In the state elections, the PRD held on to the state’s governorship, but with not even one third of the votes. Leonel Godoy Rangel had 33.1%, beating the candidate of the National Action Party (PAN, the party of President Felipe CalderÃ³n). The PAN candidate, Salvador Lopez OrduÃ±a, had 30.5%.1 The candidate of the PRI won 24%. In addition to the PRD, Godoy was backed by the smaller PT, Convergencia, and Alternativa parties.
From a preliminary count of the elections for state deputies (for the unicameral legislative assembly), it appears the PRD-PT alliance won about 31.9% of the vote to 29.2% for the PRI and 27.5% for the PAN.2 Assuming those results are correct, note that the order of finish for the second and third parties was reversed between the two elections. The obvious conclusion would be that some PRI voters favored the PAN gubernatorial candidate in an effort to block Godoy. Similar tactical voting (on a much larger scale) by PRI voters probably prevented AMLO from winning the presidency in 2006.
Despite the “juxtaposed government” of PAN at the center and PRD in the state,3 and despite AMLO’s continuing refusal to accept the PAN national victory, Governor-elect Godoy promises that his relations with the President will be “cordial.” He further says:
Nosotros no podemos adoptar actitudes suicidas, de no tener una relaciÃ³n de plena colaboraciÃ³n ante tal dependencia del Gobierno federal.
Indeed, it would be “suicidal” to adopt a confrontational attitude, given that 96% of the state’s revenues come from federal transfers.4
Normally, like the federal executive, a state governor in Mexico serves a six-year term. However, Godoy’s term will be four years, following a state constitutional change. Reforma says the change is meant to synchronize state and federal elections in the future. How far in the future? The next federal elections will be in 2009 (lower house of congress) and after that, 2012 (presidency and both federal chambers). So, only if this governor and his successor are elected for four-year terms will elections be synchronized–in the federal midterm election of 2015 (presumably again for a six-year term). It seems if synchronization is the goal, a clever and mathematically inclined political engineer might have come up with another way (e.g. elect this governor for five years, and then have state and federal elections in 2012).
OrduÃ±a has been the mayor of the capital, Morelia, for the past three years. (The PRD also won that city’s mayoralty on 11 November.) [↩]
I do not know the electoral system of Michoacan. All Mexican states have variants of the national single-vote MMM system, though some lean more towards MMP. There are 24 single-seat districts, and it appears that 12 of them were won by the PRD-PT, while the PAN won 8 and the PRI 4. There would also be some number of PR-list seats, but I do not know how many or how they are allocated. As long as they are not highly compensatory–i.e. that the system is not MMP–the PRD-PT will be substantially over-represented in the legislature–perhaps around 40% of the seats. The legislature’s website was not working when I tried to check on its size or electoral system. On the Google search page, there was a page within the legislature’s site indicated as being about an Acuerdo de Reforma Electoral. [↩]
I owe the term, juxtaposed government, to Alain De Remes. [↩]
According to an article in the 12 November edition of Reforma by AdÃ¡n GarcÃa, Denis RodrÃguez y Daniel Pensamiento, which was also the source of the quote from Godoy. (Via Lexis Nexis.) [↩]
Reader Alan G. reminded me that the Australian state of New South Wales (the country’s largest, where Sydney is located) is having its general parliamentary election on 24 March. ABC has a good central site for following the campaign. See especially Antony Green’s Election Guide.
For election watchers and electoral-rules aficionados, there are a few noteworthy facts about this election. First, currently the federal government is controlled by the conservative alliance (which has a majority in both houses, itself a rare occurrence in Australia), while every state is controlled by the Labor party. (Has it ever happened in a federation before that one party controlled all the central levers of power and another all the state/provincial?)
Australia is one of those federal systems in which states have their separate electoral calendars from the federal level. Thus there are almost always some state elections coming up at any given time, and they serve partly as a barometer of support for the federal government–perhaps especially so when the federal governing party faces a total shutout at the state level!
