The Irish Times states that “Ireland is now one of the few parliamentary democracies in which members of parliament are not allowed free votes on issues of conscience.” It cites many cases of free votes (also known as “conscience votes”) on issues such as homosexuality law reform, gambling, abortion, and numerous other matters in Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Leaving aside the technicality that Ireland can be classified as semi-presidential–the presidency really is weak enough that we can call it parliamentary–is it possible that the use of the Single Transferable Vote (STV) to elect the Dail (parliament’s first chamber) is a factor?
The editorial correctly notes that such votes occur “where views differ strongly within parliamentary parties”. What might STV have to do with this? It would be a whole lot more dangerous for party leadership to open up its divisions to be recorded on the floor in a system where the members could then compete for votes on precisely these internal divisions.
Whatever the underlying cause in variation in the use of free/conscience votes, one thing is certain: such votes are called when the government wants them. This could be when it prefers not to be held collectively accountable for some issue (let it pass but don’t call it your program), or when the government favors the passage of some measure that enjoys majority support in parliament but divides its own caucus (be sure it passes, but let your MPs claim credit for having tried to stop it). In other words, when there is conflict between the individual interests of MPs and their parties’ collective interests. If the electoral system reinforces such conflicts–as STV surely does, but FPTP, MMP, and closed-list PR do not–then we might expect parties, when in government, to do what they can to keep such conflicts from spilling into the open.
In any case, the usual agenda control of parliamentary cabinets means that we can understand these votes only by understanding governing parties’ decision calculus. What are the conditions under which free votes are seen as desirable or risky by those who decide to apply, or not, the government whip on a vote?
I think we already have plenty of ways of distinguishing between stronger and weaker presidents – the Shugart and Carey scores and the Siaroff presidential power scores being foremost among them. For example, we could agree to call presidents who score below a certain threshold heads of state. However, what we really need is a more dynamic set of such scores. Alan’s1 index is really useful here because it tries to capture ‘actual’ and not just constitutional powers. So, what we need is not just a score for France since 1963, but France’s presidential power score from 1981-86, 1986-88, etc. Is Hollande as powerful as Sarkozy using this measure? In other words, we need scores to capture such changes and to be updated regularly. Let’s argue over whether France is a 5 or a 6 under Sarkozy on Alan’s measure rather than whether France is premier-presidential or something else. If we had reliable time series scores that captured changes in actual presidential power, then we could test more systematically to see whether presidential power really made a difference to particular outcomes.
My only comment (for now) is that I largely gave up trying to measure presidential powers some years ago. The Shugart and Carey (1992) index has some methodological issues2 but at least it was an attempt to base powers on constitutional provisions. It is even more challenging to measure powers dynamically, across presidents or even within terms of individual presidents. My last foray into that was in Mainwaring and Shugart (1997), in which we made the distinction between “constitutional” and “partisan” powers.
Why I still prefer the typology of presidential, president-parliamentary, and premier-presidential is that it creates categories that are definable without observation of behavior,3 as well as mutually exclusive. Then it is a matter of exploring contextual variables that affect how these types operate in practice.
Clearly, however, it is on an open research agenda.
Napolitano was elected on April 20 with the votes of the Democratic Party (PD), Silvio Berlusconi’s People of Freedom Party and Mario Monti’s Civic Choice. Despite having earlier ruled out the possibility of a second term, Napolitano changed his mind after Franco Marini and Romano Prodi failed to get elected due to a dramatic split in the PD that prompted its head, Pier Luigi Bersani, and the party’s entire leadership to resign.
One of the faculties that makes the Italian presidency potentially more than ceremonial is the authority to dissolve parliament when a government can’t be formed. (This power does not exist in the final phase of a president’s term, but becomes active again once Napolitano starts his second term today.)
Does this mean a grand coalition (i.e. a Berlusconi-backed government)? Or will there be a new elections (leading to who knows what?)?
Would we expect the executive format (presidential, parliamentary, etc.) to affect the age at which an executive leader assumes office?
I might expect either no effect (too many other variables might swamp the format) or a positive effect of PMs. We know that prime ministers tend to have more “insider” experience (e.g. as cabinet minister, legislator, etc.) than presidents have. It takes time to get experience, so prime ministers might tend to be older.
