Article 3 The practice of Christianity and Judaism
Persons embracing Christianity and Judaism shall have the right to revert to their respective religious laws in matters relevant to personal affairs, the practice of religious (affairs) or (rituals), and the nomination of spiritual leaders.
On the other hand, there is this (in Art. 2):
Islam is the religion of the State and Arabic is the official language. The principles of Islamic Law are the main source of legislation and Al-Azhar is the final authority in the interpretation thereof.
Article 4 Al-Azhar
Al-Azhar is an independent Islamic authority, headquartered in Cairo, and responsible for the affairs of the Islamic nation and the world as a whole. [...]
(Egypt’s draft, at least the English translation posted, does not yet define the system of government.)
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. [↩]
Deputy PM Nick Clegg, of the Liberal Democrats, has played one of the few cards he has against PM David Cameron and the Conservative Party. After admitting defeat due to Conservative backbench resistance and pulling the plug on the plans for House of Lords reform, he has now said that his party will renege on its prior consent to support reducing the size of the House of Commons by 50 seats. The resulting redistricting, according to most accounts, would hit the LibDems proportionately hardest, and might be the Conservatives’ best hope for a (manufactured) majority in 2015.
Never mind that the LibDems’ support for the reduction-and-redistricting was linked in the Coalition Agreement not to Lords reform but to the referendum on the Alternative Vote. The referendum went ahead, albeit with Cameron leading the charge against the proposed change, and its going down to ignominious defeat.
There just are not many good cards left in Clegg’s hand. It is hard to see how he had any other choice than to do this. Labour is also opposed to the redistricting and presumably will vote with the LibDems on this one out of party interest. So he can inflict a defeat on the Conservatives on this issue and thereby has leverage.
Selected news accounts:
Daily Mail (the headline and story are overly dramatic–as usual–but the story has a good overview of the controversy appended to it).
There are many problems of the Israeli left and, as reported in Haaretz, a new think tank called Molad is hoping to do something about it.
Comments by Molad officials Avner Inbar and Assaf Sharon highlight the longer-term shifts in both Israeli voting behavior and partisan alignments:
The right has increased its strength by a negligible figure of 4 percent in 20 years, but the left has dropped a whopping 20 percent. “The public,” says Assaf Sharon, “hasn’t moved to the right. It simply fled from the left.”
“The right in Israel operates as a united bloc,” says Inbar. “Anyone who votes for Lieberman or Shas knows that he or she is voting for a government to be headed by Netanyahu.”
In contrast, the left does not present a clear agenda, and lacks the structure of a cohesive political camp.
The point about prospective post-electoral alignments being understood by the electorate (and conveyed by the parties themselves) is important in such a fragmented system. The broader “right” camp, which includes the religious parties, is indeed more cohesive than the “left”. But it is less clear to me the extent to which this is a tactical problem–as Inbar seems to be implying–and the extent to which it is more structural. That is, the “left”, even when it was being led by the actually rather right-leaning Kadima, and even when Kadima won the most seats, as in 2009, is just not well positioned to attract coalition partners out of the diverse partisan agents of different Israeli voting blocs–especially with respect to the religious parties.1
Well, the article does say that Molad sees this as a ten-year project…
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.
I would imagine this means the political-reform discussions will end within government for now. As for the Tal Law–which exempts most Haredi Jews from the military draft and which is invalid, per a Supreme Court ruling, as of 1 August–presumably it will be replaced by some modest adjustments bargained between Likud and its other partners, including the Haredi parties.
Despite earlier news items that suggested the reformed body would be called the Senate, it will actually remain the House of Lords. However, members will not be called Lords, though it is left to parliament to decide upon a title.
At the first election, anticipated with the general election of May, 2015, there would be 120 elected members. By the third electoral period that number would have risen to 360. There would continue to be 30 appointed members at each electoral cycle (thus 90 at steady state), as well as a declining number of Lords Spiritual. There will also be some ministerial members (appointed by the monarch upon nomination by the PM).
An elected member of the House of Lords serves a 15-year term.