Of particular interest in New South Wales is the electoral system for the state’s upper house, which is single transferable vote in a very large statewide constituency. With twenty-one seats elected at each election (the chamber has 42 members), it is (to my knowledge) the world’s largest STV district. (This fact is made somewhat more trivial by the “above-the-line vote” option, which apparently well over 95% voters employ1; this makes the system much more closed-list in nature than STV.2)
The lower house is also elected by STV, but in single-seat districts. Therefore, the lower house uses what is known as the alternative vote (or ‘IRV’). In the lower house, the Labor party won its majority in 2003 on 42.7% of the first-preference votes, against only 24.7% for the runner up Liberal party and 9.6% for the Liberals’ partner, the Nationals. In a plurality (FPTP) system, 42.7% of the vote and such a strong margin could have resulted in a very large seat majority despite the party’s being so far short of a voting majority.
However, the ranked-preference, sequential-elimination electoral rule allows us to know, from the votes transfers, that the “two-party preferred” vote for Labour was 56.2%. For Liberal/National it was 43.8%. The seat allocation thus mirrors this two-party preferred vote quite a bit better than would be the case under a plurality system: 55 (59.1%) for Labor, 20 for Liberal, 12 for National (for a combined 34.4%), plus six independents.3
Comparing the two houses, the first-preference votes for Labor were very slightly higher in the Legislative Council than in the lower house, at 43.5% (see Adam Carr’s table). Nonetheless, given the high proportionality afforded by STV and a district magnitude of 21, Labor came up one seat short of a majority of the seats at stake in the election. The Liberal-National alliance won exactly one third of the seats contested in 2003 on almost exactly one third of the vote.
New South Wales offers us a very interesting laboratory on ranked-preference voting, district magnitude, and federalism!
1. See Green’s background paper at the link given by Alan in the third comment.
2. It is like a closed list if (as is likely) the party directs that its preferences stay within the party before transferring to candidates of other parties. The additional ‘twist’ on the closed list is that, unlike in a strictly list system, the party may (depending on the specific rules) direct that its votes transfer to other parties’ candidates in the event it lacks sufficient votes to elect a candidate even after intra-party transfers. As Alan notes, the transfer of votes out the party is not controlled by the party in NSW, but rather the voter who chooses the ticket (above-the-line) vote option may designate a second ticket to which the vote should transfer.
3. The page linked at the start of this paragraph offers interesting detail on the 1999 and 2003 elections, including the fact that the attempt of the government elected in 1995 to advantage itself in 1999 by reducing the number of seats (from 99) backfired and nearly cost it the majority.
One of the embarrassments–or at least it should be an embarrassment–of the US political system is the absence of any voting representation in federal affairs for residents of the capital territory, the District of Columbia. That may be about to change, incrementally. No, DC is not about to become a state or state-equivalent, with full Senate as well as House representation, as it should. However, DC may soon get a voting Representative in the House.
In classic American style, however, this (partial) breakthrough for citizenship and democracy will not come about because it is such an obviously right thing to do, but through a partisan logroll. It seems that Utah politicos are upset that it just missed out on an additional House seat after the 2000 census.* So, how about this solution: DC gets its seat (sure to be held more or less in perpetuity by a Black Caucus Democrat) and Utah gets one, too (sure to be held more or less in perpetuity by a white Republican).
Utah’s grievance comes with a religious special-status plea, to boot! The Guardian: “Utah insists that the 2000 census undercounted the state’s population because so many of the state’s young Mormon men were out of state or out of the country doing missionary work.” I wonder how many other states might have experienced undercounts because residents–less identifiable as a bloc than Utah Mormons–were abroad.
Of course, there is a better and simpler way to deal with situations akin to Utah’s without special claims. Even the alleged undercount showed Utah had grown, and other states grew yet lost seats that they already had to faster-growing states. The solution is to let the House grow as the population grows. Then House representation would be less an interstate (and interpartisan) source of conflict than it is under the fixed size, which has been at 435 since 1912, when the USA had one-third the population it has now!* Well, at least Utah’s grievance may lead to the right outcome for DC–or, rather, half the right outcome.
Now, what about representation in the Senate? There is no objective argument for denying residents of the capital territory representation in either house of the national legislature. Several federal systems have special territories for their capitals, which thus give them fewer sovereign rights as units of the federation than the states have. However, no other federation deprives its capital residents of representation in both houses of the federal legislature. In most cases, the capital territory is represented as if it were a state.*
That would require statehood (which requires only ordinary legislation) or a constitutional amendment to grant a non-state territory entitlement to representation in the Senate. Apparently, there is some question as to whether Congress can grant DC a voting House member through ordinary legislation. As the Guardian notes:
The Constitution says that the House shall be composed of members chosen by “the people of the several states.” But it also gives Congress the power “to exercise exclusive legislation” over the seat of the federal government, interpreted by some to mean that Congress can, if it wants, give D.C. voting rights.