However, exploring the data a little bit, what we actually see is the reverse. PMs tend to be younger. The effect is stronger in “third wave” democracies than in a set of both older and newer democracies.1 The effects are statistically significant, though somewhat less so when the older democracies are included.
That prime ministers tend to be younger in parliamentary systems of the third wave than in older democracies might mean that political careers overall start younger when the democracy is younger. We already found (Samuels and Shugart, 2013; see prior link) that there is no observable difference in length of prior legislative experience of third-wave parliamentary PMs compared to those in older parliamentary democracies. But there is a difference in average age of PMs across eras.2
So, to summarize, it seems that parties in parliamentary democracies in the third wave are promoting politicians to the top job who are younger than their counterparts in older democracies (but not less experienced as legislators). In presidential systems, on the other hand, in both new and old democracies there is a tendency for successful presidential candidates to be somewhat, and significant statistically, older.
There is, by the way, no time trend. That is, neither type of executive tends to start office older (or younger) as the democratic regime itself becomes older.
Data summaries (average age at start of tenure); all tests exclude executives who started their tenure before the date the regime became democratic (though the effects work even if these few politicians are included).
Abstract: Scholars and practitioners express concern that parties in “third wave” democracies are poorly developed, compared to parties in older democracies. We suggest that parties vary in their organizational “capacity”, focusing on parties’ ability to select trustworthy executive agents. Capacity is higher where parties can vet potential executive talent by observing future leaders over time in the legislature – an increasingly available option as democracy matures. The key distinction in parties’ use of this option lies in the delegation structure between a party and the executive. Parliamentary systems offer a clear line of delegation, which parties control. In presidential systems, parties must recruit executive candidates who can win a popular election, requiring characteristics that may not be well correlated with those that make them good party agents. As parliamentary democracy matures, we find a steady increase in prime ministers’ average length of prior legislative service. For presidents, there is significantly weaker growth in prior legislative service. We also theorize about and investigate patterns in semi-presidential democracies. Our findings suggest that the institutional format of the executive is more important for party capacity in new democracies than the era in which a democracy was born. [↩]
Two electoral systems that use “nontransferable preference votes” are commonly used: single nontransferable vote (SNTV) and open-list proportional representation (OLPR). Both systems promote intraparty competition by vote-seeking candidates, but differ on the extent to which the incentives of individual candidates and collective seat-maximizing parties are aligned, or not. We develop “logical models” of expected vote shares of parties’ first and last winners, and test (and confirm) these models using “symmetric regression” on an original data set drawn from over 2000 party-district observations in nine countries. The analysis helps bring us closer to an understanding of the relatively neglected “intraparty dimension” of representation, and allows us to offer some modest suggestions for improving systems of nontransferable preference votes. [↩]
Democratic representation involves tradeoffs between collective actors – political parties seeking to maximize seats – and individual actors – candidates seeking to use their personal vote-earning attributes (PVEAs) to maximize their own chance of election and reelection. We analyze these tradeoffs across three different electoral systems used at different times for the large-magnitude nationwide tier of Japan’s House of Councillors. These electoral systems – closed and open-list proportional systems and the single non-transferable vote – differ in the extent to which they entail candidates seeking individual preference votes and in whether collective vote shares affect overall party performance. We use local resources as a proxy for PVEA and seek to determine the extent to which parties nominate “locals” and how much the presence of such locals affects party performance at the level of Japan’s prefectures. [↩]
Do I need to revise those lecture points about “fusion of powers” and “ceremonial head of state”?
Papers prepared by the Cabinet Office and recently made public shed light on the UK monarch’s employment of the veto (Guardian, 14 Jan.).
Most of the cases cited involve bills that directly affect crown interests, although one bill vetoed in 1999 was a private member’s bill concerning military actions against Iraq, and others have been on agricultural and housing bills.
The withholding of consent is on “advice” of ministers, so it would be misleading to see this as a runaway unaccountable monarchy blocking the normal functioning of parliamentary government. On the other hand, it seems a significant curtailment of “parliamentary sovereignty” if executive ministers can “advise” the monarch to veto bills duly passed by parliament.
Moreover, it seems that the veto can be to individual provisions of a bill. If so, then maybe I need to add UK to cases of not just veto, but also item veto!
The parliament of Papua New Guinea voted in late November to extend to 30 months, from the current 18, the “grace period” following the installation of a government during which no-confidence motions are not permitted (see The Australian).