The bill makes clear that the Parliament Acts of 1911 and 1949 will continue to apply. (These allow the Commons to override objection by the Lords after one year; there has been concern that a popularly elected second chamber would be more assertive.)
Elections concurrent for the two chambers, except in the case of a Commons election that happens within two years of the previous one. (The Coalition has already legislated fixed Commons terms, but there are still provisions under which an extraordinary election could be held.)
A list system of proportional representation in Great Britain, but Single Transferable Vote in Northern Ireland. (Earlier drafts had called for all members to be elected by STV.)
The districts will coincide with those used to elect Members of the European Parliament. Their number of elected members will range from 3 (Northern Ireland) to 16 (South East) at any given election (see Schedule 2). This will mean an average district magnitude of 10, and only three districts are set to be below this average. There is a provision for redistribution of magnitudes across districts.
The electoral formula in Great Britain is D’Hondt. Lists are flexible: a candidate can be assured election to an available seat for his or her party only upon obtaining preference votes equal to at least 5% of the list’s total vote; seats not filled via preference votes are assigned in “the order in which they appear on the party list” (see Schedule 3).
Former members of the House of Lords will be unable to stand as candidates for the House of Commons for four years.
One example from the linked item:
Conservative aide Conor Burns said: “If I lose my job for something that was a mainstream view within the Conservative party in the last parliament which serving cabinet ministers held, so be it.”
“The priests are chanting.” Antonis Samaras, the leader of New Democracy, has now been sworn in as Prime Minister of Greece, three days after his party won the plurality of votes and seats in Greece’s second election of 2012.
The Athens News live blog for June 20 (follow link in first line) offered regular updates about the apparently highly contentions bargaining. And I do not mean between ND and partners. I mean within Pasok and Democratic Left, the two parties that will join ND in offering Samaras and his cabinet a vote of confidence. According to updates during the day, the Pasok caucus meeting went longer than planned and included various excitements such as yelling and the throwing of an iPad.
As I understand it, the government will be a single-party minority cabinet. No Pasok or Democratic Left MPs will sit in cabinet, but they are agreeing to support it.
Evangelos Venizeols, Pasok leader, “confirmed that Pasok will be taking part in the coalition with no parliamentary members and insisted that the most important part of this entire effort was not the government itself but the formulation of a national negotiation team.” (2:05 pm update)
Fotis Kouvelis, Democratic Left leader, stated that his “parliamentary group has decided to give a vote of confidence to the this government. Our support of course, depends on correct government policy being set in place. The process of policy formulation is still in progress, with our party pressuring for the negation of any measures that have already damaged our society and its people. Our country needs a government, this is important, but the policy it follows is even more important.” (1:07)
In the 2:20 update there is some background on the new Finance Minister, Vasilas Rapanos.
According to the election results posted by the Ministry of Interior, the government and its two support partners combine for 179 seats, which is 59.7%. ND has 129 of the seats, thanks to earning the 50-seat bonus for being the largest party, which it was by just less than three percentage points over Syriza (Radical Left), which will lead the opposition.
The government’s electoral basis–the sum of votes obtained by the three parties offering confidence–is 48.2%. Thus, while not actually endorsed by a majority of voters, the parties that empower this government are very close to a majority. And it is a majority of those votes that were cast for above-threshold parties; 5.98% of the vote was wasted on parties that did not clear the 3% threshold. (This is less than half what it was in the super-fragmented election in May.) The largest of the below-threshold parties had only 1.59%, so we can hardly say that these voters expected their votes to count for empowering a government, or a parliamentary opposition. (In May, two parties, the Greens and the Orthodox Rally, were at 2.9%.)
The big re-sorting of voters in this election, compared to May, seems to come from the lower wasted-vote percentage. (Turnout was actually down, but not by much: 62.5% vs. 65.1%.) Both ND and Syriza grew their support by similar amounts, and the margin of ND over Syriza was very similar in both elections. Pasok did, however, suffer a further, but small, decline. Independent Greeks also did about 3 percentage-points worse, with their voters perhaps going back to ND, from which IG is a splinter. In this election, no party cleared 30% of the vote, but that’s quite a change from May, when none cleared 20%.1
Golden Dawn, the (not-so-neo) nazi party, did about as well, winning 6.9% in June, compared to 7.0% in May.