Whatever the situation with respect to the constitutional question, it is unconscionable to treat DC residents as second-class citizens just because they happen to live near federal government buildings. Can anyone seriously argue that this situation would still be tolerated today if the District had a different racial composition to its population? It is a national shame. The partisan logroll that may remedy its lack of House vote is a step forward (in outcome, of not process). But it is only one step. (And see the bolded parts of the “other blog action” below for some reasons to doubt that even this is a step forward.)
*1. Other than temporary increases when Hawaii and Alaska entered the union in 1959. The House reverted to 435 after the 1960 census, meaning other states lost members as of 1962 to ensure seats for the new states.
*2. A partial exception is Australia, where the capital territory (ACT) has two senators, whereas each state has twelve. Two senators put ACT on par with the Northern Territory. In the USA–also nearly unique among federations–territories (e.g. Puerto Rico and Guam) also do not have congressional representation (aside from nonvoting “delegates” in the House, as DC likewise has). [Thanks to Alan for correcting an error in the original version of this note; see his comment for further detail.]
Other blog action on this topic:
(Surprisingly little action in the blogosphere on this so far, actually.)
Current DC nonvoting delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, at The Hill Blog, calls this bill “An easy test for Democrats.”
Undernews disagrees with Norton and claims the bill is a “trick to increase GOP power.” Alluding to the constitutional argument, it says, “if Congress approves this measure, Utah will have a new seat while DC’s status will be headed for a long wrangle in the court. Result: one more GOP vote in the House as least until the case is decided. Plus Utah gains one more GOP electoral vote out of the deal.” (My emphasis; also note that DC’s electoral votes are not affected, as it has had three electors since the ratification of the Twenty-Third Amendment to the US Constitution in 1961.)
Rusty at why.i.hate.dc is not too pleased with the logroll aspect of the compromise, either: “Let me explain to Rep. Davis [R-Va., and co-sponsor] and Del. Norton how representative democracy works. The people elect representative to vote on their behalf. It’s not meant to preserve political balance. If an area that’s 90% Democrat is having their human rights trampled on, giving Republicans an extra vote to offset that new vote is not an appropriate solution. Someone explain to me the purpose of having a DC vote when Republicans in Utah get a new vote of their own. Everything cancels out. DC residents are no better off.” (Posted in December when a previous effort to pass this legislation failed; again, my emphasis.)
Tyler Cowen posed the question, Can we just scale up Denmark? He has some tentative hypotheses about the relationships among size, federalism, and welfare states, and a substantial comment thread continues a fascinating discussion.
In my Institutional Engineering and Democracy course, we have been discussing federalism and the problems of agreeing on an instituional design and revenue-allocation formulas that satisfy both a resource-rich unit of a federation and the central government’s desire to redistirbute to more populous units (thereby potentially increasing the power of the center, especially if its redistirbution is discretionary).
Of course, we have been discussing these challenges of federalism mainly in the context of cases like Iraq, Nigeria, and Russia. However, from CBC comes a reminder that these questions loom very large in Canada. (more…)
As Holden Republic relates, there is dicussion in some New Zealand circles about restoring the upper house. Were New Zealand to do so, it would make that country quite an outlier indeed.
Consider the following graph (another in a series occasionally posted here from my forthcoming coauthored book on US Democracy in Comparative Perspective). This shows the relationship of a country’s size (both in population and in area) to federalism and bicameralism.
What the graph shows is that bicameral legislatures are associated with two types of country: Large (in either dimension) or federal.
All federal systems are bicameral, for the simple reason that two houses allow one house to be the “chamber of states” (like the US and Australian Senates) while the other is the “chamber of the people” (like the House of Representatives). The argument for bicameralism in large, but non-federal, systems is that larger countries are more complex than smaller ones, and a single chamber cannot adequately represent such complexity. (Unitary bicameral systems vary quite a bit in the extent to which their two houses are constituted differently, with few having such differential constituencies as in federal systems, but usually having some differentiation, or “incongruence” in the political-science jargon.)