Note that the term of the PNG parliament is five years. If this measure is confirmed in a final vote set for 5 February, it would mean for fully half the term of parliament, there would be no effective responsibility of the government to parliament.
Most (all?) classifications of the world’s political systems–including some published under my own name–have PNG among the parliamentary democracies. However, calling this system parliamentary is becoming increasingly inaccurate.
Shugart and Carey (1992) refer to a hybrid type in which the assembly selects the executive, which then is not subject to confidence, as “Assembly-Independent”. PNG is trending that way, though not completely, as there will remain periods in which parliament may engage the responsibility of the government.
(I recall that there also exists a period leading up to an election in which no-confidence moves are not allowed.)
The draft Egyptian constitution is now available in English. As expected, it establishes a semi-presidential system.
One oddity that jumped out at me: it has a term of office for the House of Representatives (5 years) that is longer than that for the President (4). I can’t recall ever seeing that before.
The House can withdraw its confidence from the Prime Minister by absolute majority of all members, and upon proposal by one tenth of the membership (Art. 126). Another odd provision is that it seems a successful vote of no-confidence only affects the tenure of the PM himself unless “the Cabinet announced its solidarity with him before the vote,” in which case the whole cabinet must resign.
The president appoints the prime minister, who then has 30 days to form a cabinet. If this proposed cabinet does not obtain confidence, “the President shall appoint another Prime Minister from the party that holds the majority of seats in the House of Representatives” (this stricture is not imposed on the initial appointment). If this PM also fails to gain confidence (how could he, given the majority-party stricture, or maybe the Arabic actually means “plurality”), then the House itself appoints a PM. If that PM also somehow fails to assemble a cabinet that can gain confidence, there must be a new House election within 60 days. (These provisions are somewhat akin to those of the Polish constitution.)
I do not see a specific provision related to the resignation of a cabinet, aside from those regarding withdrawal of parliamentary confidence. The silence of the constitution on whether the president can force the resignation of a PM leads me to believe this constitution should be classified as president-parliamentary, rather than premier-presidential.
The president may dissolve the House, though only after calling and winning a referendum to that effect. If he loses the referendum, the president must resign (Art. 127).
The constitution, unsurprisingly, grants protection to the armed forces. Not only is the military singled out as having “protected” the revolution in one of the first statements of the constitution, but also Art. 194 says “The Armed Forces shall belong to the people” and Art. 195 says that “The Minister of Defense is the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, appointed from among its officers” (my emphasis). It seems to me that the military is thus made essentially above the law, or at least not subordinate to the president or legislature.
In matters of religion and state, God is mentioned in the second line of the preamble, Art. 2 says “Islam is the religion of the state and Arabic its official language. Principles of Islamic Sharia are the principal source of legislation” and Art. 3 says “The canon principles of Egyptian Christians and Jews are the main source of legislation for their personal status laws, religious affairs, and the selection of their spiritual leaders.”
A referendum on the draft constitution is set for 15 December.
A draft, in English, of the Tunisian constitution has been posted at Constitution Net. The draft includes the competing provisions that are being debated by various factions in the Constituent Assembly. Most of the remaining contention concerns the executive format.
The Ennahdha party, which won by far the largest share of seats in the Constituent Assembly election of October 2011, but short of a majority, is campaigning for parliamentarism. This is not surprising, for if the fragmentation of the rest of the party system continues, Ennahdha would be almost assured of holding the prime ministership in a parliamentary system. However, it might struggle to win a presidential election, given that Ennahdha was short of a majority of the vote, and that the opposition might more easily come up with an electable individual candidate than coordinate on an alliance for parliamentary elections.
The two main options are parliamentary and semi-presidential. Under the former proposal, the head of state would be a president selected by the parliament, and all major executive authority would be vested in the prime minister, who along with the cabinet depends on the confidence of the parliamentary majority. Under the latter, the head of state would be popularly elected by two-round majority (see Art. 45).
Moreover, in the proposal with the elected presidency, it would be this president, more than the premier, who would have significant executive power. For instance, the semi-presidential proposal grants the president a veto. If the law is one that the constitution classifies as an organic law, it would take two thirds to override the veto. Otherwise, it would take an absolute majority (half plus one). Even the latter is stronger than the veto that the (unelected) president would have under the parliamentary proposal, which is suspensory only, requiring no larger majority than the original passage of the bill. In case of passing the bill over the objections of the president, it is the president of the chamber, rather than the president, who promulgates the law in the parliamentary proposal (see Art. 57).