The outcome, for now, seems about as “good” as could have been expected. Yes, the Greek electoral system–which is not proportional–risks significant distortion when even a party that has won the vote 29.7%-26.9% gets 50 bonus seats and 43% of total seats, while the runner up gets only 23.4% of seats. Yes, there is something unseemly about the old and discredited, formerly alternating in power, Pasok and ND teaming up despite Pasok’s spectacular fall in voter support in recent elections (including, as noted above, a small fall in the past six weeks). Nonetheless, the government is backed by nearly three fifths of parliament and about half the voters, and includes one of the parties opposed to the current bailout terms–more pragmatically so than Syriza, which can carp and organize protests, but will have no say in the country’s policy for now. Whether this government can come up with policy solutions, and whether it can even hold together, are questions for another day.
It would seem that one would not want to wait until the week of a presidential election–or worse still, between rounds of said election–to define the powers of the president-to-be. But then there is Egypt.
I believe it is unusual for a president to be elected before a constitution–even a provisional one–has been enacted. Normally, there is a constituent assembly, during which time a provisional government remains in place, as in Tunisia currently, or else a constitution is negotiated prior to any elections (as with several Eastern European and African transitions of the 1990s). In fact, the only other examples that come to mind of presidential elections preceding a determination of presidential powers are Nicaragua (1984) and Romania (1990). At least in the latter case, the the first president was elected to only a two-year term (as was the concurrently elected constituent assembly).
Meanwhile, apparently the voter turnout in this week’s first round of the presidential elation was only 50% or even just 40%. Either figure would be really, really low for a first presidential election in a transition to democracy–or an alleged such transition.
This is not the first time that the Egyptian transition has prompted me to fret over issues of sequencing or turnout.
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 elections are off. Some things you just don’t see coming. That’s what keeps political science, and political blogging, interesting.
What Mofaz saw coming was the collapse of Kadima support, and the complete absence of any bounce from his becoming party leader and an unlikely head of the center-left bloc. It is less clear what Netanyahu’s motives are, as the polls showed a large increase in Likud seats from an early election, and a dominant position in subsequent coalition-building.
There is a mention of an agreement to pursue changes to the electoral system, but it is not clear of what sort.
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).
The Czech government is proposing to amend the country’s constitution to make the vote of no-confidence “constructive”:
If the opposition wants to propose a no-confidence vote, it must agree on the name of the future prime minister and have this agreement signed by at least 50 lower house deputies, according to the government’s draft amendment.
If a no-confidence vote fails, the opposition may not propose a new vote sooner than after six months or when 80 deputies support its proposal. (Prague Monitor)
The Czech proposal is more restrictive (constrictive?) than the other two longest-existing provisions for constructive votes. For example, under Article 67 of the German constitution, there is neither a stipulated minimum number of legislators who must propose a no-confidence vote nor a limitation on future motions if a motion fails. In Spain’s constitution, Article 113 requires a minimum one-tenth of the chamber to propose a motion against the government, compared to one-fourth in the Czech proposal. There is in Spain a prohibition on the same signers of a failed motion proposing another one in the same parliamentary session.
While a constructive-vote provision along the lines of Germany’s seems like a good idea to me, I am very skeptical of provisions that make it considerably more difficult for a parliamentary majority to remove a government. The more restrictions there are on parliament’s rights in this area, the more the system shades towards separate survival in power of the executive and legislature–thereby undermining the critical accountability feature that makes a democracy parliamentary.
To pass, the Czech proposal would need support from the leftist opposition, as the government is well short of the necessary three-fifths majority for constitutional changes.
________ UPDATE: As Robert Elgie notes in a comment, the Czech Republic is already moving to direct election of the president. Thus the country will join Poland in having the unusual combination of both semi-presidentialism and constructive vote of no confidence.
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