The graph shows that only two unitary systems with less than 245,000 square miles/635 km2 area (UK) or fifteen million population (about the size of Chile) have upper houses: the Czech Republic and the Netherlands.
New Zealand, at under four million population, is quite small. In area, with just under 104,000 square miles/269,000 km2, and spread out over two major islands, New Zealand’s case for bicameralism on the basis of geographic extent is somewhat stonger, though the country is a good deal smaller territorially than several other smallish unitary systems (like Finland and Sweden).
While New Zealanders should not make their decision to restore, or not, their old upper house based on what other countries have done, the comaprative experience suggests that non-federal countries around New Zealand’s size tend not to see the need for an upper house.
Quite apart from the size of the country, I would think that the case for an upper house would be even weaker now than in the era of single-party parliamentary majorities. One argument for an upper house is to put the “brakes” on the otherwise “unbridled power” of the government. However, governments are now inherently checked under proportional representation, which has made governments either coalitions or minority cabinets (or both, as currently). Depending on how it was (s)elected, an upper house could even result in a center-left coalition responsible to the lower house being checked by a conservative upper-house majority (or vice versa), which would hardly seem desirable.
The case for bicameralism in New Zealand seems quite weak. Among unitary states, only countries considerably larger than New Zealand tend to be bicameral.
The advantage is that the grand coalition will effectively neutralize the veto of the Bundesrat (upper house, representing the state governments). This government will be able to tackle reforms to the centerâ€“state distirbution of policy-making powers that a government containing only one of the big parties and lacking a majority in the Bundesrat could not do. (more…)
While I was researching the post immediately prior to this one, on the collective presidency of Iraq, I ran across something really interesting from August 28 that I had missed before. Given that it relates to what are apparently ongoing negotiations over the constitution, and that the referendum is now barely a month away, I think this is anything but “old news.”
From BBC Monitoring Middle East, the story is a translation of a statement by Iraqi Vice-President Shaykh Ghazi al-Yawar that was posted at the Al-Sharq al-Awsat web site, London, in Arabic 27 Aug 05.
First a little refresher on who al-Yawar is. He held the title “President” in the transitional government to which the Coalition Provisional Authority formally handed power on June 28, 2004. And since April, 2005, he has held the title as one of Iraq’s two Vice Presidents. (As my previous post emphasized, all three members are constitutionally co-equal, despite the titles.)
Yawar may be the biggest surprise in the new interim government: As a sheik from the influential Shamar tribe, he represents the most basic building blocks of Iraqi society. [...]
But Yawar speaks in a distinctly modern voice. Though his own tribe is a potent force, with about 3 million Iraqi members split about evenly between Sunni and Shiite Muslims, he argues that these ancient tribes must be harnessed to make Iraq a truly modern state.
In other words, assuming this profile of him is accurate (and I assume it is more or less, or he would not have been acceptable to the CPA), he is not a repersentative of any sort of hardcore Sunni nationalism. So his words are worth taking seriously, and in the statement from the above referenced London website he offers a strong critique of the form of federalism that appears in the draft Iraqi constitution.
First, on the body drafting the constitution:
We have had an opinion on the constitution issue from the beginning, namely, that it should not be written in light of the past elections that created a very unique situation because a complete sector of the Iraqi people were unable to take part in them. The elections results were supposed to be taken as the basis for a balance in drafting the constitution.
Now one can argue that it is their tough luck for the decision most Sunnis made not to take part in the elections. I don’t share that view, and this is something I have addressed, noting that the rules chosen for the election were sure to under-represent Sunnis even if their parties had participated, given the violence in their regions. It has seemed to me that this call for a continuation of the constitution-drafting process after a new election is not such a bad idea.
But what is al-Yawar’s take on the substance of the constitution?
Federalism has many explanations. It is not a specific mould or pattern but could be broad or narrow. I am with the view that the Kurdistan region is a unique case resulting from a 14 years reality and has geographic, cultural and national traits for our Kurdish brothers and since it is part of the Iraqi soil. But I really find great difficulty in justifying or accepting federations on the Arab side. Iraq can be two federations, Kurdish and Arab. We should not talk about unspecified federations because this might create a state of affairs in large provinces in terms of population and resources and, therefore, pose a danger that breaks up the unity of Iraq’s soil.