Both proposals feature a constructive vote of no confidence (Art. 71), by which the cabinet can be voted out by a majority of legislators only if, on the same vote, the majority elects a new prime minister. Both proposals say that it would take one third of members to initiate a no-confidence vote.
However, the semi-presidential proposal places restrictions on no-confidence (or “censure”) votes :
In the event the specified majority is not attained, the motion of censure may not be reintroduced against the government except after the elapse of a six-month period.
In the event the specified majority is not attained, the motion of censure may not be reintroduced against the government except after the elapse of a six-month period.
I do not see any provision clearly granting the president the right to dismiss a prime minister and cabinet unilaterally. In fact, in addition to the confidence vote provision, both versions at Art. 67 say, “The government shall be held accountable before the Chamber of Deputies.” Without a provision empowering the president to dismiss a cabinet, the system does not meet the criterion of president-parliamentary, the subtype of semi-presidentialism in which the president has a more dominant constitutional role (compared to premier-presidentialism, with its exclusive accountability of the premier and cabinet to the legislative majority). Nonetheless, I might be tempted to classify this proposal as president-parliamentary, given the limits on government responsibility in Art. 71. It would seem that somehow the cabinet must remain responsible to someone during the periods when the parliament can’t engage the government’s responsibility, and that someone would be the president (even if de facto).
The semi-presidential version also allows no-confidence votes against individual ministers, which would seem to undermine the core parliamentary principle of collective responsibility. Such provisions are, however, common in president-parliamentary systems (but not, I think, in premier-presidential ones).
The president, on the other hand, would have little discretion in selecting a prime minister, having to grant the leader of the largest “electoral party or coalition” the first right to form a government after an election (Art. 66). This almost seems, in the present Tunisian party-system context, like a provision meant to maximize the chance for cohabitation!1
There is a potentially good argument to be made for a popularly elected counterweight to the dominant Islamist party that has emerged in Tunisia. However, the semi-presidential proposal currently under consideration would seem to risk confrontations over powers between the presidency, on the one hand, and the government and assembly, on the other hand.
Of course, if other parties hold out for a coalition including parties allied with the president, then the resulting cabinet would not be a cohabitation cabinet. But my point is that the constitutional provision appears to give more leverage to the head of the largest party than to the president, which is unusual in a semi-presidential system. An exception that comes to mind is Ukraine, between 2005 and 2012, but in a very different party-system context. [↩]
London mayor Boris Johnson will attend his Conservative Party’s upcoming conference “to reveal the secret of how to get re-elected against Labour in a time of austerity in what will be seen as fresh evidence of his ambition to succeed David Cameron”, reports the Guardian.
This comes in the wake of a YouGov poll that shows Johnson as Britain’s “most respected” politician.
Is Boris going to replace David Cameron as PM? I would not bet on it, for two reasons that I can draw out of my research on career trajectories of prime ministers, in comparison with presidents.
First, Johnson’s formula for being (re)elected against a Labour Party that is otherwise well positioned–whether in London politics, or in current national polling–is based on direct election of an individual. That is, “presidentialization“. To expect the same effect if Johnson were the PM candidate (and, presumably, sitting PM) at the next election is to fail to understand how direct election, as with the London mayor or a president, is fundamentally different from selection by and dependence on a party organization, as in a parliamentary democracy.
Second, he would be swimming against a pretty strong current of institutional effects here. Let’s look at the broad patterns of executive recruitment in democracies, comparatively. Out of 390 prime ministers in parliamentary systems in the post-WWII era, how many have been former mayors? If you guessed about 10%, you are a bit high. The answer is 34, or 8.7%. Parliamentary parties just do not look to mayors very often for their chief-executive talent.
Twelve of these PMs are from the French Fourth Republic (including Antoine Henrie Queuille, who counts as a newly appointed PM three times). Five more come from Norway (including another three-time appointee, Einar Gerhardsen). In fact, these two countries, France and Norway, account for half the ex-mayor PMs, and two politicians count for almost 18% of them. There is just one British PM in the list, Clement Atlee.
