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It started as an organization of representatives of governments who had certain powers given by their contributors. It served as a deliberative body for debates and disputes between its member governments, or even violations of agreements between them. It could intrude itself into a quarrel if a party violated a fundamental provision of universal law.
Each government sent only one representative (bringing along a number of advisors) who voted as many times determined by the size of the population he represented. Eventually they became independent ministers and had total immunity from prosecution arising from any action in the meetings. The vote was cast during the first Standard day an issue was announced.
Officers were elected each time by the delegates themselves, and secretaries were employeed and served at its pleasure; the best of them retained their position for years.
Subsidiary structures aided the Landsraad for some issues, such as the Sysselraads, regional divisions, and the Landsraad High Council, between the Sysselraads and the Landsraad itself. Any legal dispute between worlds not under the same government could be forwarded to the Landsraad if had not been decided a lower level.
The Landsraad collected no taxes and had no armed forces, depending upon the voluntary strength of its members, in case a decision taken during its sessions needed to be enforced. The rules ignore rebellion conceived as an internal matter inside a planet. There was also a distinction between wars of reasonable cause and imperialistic expansion.
In practice, the Landsraad acted as a self-policing agency, keeping House-to-House disputes from getting out of hand, supervising changes of fief, kanly vendettas, and Wars of Assassins, enforcing the rules of the Great Convention, so the emperor would have no need of using the Sardaukar. In any emergency, the Landsraad would act to safeguard profits, not rights, and for 10,000 years the profits had gone with House Corrino. The regional Sysselraads, formed by the Houses Minor in imitation of the Landsraad, performed essentially the same function in miniature with regard to individual Houses Major.
During the Butlerian Jihad the Landsraad numbered 13000 planets. Before the expansion of the empire, voting members exceeded 4000. The Jihad changed the nature of most of the participating governments and feudal powers arose.
Sheuset Ecevit battled against the other Houses in the Battle of Corrin which resulted to himself elevated on the throne of the Padishah Emperor. The rise of the Sardaukar and the creation of House Corrino caused a great change since it united the Landsraad more than ever after all antagonism and suspiction between the great feudal states and Houses. Federated Great Houses of the Landsraad had been formed, initially, to constitute a defense against the Imperium, as each Great House lived in fear of finding the Sardaukar on its doorstep, perhaps disguised in another House's livery, and the Houses could fight the Sardaukar only in combination.
The Landsraad had the advantage as the focus of non-Imperial power and was the only one able to provide channeling the common interests of thousands of worlds against the Sardaukar.
After the Guild and CHOAM were created, the strength of the Great Houses became complete. They gave to the feudal powers a monopoly on access to the services of the Gild and destroyed the remaining few non-feudal governments in the Landsraad. Shortly after the establishment of the Guild monopoly the High Council ceased to be chosen by lot and after the feirst election, members were replaced by one vote of the High Council: thence, the Council renewed itself by co-optation.
For the first time their meetings became regularly scheduled after the reorganization proposed by Iason Atreides in 681 AG. instead of a chaotic personal rule now it became a trierarchy: The Imperial seat, the Landsraad and CHOAM and the Spacing Guild.
The following centuries, Landsraad had to rule in Interregnum periods. President Sa'ad Khumali (Landsraad President) succeeded the House of Alman Corrino in 1604 AG starting a Regency which was dissolved during an internecine war. leaving the Landsraad with no Regent, only a loosely organized committee of Great Houses (1680 AG-1701 AG) until Iraklii Harkonnen (who instigated the unrest) brought forth Corrin IV.
After the dominance of House Atreides within CHOAM its power was much decreased, unable to regain the old position of power near the Imperial one.