I had not previously encountered such an articulation of a Sunni view on federalism. His statement accords well with some of my earlier criticisms of the then-emerging “federal” model in the draft constitutionâ€”specifically the problems of creating a single large region in the south.
Nonetheless, I would still be skeptical of a model, which al-Yawar seems to support, that made Kurdistan the only entity within Iraq that has regional autonomy from the central government. This seems to me to be unworkable, because of the inequality of status it would create between Kurdistan and the rest of the country. But it is probably a better model than the one he rightfully criticizes, which could put most of the south and its oil resources into a quite autonomous region of its own.
Unfortuantely, I could not turn up a link directly to the story, which I found on Lexis Nexis.
Steven Taylor today notes that the general fear of Sunnis regarding the form of ‘federalism’ in the constitutional draft is not unfounded or irrational. (I would reiterate that it would be irrational of them to oppose federalism in principle, but it is not irrational of them to oppose the bastardized so-called federalism of this draft.)
He suggests that the smarter thing for them to have done, rather than be obstructionist, would have been to work towards a federalism that:
would not have allowed the potential for large autonomous regions, but rather a collection of smaller ones.
Indeed, this is what I meant the other day by “balanced federalism.” However, I wonder if it would have mattered. First, there is the legitimacy problem that these co-opted Sunni negotiators have, on account of their not having an electoral mandateâ€”something the constitutional committe chair specifically referred to in public remarks (please see this post). It is kind of hard to correct that now, other than by letting the deadline lapse and holding new National Assembly elections, which the majority appears not disposed to do. Second, it just looks to me as if the Kurds and Shiites, who hold a large majority of the Assembly, decided to push through a very majoritarian constitution, even if they label it with the nice word ‘federal’ (though not a nice word to the Sunnis, which is ironic, given their regionalized status within Iraq).
Of course, fear that this is exactly what would happen is in no small part behind the Sunni boycott of January’s elections, and while that boycott might not have seemed the most rational strategy from a Western democratic perspective, I do not think it was irrational. The Shiites and Kurds would still have had a sufficient majority in the Assemblyâ€”even with full Sunni participationâ€”to have pushed through pretty much the same constitution they are pushing through now. It seems to me that the onus all along has been on the majority to restrain its majoritarianism, rather than on the minority to go along with it. And, once the decision was made to have a single national district for the Assembly election, rather than districted proportional representation, Sunnis could be sure of being underrepresented because such an electoral system meant turnout would be determinative of representation. That is, even had Sunni leaders agreed to run in the elections, turnout (and hence representation under the rules in use) was sure to be lower among their constituency simply because these were the regions where another form of fearâ€”that caused by armed guerrillas and often heavy-handed US counterinsurgency tacticsâ€”was most widespread, and also where the problem of recently war-displaced residents was greatest.
In other words, I believe Sunnis would not have been better off politically today had they participated in January.
Steven further elaborates:
Further, the bottom line is that if it is in the cards (and I am not convinced that it is) that the future of Iraq is dissolution, the fact that the constitution isnâ€™t federal in nature isnâ€™t going to stop such a schism.
About this I am not so sure. While I can think of secessionist movements within unitary statesâ€”the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, for exampleâ€”I do not think there are many cases of actual secession that did not originate within federations. From the US Confedaracy in our Civil War to more recent cases like the USSR, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia, it seems as though a pre-existing sovereign subnational government was a precondition for an entity to become fully sovereign by leaving the federation altogether. This is also true of a number of close calls that have not (so far) led to separation: Quebec in (federal) Canada, Biafra in (federal) Nigeria, Chechnya in (federal) Russia, and so on.
I am sure there is a literature in political science on this, and I am sorry to say that I am not aware of it.
Here I offer further reflections and a synthesis of some of the things I have said in recent days about the draft constitution (please go to the “Iraq” or “Constitutional Design” categories at the side), but this time I want to make a specific point:
Iraq’s draft is not meaningfully federal, except for the benefit of the existing national majority.
Which means, simply put, this is not a federal constitution.