It is worth noting that mayors are far more likely to become president, where there is such an elected executive post, than to become PM in a parliamentary system. About the same number of presidents in the dataset have been former mayors, 37, but this is out of 236 total presidents. This rate among presidents, 15.7%) is significantly greater than the rate among PMs (p=.04).1
Of course, this pattern is not surprising: mayors in some major cities (including London now) possess a talent that parties in presidential systems desire: proven ability to win a direct election, which often means appealing beyond (and in some carefully chosen ways, against) one’s party. Such skills are not nearly as in demand among parliamentary partisans. What is striking is that the pattern regarding ex-mayors shows up without our having considered whether the politician in question was a directly elected mayor or not.2
None of this means Boris Johnson is not on his way to residing at No. 10. But it does mean he would be a rare case.
Data note. The data reported here come from the data for Chapter 3 of David J. Samuels and Matthew S. Shugart, Presidents, Parties, and Prime Ministers (Cambridge University Press, 2010).
It makes no difference to the significance of the finding whether we include presidents in semi-presidential systems, as in the numbers cited here, or look only at pure presidential systems. In the latter, 15.8% are former mayors. How about premiers in semi-presidential systems? Of these 12.81% are former mayors. That rate is statistically different from pure-parliamentary PMs (p=.05), but not from that for semi-presidential presidents. In other words, it is PMs in parliamentary democracies that stand apart from either type of executive in regimes with elected presidents. [↩]
It would require additional data collection to determine which of the mayors in the data were elected by the city electorate and which were selected by a city council or appointed by the center, or some other mechanism. I suspect most of those in the data–though certainly not Atlee–were indeed popularly elected. [↩]
Nepal has been at a deadlock for months in its constitutional process. When yet another of numerous deadlines for a new comnstiution was missed on 27 May, Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai dissolved the constituent assembly and set new elections for November. However, last week, the Election Commission advised that the elections can not be held, for reasons that include lack of political consensus. The opposition parties had protested the dissolution and announced a boycott of new elections.
Thus Nepal remains in a serious deadlock. Among the contentious issues is a classic one in the debates over federalism. While all the parties agreed early on to define Nepal as a “federal” republic, they disagree on a fundamental question of federal design for ethnically plural societies: should the sub-units be designed to be themselves multi-ethnic, or should their boundaries follow (as much as possible) the regional concentrations of various groups? The latter option, which seems to be what most experts on federalism advise, obviously requires delicate compromises on where new boundaries should be drawn and how many sub-units to have, which in turn shapes the number of minorities that can be local majorities in at least one unit.
Notwithstanding the breakdown–which may yet prove temporary–the assembly had made considerable progress. It apparently had reached a consensus on a semi-presidential system. In fact, Nepal may be one of the few countries ever to have had a full debate over all three major types of executive-legislative structure: parliamentary, presidential, and semi-presidential. Nepal has been previously parliamentary–largely because it was also a monarchy. In most constitutional-design processes that I know of, the debate is either between presidential and semi-presidential or between parliamentary and semi-presidential (if there is any such debate at all).
According to Jan Sharma (who also covers several other aspects of the process and its deadlock), the parties divided over the executive-legislative type. The old parties, the Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist Leninist initially wanted a Westminster parliamentary system, while the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist favored a strong directly elected presidency (presumably a presidential system). Guess who must be confident about having a popular individual leader who could win a presidential election, and who isn’t?
From various subsequent news items I saw back in May (and which I don’t have immediate access to now) suggest that they had compromised on a semi-presidential system, and evidently of the premier-presidential sub-type.
Today voters in Serbia voted in a runoff election for the country’s presidency; legislative elections were held concurrent with the first round on 6 May. Meanwhile, France is in the interim period between presidential and legislative elections. What difference does this make?
France has long been seen as the model of semi-presidential government (notwithstanding that there actually are older examples). Specifically, it is of the premier-presidential subtype, which is to say that the president actually has very limited powers over government formation and policy-making, unless he leads a party or alliance of parties with a majority in the parliament. Under the premier-presidential subtype, the premier and cabinet are responsible to the parliamentary majority, but not to the president. Nonetheless, when the president is the acknowledged head of the legislative majority, he can be as unchecked in practice as any executive leader in any democracy.
