature. In essence, the term is meant to convey an endorsement without careful thought or personal investment in the outcome, especially since it is usually expected as the stamper's duty to do so. In the situation where a dictator's legislature is a "rubber stamp", the orders they are meant to endorse are formalities they are expected to legitimize, and are usually done to create the superficial appearance of legislative and dictatorial harmony rather than because they have actual power.

In a constitutional monarchy or parliamentary republic, heads of state are typically "rubber stamps" (or figureheads) to an elected parliament, even if they legally possess considerable reserve powers or disagree with the parliament's decisions.

Rubber-stamp legislatures may occur even in democratic countries if the institutional arrangement allows for it.


Historian Edward S. Ellis described Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II's General Assembly of the Ottoman Empire as a toy parliament. It was created in 1876 with the sole purpose of appeasing the European powers.

One of the most famous examples of a rubber stamp institution is the Reichstag of Nazi Germany, which unanimously confirmed all decisions already made by Adolf Hitler and the highest-ranking members of the Nazi Party. Many legislatures of authoritarian and totalitarian countries are considered[by whom?] as rubber stamps, such as communist parliaments like the Chinese National People's Congress, or the Italian Chamber of Fasces and Corporations during the Fascist regime.

In many instances, the refusal of a constitutional monarch to rubber stamp laws passed by parliament can set off a constitutional crisis. For example, when then-king Baudouin of Belgium, because of his religious objections, refused to sign a bill legalizing abortions in April 1990, the Belgian Federal Parliament declared him temporarily unable to reign. That effectively transferred his powers to the Cabinet for a single day, consequentially overriding his veto.[2]

Russia's State Duma (the lower house of the Federal Assembly) quickly adopted a number of laws proposed by the government without delay.[3] The annexation of Crimea was quickly approved in 2014 with only one deputy, Ilya Ponomarev, voting against.[4][5] Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the legislative approvals of the annexation of occupied territories did not meet any resistance, giving the government full control.[6]

List of rubber-stamp legislatures[edit]

Defunct legislatures[edit]

Legislatures with rubber-stamp history[edit]

Current rubber-stamp legislatures[edit]


  1. ^ Webster's New World Dictionary, Second College Edition, ISBN 0-671-41809-2 - page 1242 - "*rubber-stamp 2. [Colloq.] to approve or endorse in a routine manner, without thought - *rubber stamp - 2. [Colloq.] a) a person, bureau, legislature, etc., that approves or endorses something in a routine manner, without thought, b) any routine approval"
  2. ^ Montgomery, Paul (5 April 1990). "Belgian King, Unable to Sign Abortion Law, Takes Day Off". New York Times. Retrieved 12 March 2022.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  3. ^ Times, The Moscow (2011-11-27). "Duma Ends in Rubber-Stamp Ruling Frenzy". The Moscow Times. Retrieved 2023-04-11.
  4. ^ Gorelova, Anastasia (25 March 2014). "Russian deputy isolated after opposing Crimea annexation". Reuters. Retrieved 24 December 2015.
  5. ^ Williams, Stuart. "Russian Parliament Will Vote Crimea Referendum 'Into Law'". Business Insider. Retrieved 2023-04-11.
  6. ^ Berlinger, Olga Voitovych,Joshua (2022-10-03). "Russian Parliament begins process to rubber-stamp annexations as Moscow struggles to define borders". CNN. Retrieved 2023-04-11.
  7. ^ Townson, Duncan (2001). The New Penguin Dictionary of Modern History: 1789-1945 (2nd ed.). Penguin Books. p. 459. ISBN 0140514902. Retrieved 7 August 2022.
  8. ^ "Anos 60 e 70: ditadura, bipartidarismo e biônicos - Notícias". Portal da Câmara dos Deputados (in Brazilian Portuguese). Retrieved 2021-09-24.
  9. ^ "The Macau Precedent". Wall Street Journal. 16 March 2009.
  10. ^ "Critics decry 'rubber-stamp' role of Egypt parliament". AW.
  11. ^ "The Assembly of Experts".
  12. ^ Rosefielde, Steven; Hedlund, Stefan (2009). Russia Since 1980. Cambridge University Press. p. 174. ISBN 9780521849135. Retrieved June 16, 2021.
  13. ^ Troianovski, Anton; Nechepurenko, Ivan (2021-09-19). "Russian Election Shows Declining Support for Putin's Party". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-09-27.