The draft constitution submitted on Monday states that Iraq is ‘federal.’ But a federation is not defined by mere words in the preamble or definition of the state. As James Madison well understood, it is defined by the institutions that the constitution itself establishes, and the relationships among them.
I define federal in a way close to how most political scientists do:
A system of two overlapping levels, each with independently constituted governments:
National (i.e. the ‘federal’ government)
Subnational (i.e. an intermediate level between the municipalities and the national, commonly known as states, provinces, republics, or regions)
Each level has ‘sovereignty‘; i.e. the right to make final decisions in important policy areas.
The assignment of these rights across policy jurisdictions to the different levels of the federation is at least broadly defined in the constitution, and is typically subject to ongoing bargaining between the levels, and usually also by the case law developed by an independent judicial system.
The key here is that the national (or federal) level can make final decisionsâ€”unlike in a confederation, where it cannot. But so can the intermediate (state/provincial/regional) levelâ€”unlike in a unitary system, where it cannot. Both levels have independent authority and final-decision rights, and thus each must bargain with the other because neither can impose its will on the other.
Now, the Iraqi draft submitted on August 22, is federal in one sense (apart from the existence of the word in the preamble and in the definition of the state in Article Two):
It specifically defines a levelâ€”in this case, intermediate between the national and provincial governmentsâ€”of regions, each of which will have its own constitution (Article 118), legislative and executive branch (Articles 117 and 119), a right to raise its own revenues (128), and a right to provide for its own police forces (129; but it also says “region guards”â€”what does this mean?).
However, there is one article that appears to my reading (and an Arabic speaker tells me the translation appeared correct) to override all of that. Article 118, which states:
The National Council of the region drafts the region’s constitution and issues laws, which must not contradict this constitution and Iraq’s central laws.
If this article ended without those last four words that I put in Italics, I would say it was no problem. In no federation can a subnational constitution supercede the federal one. However, this specifically says no regional constitution can supercede (‘contradict’) a central law. This implies that a law, passed by the majority of the national parliament, takes precedence over a regional constitution.
Now, that would be less a problem if there was a way to ensure subnational participation in the formation of these central laws. The obvious way to do that is with an upper house that has co-equal legislative authority with the lower house (at least areas defined somehow as important to the regions) and that at least somewhat over-represents the less populated regions (it need not beâ€”and often in federations is notâ€”equal, regardless of population, as it is in the US Senate). It is the existence of such an upper house that provides the primary forum for the inter-level bargaining at the national level that I referred to above.
However, there is (apparently) no upper house for Iraq. So, these central laws, which regional constitutions may not contradict, will be passed by the national majority.
In other words, this is not federal at all. The national level is supreme.
Except in one respect, and this is a huge one: The regional governments will control the revenue from new (although not current) oil and gas wells. Or at least this apepars to be what Articles 109 and 110 say.
So, what do we have here? Regions with oil will have lots of revenue, but their laws and constitutions can be superceded by national law.
Whom does this protect?
Any group that can form, concurrently, its own region and the national majority.
In other words, the Shiite south.
It is less clear to me why the Kurds accepted this central-law supremacy provision. But we know they will have oil, especially if they can incorporate Kirkuk into their region. And they probably can incorporate Kirkuk, because the constitution says that one third of a provincial council or 10% of a province’s electorate is sufficient to petition for incorporation into a larger region, but is silent on how such incoporation is finalized. (A referendum in the whole proposed region, perhaps?) And if the provision in Article 129 for “regional guards” refers to milita forces like the Peshmerga, then they have something even better than a constitutional guarantee. (Institutionally, it is also possible that the Kurds expect to remain in the national government for a while, given possible schisms among Shiite parties.)
Thus, federalism, properly understood, gives regionally concentrated majorities the right to rule themselves, and not be subject to the laws of the national majority in the policy areas assigned to the subnational level.
Iraq’s draft constitution provides this protection of federalism only to the region consisting of the national majority. That is not federalism.
In other words, I started out thinking this was a reasonably good constitution. Upon further reflection, I believe the Sunnis are right to want it rejected. But, as I have said in previous posts, I do not think they can, because I think Article 153 has eliminated the veto rights of any three provinces wherein 2/3 vote “no.”
I have heard that some amendments have been agreed to. But it would be quite a late capitulation by Iraq’s majority if these anti-federal provisions have been changed in any meaningful way.