The Serbian constitution, is unambiguously premier-presidential. Perhaps the presidency is very slightly less powerful, but the basic configuration of powers is similar to that of France.
So let’s compare the two countries, at this very moment, in terms of the process of government formation. In a premier-presidential system, “government formation” typically means the president initiates the appointment of a premier, but only upon taking account of the balance of forces in the parliament, which must approve his selection (and, solely, has the constitutional power to remove it subsequently).
In Serbia, the first round of the presidential election produced a close result, which was not decisive. Boris Tadic of the Democratic Party won the plurality, but only around a quarter of the valid votes. Close behind him was Tomislav Nikolic of the nationalist Serbian Progressive Party. In third place, but with only around 14%, was Ivica Dacic, of the Socialist Party of Serbia. (No other candidate had even 7.5%.)
This outcome made Dacic, the strongest of the candidates not qualifying for the runoff, potentially influential. To say “kingmaker” would be an overstatement, given that even if he could deliver his support as a bloc, neither candidate would reach 40%. Still, that did not stop some stories following the first round from suggesting Dacic would be the kingmaker.
Dacic tried, by announcing an alliance with Tadic, amid speculation that Dacic would become premier. Legislative elections were held at the same time as the first round, and they gave the alliance led by Tadic, called Choice for a Better Life, 67 seats. Nikolic’s alliance, Let’s Get Serbia Moving, won 73 seats. Dacic’s Socialists won 44 seats. With an assembly size of 250, a coalition led by Tadic and Dacic could combine for 111 seats–not enough for a majority, but with 44.4% of the seats, a strong base from which to build a government. Only one small detail: this coalition had to succeed in electing Tadic to the presidency first.
The voters did not cooperate, however, as Nikolic has won today’s runoff. Now Nikolic will need to begin negotiations to put together a cabinet that can command a majority in parliament.
This strikes me as more or less how premier-presidentialism is supposed to work. Parliamentary elections determine the parameters of coalition possibilities, given that–as in a parliamentary democracy–the cabinet must have the confidence of the parliamentary majority. Yet when there is no electorally based majority, it falls not to a third party in parliament, but to the voters, acting through their agent in the presidency, to serve as the real kingmaker.
Now contrast this process just sketched with that in France now. The presidential election is concluded, but parliamentary elections are looming in June. However, the newly inaugurated President, Francois Hollande, has already appointed his cabinet. Meanwhile, Hollande’s Socialists and the allies of the presidential candidate who finished fourth, Jean-Luc Melenchon of the Left Front, are divvying up the districts in which they will present joint candidacies, in order to maximize the seats of the broad left. In effect, Hollande (and Melenchon) are asking voters to ratify decisions they have taken since Hollande was voted into the presidency.
Events in France seem less in the spirit of premier-presidentialism, because they lend a far more “presidentialized” air to the whole process by permitting the appointment of the next government before the election of the parliament to which it is (formally) accountable.
The critical difference here is in the electoral cycle, with Serbia having its parliamentary elections concurrent with the first round of the presidential contest, whereas France, since 2002, has been employing a “honeymoon” cycle with parliamentary elections following close on the heels of the presidential runoff. When combined with the two-round majority-plurality system by which France elects its National Assembly, the honeymoon elections will tend to create a very large president-supporting majority, rather than a legislature that serves as a check on the president through coalition politics.
While both France and Serbia are clearly premier-presidential systems, the Serbian electoral cycle is much more in the spirit of the hybrid process of government formation that this subtype of constitutional form is supposed to generate.
The process since last Sunday’s election in Greece is playing out exactly as detailed in the constitution. In other words, for all the hand-wringing about a possible second election, the constitution precisely contemplates such a contingency. From Article 37:
1. The President of the Republic shall appoint the Prime Minister and on his recommendation shall appoint and dismiss the other members of the Cabinet and the Undersecretaries.
* 2. The leader of the party having the absolute majority of seats in Parliament shall be appointed Prime Minister. If no party has the absolute majority, the President of the Republic shall give the leader of the party with a relative majority an exploratory mandate in order to ascertain the possibility of forming a Government enjoying the confidence of the Parliament.