Some thoughts on the portions of the draft that are posted by the Guardian.
First of all, while the name is simply “The Republic of Iraq” (Article One), both the preamble of the draft constitution, and Article Two define Iraq as “federal.” This is contrary to the stated wishes of Sunni leaders, though, as I argued, not contrary to the objective interests that these leaders represent. Still, it looks like a recipe for intensified Sunni rejectionism, notwithstanding the rather weak nature of the federal provisions (more on that point shortly).
Article Two also states that “Islam is a source for legislation” (my emphasis).
I do not see anything in what the Guardian has posted about the powers of the president and the relationship of the cabinet and prime minister to the president. Nor do I see anything about whether the president is single or collective (like the interim presidency is). However, it appears that the presidency is relatively weak, because Article Two includes “parliamentary” in its definition of the state. The president is evidently elected directly, not appointed by parliament, though it is not clear. Assuming an elected presidency and a more-powerful prime minister responsible to parliament, this would be a ‘sem-presidential’ or ‘premier-presidential’ system.
Now, on federalism more specifically. The mechanism of creating federal units reads pretty much like what I advocated when I suggested that the constitution could “set up a process by which pairs (or more) of provinces could unify into larger entities.” Here is the text from the draft of Article 114:
A region consists of one or more provinces, and two or more regions [provinces?--Ed] have the right to create a single region.
I am not sure that last part (after the comma) was rendered correctly in the Guardian’s translation, but the other parts of Article 114 go on to speficy mechanisms by which provinces may initiate joining together into regions, and the process may be initiated either by 1/3 of the councils of the province in question, or by petition of 1/10 of the voters. (The rest of the process is not spelled out in these excerpts.)
This is good, and is similar to the process that Spain placed into its constitution after Franco, and by which Autonomous Communities have been created, some of which (e.g. the Basque lands) have combined several existing provinces, while others comprise a single province.
There is, however, no limit on the extent of the national population that any one Region can encompass, as I also suggested in my just-referenced entry.
It is also not clear to me whether parliament is bicameral or unicameral. I get the impression there is no upper house, but it is not clear. If there is not, then that undercuts the federal dimension, although in principle a federation could have a unicameral parliament (none do, unless one counts tiny Micronesia or Chavista Venezuela), as long as there are other mechanisms to prevent the center from taking over the soverignty of the regions. (It is worth noting that many federations have upper houses, but very weak ones–notably Belgium and Spain. The US model of co-equal houses and equal representation of the subnational entities is far from typical of federations.)
Regions will have their own constitutions, but these “must not contradict this constitution and Iraq’s central laws,” which implies that there is not, in the end, much subnational sovereignty after all. (And if that is the case, how is it ‘federal’?)
On the contentious issue of resources, Article 109 states:
Oil and gas are the property of all the Iraqi people in regions and provinces.
OK, well that is clear, isn’t it? Article 110 elaborates a bit, though still rather vaguely:
The central government administers oil and gas extracted from current wells, along with governments of the producing regions and provinces, on the condition that revenues are distributed in a way that suits population distribution around the country.
All of what I have seen on federalism leads me to the conclusion that this constitution is ony weakly federal. In some ways that is for the good, such as the provisions that appear to require oil revenues to be distirbuted based on population, not on where the oil was extracted. In some ways it is not so good, such as the apparent subordination of regional constitutions to central law (which I take to mean more than just the central constitution itself).
On political parties, Article Two continues the ban on the Baathist Party “and its symbols under any name.”
Finally, on ratification, the real kicker is in Article 153:
This law is considered in force after people vote on it in a general referendum
With the caveat that I have not read a complete draft (and the draft has not been formally accepted yet by the assembly) I would take this to mean that the provision for veto by 2/3 votes in three or more provinces has been eliminated, as I sort of predicted yesterday, in the last paragraph of my entry on Why the Sunnis might not be able to veto the constitution.
Bottom line: From what I can see, this is a quite majoritarian constitution that will empower the central government, but with some limited autonomy for regions that sets of provinces will be free to create.
Now the really hard part begins: Making it work in the context of what is probably already a civil war, and with the probable Sunni opposition to the constitution.