* 3. If this possibility cannot be ascertained, the President of the Republic shall give the exploratory mandate to the leader of the second largest party in Parliament, and if this proves to be unsuccessful, to the leader of the third largest party in Parliament. Each exploratory mandate shall be in force for three days. If all exploratory mandates prove to be unsuccessful, the President of the Republic summons all party leaders, and if the impossibility to form a Cabinet enjoying the confidence of the Parliament is confirmed, he shall attempt to form a Cabinet composed of all parties in Parliament for the purpose of holding parliamentary elections. If this fails, he shall entrust the President of the Supreme Administrative Court or of the Supreme Civil and Criminal Court or of the Court of Auditors to form a Cabinet as widely accepted as possible to carry out elections and dissolves Parliament.
* 4. In cases that a mandate to form a Cabinet or an exploratory mandate is given in accordance with the aforementioned paragraphs, if the party has no leader or party spokesman, or if the leader or party spokesman has not been elected to Parliament, the President of the Republic shall give the mandate to a person proposed by the party’s parliamentary group. The proposal for the assignment of a mandate must occur within three days of the Speaker’s or his Deputy’s communication to the President of the Republic about the number of seats possessed by each party in Parliament; the aforesaid communication must take place before any mandate is given.
*Interpretative clause: As far as exploratory mandates are concerned, when parties have an equal number of seats in Parliament, the one having acquired more votes at the elections, precedes the other. A recently formed party with a parliamentary group, as provided by the Standing Orders of Parliament, follows an older one with an equal number of seats. In both these instances, exploratory mandates cannot be given to more than four parties.
(The president is selected by parliament for a fixed term of five years, according to Articles 30-32.)
Constitutionally, it seems there is no other solution but to have another election, now that the leaders of each of the three largest parties have proven (as expected) unable to form a majority-backed (or majority-tolerated) government.
Democratically, it also seems that there is no other solution. One senses hand-wringing in all the media coverage of this past week’s playing out of the Greek constitutional process, with phrases such as the “failure to bridge the gap” repeated over and over. Actually, the failure is with the troika so far to convince a majority of the Greek electorate that it has a solution to the country’s current troubles.
As discussed at length in a previous thread, an electoral system rigged to ensure the largest party a substantial above-proportional share of the vote very nearly turned a a combined vote share for the two old (and formerly opposed) establishment parties that was under one third into a parliamentary majority. The election results show that the old center-right New Democracy won 18.9% of the vote and 108 of the 300 seats, with 50 of those coming from the plurality-boosting provision. PASOK, the old socialist party, won 41 seats on 13.2%. But the key word there was “nearly”; ND and PASOK combined for 149 seats, where a majority is 151. All of the other parties that won seats are, to varying degrees, opposed to the troika agreement, their disagreements on tactics and other issues notwithstanding.
Moreover, the close second place finish of Syriza (the Coalition of the Radical Left), with 16.8% of the vote–but only 52 seats–may imply a failure of anti-troika Greek voters to realize that a plurality for this formerly marginal party was even possible.
Additionally, over 18% of Greek voters selected parties that fell below the 3% threshold. That is a lot of wasted votes.
And turnout was only 65%.
Given all this context, a second election, in addition to being constitutionally mandated given the impasse, is the only democratically acceptable outcome.
In the event, it may be that the establishment-boosting provision in the electoral law comes back to bite the establishment on the posterior. Polling now suggests that Syriza could win over 25% of the vote in a new election. This would allow the radical left to win the 50 bonus seats on top of its proportional share of the remaining 250. That could mean 110-115 seats, putting it in a strong bargaining position to form an anti-austerity coalition.
The election likely would take place on 17 June. Of course, this could be a very, very long month for Greek politics, and maybe ND, PASOK, and other like-minded parties will yet win the argument.
I take no position here on what is the correct policy for Greece to get out of its current economic and social debacle–that is an area in which I am not qualified. However, giving Greek voters a second chance to coordinate on either a pro-troika or anti-troika set of parties makes more likely that the resulting government will have an actual mandate.
The Dutch government of Mark Rutte has indicated that he will submit his resignation, and early elections will be held, perhaps in September.
The fall of the cabinet was trigged by the refusal of the Freedom Party, led by Geert Wilders, to support the government’s austerity package.
The current government was formed in October, 2010, just over three months following the election that year. It is a two-party minority cabinet of the liberal VVD and the Christian Democrats (CDA), backed by the Freedom Party (which did not have cabinet seats).
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