I do not think either of the two ‘federal’ models being talked about is a good one. And I am not talking here about issues concerning the jurisdictional authority of the subnational entities or their possible right to secede (which I mentioned in an earlier post). I am talking about the number of semi-autonomous subnational entities (regions, states, provinces, republics, or whatever they might be called).
One model–the Kurds’ and apparently also the Sunnis’–has a single such entity, Iraqi Kurdistan. The rest of the country, in this model, would be governed as a unitary state, under central authority from Baghdad and without any regional autonomy.
A second model–which seems to be that of the Shiite leaders–would create three regions. One for themselves, one for the Kurds, and one for the Sunnis.
Both of these are bad, because they are unbalanced, though in different ways. The first gives one regional subset of the population autonomy not enjoyed by any of the rest of the population. This could be unworkable, and could increase separatist tendencies in the single semi-autonomous region on account of how different its status would be (which, of course, could be why Kurds like it).
The second creates a single subnational entitity in which a majority of the population lives. This means that the entities are highly unequal and one of them inevitably will dominate (which, of course, could be why the Shiites like it).
A better model would be to create several subnational entities, so that there are at least two for the predominantly Shitite regions. It need not be based on the 18 provinces, though that might be an easy way to start, and then set up a process by which pairs (or more) of provinces could unify into larger entities, but with a ceiling on the total share of the population that any one can have.
Balanced federalism is what Iraq needs. That means all parts of the country enjoy the same rights to regional self-governance, but that no regional government be responsible for the majority of the population.
As I said in an earlier post, this would seem to be in the Sunni interest. And I think it can be done in a way that is not detrimental to Kurdish or Shiite interests, as well. Just not before midnight on August 22.
One of the events that threw off the August 15 ‘deadline’ for completing a formal proposal for an Iraqi constitution was the late demand by Shiite leaders for federalism–specifically for a Shiite-run region with its own autonomy.
Sunni leaders squawked–that is, those Sunnis co-opted into the constitution-writing process, given that almost none were elected last January, due to the low turnout/boycott.
Sunnis, it has been reported, have long resigned themselves to the inevitability that the new constitution would enshrine the de facto autonomy enjoyed by Kurds in parts of the north since shortly after the first US-Iraqi war. However, the prospect of autonomy for southern regions was too much.
Am I missing something, or is this the irrational getting in the way of the rational? The Shiites, by all accounts, have a majority of the population. Assuming continued voting along ethno-religious lines like we saw in January, this means that Shiites are certain to continue to have the parliamentary majority under the first election after the constitution is promulgated (and probably as many future elections as we can foresee). And the parliamentary majority will control the national executive, because even if the new constitution retains the interim presidency, and even if said presidency is collective and thus contains Sunni (and Kurd and Shiite) members, this is a fundamentally parliamentary system that has been put in place at least so far.
The whole purpose of federalism is to give regionally concentrated minorities of any kind the ability to rule over themselves in certain policy jurisdictions, such that they do not have to subject themselves to majoritarian central rule.
Now, I understand why it must be hard for Sunni politicians and their followers to accept that they no longer control the entire country, but do they really think they are better off being controlled by the Shiite majority?
It seems federalism is more in the Sunnis’ interest than it is in the Shiites’, actually.
Now, just to be clear, I am writing this with the usual political-science understanding of ‘federalism.’ That is, a strong central government that makes final decisions on major areas of national interest, but a second layer of ‘sovereignty’ at the intermediate (i.e. below national, above municipal) level, where other final decisions can be taken. I do not mean ‘federalism’ as apparently some Shiite leaders mean it–the right of these subnational entities to conclude their own foreign investment and trade arrangements. Nor as some Kurdish leaders have apparently understood it, as a step towards an eventual opportunity of one of these subnational entities to secede. And certainly not as the right to the lion’s share of revenues from natural–and national–resources that just happen to be located within the territory of one of these entities. If ‘federalism’ is understood in these ways–as it should not be, as a matter of conceptual clarity–then I can see why Sunnis would be against it.
But a genuine federal republic is in Sunni interests.
If by my laws you walk, and my commands you keep, and observe them,
then I will give-forth your rains in their set-time,
so that the earth gives-forth its yield
and the trees of the field give-forth their fruit.
--Vayikra 26: 3-4