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. [↩]
We are now less than a week away from the end of the regular season of Major League Baseball.1 Unless something dramatic happens in the final week2 the standings will showcase the folly of the new format that was introduced for this season.
This year marks the debut of the second wild-card team, promoted by Commissioner Bud Selig and others. Instead of four playoff teams, there are now five. However, two of them–the wild cards–square off in a single game to determine which one goes on to play one of the division winners. The ostensible purpose is to be to make winning the division a greater imperative in cases where two teams are neck-and-neck down the wire, but both would advance anyway.
The basic goal is laudable, but stands on a flimsy premise: that division winners are necessarily more deserving than wild card winners. A secondary premise, though one I have not seen stated, is also flimsy: that both of the now two wild cards are about equally (un)deserving. So let’s throw as many teams as we can into “exciting” end-of-season races, and then have an “exciting” one-game playoff to eliminate one of them and then get on with games involving the more “deserving” teams.
Each league shows the flaws in one these premises. The AL shows the worst case. If the season ended today, a team with the seventh best record in the entire league (Detroit Tigers, leading the Central by two games) would enter the postseason with the advantages of a division winner, while the teams with the fifth and sixth best records (Los Angels Angles and Tampa Bay Rays, currently tied at two games out of the wild card) would miss the playoffs entirely. The two most surprising teams of the season–the Baltimore Orioles and Oakland Athletics, with the third and fourth best records, would play a single elimination game. This season’s AL is not a rare case. Many past wild cards over the previous sixteen years had their league’s fourth or better–sometimes second–best record. And several division winners have been fifth or worse. The new format makes this worse, by vastly increasing the penalty against a superior team for being a superior division, while rewarding the winner of a mediocre division.
It actually gets worse still, because this season the Division Series will deviate from its usual 2-2-1 format, whereby the higher-seeded team–never the wild card, even when its record is better–gets to open at home and also gets the decisive fifth game at home if the series goes the distance. Instead, this year, it is 2-3, with the higher-seeded team getting (up to) three home games, but only after the lower-seeded team has had two guaranteed home games. In other words, the Tigers, with the seventh best record, open at home, after an extra off day, on which the A’s and O’s have decided which of two better teams will travel to Detroit to play the relatively more rested Tigers.
In the NL, we see how flawed is the second (implicit) premise: that both wild card teams are equally (un)deserving. At the moment, there is a seven-game gap between the first wild card team, the Atlanta Braves, and the second wild card, the St. Louis Cardinals. A seven-game gap is currently larger than the gap between any two teams that will play each other in a Division Series.3 And, in fact, the top wild card team now is tied with the West-winning San Francisco Giants for the league’s third best record. Yet all this earns them is one home game in which a team with the fifth best record gets a shot at knocking them off. Of all sports, baseball is the one that least should use a single elimination game instead of a series of 3-to-7 games.4
It does not seem that this new format is well thought-out. Moreover, introducing the format this year too late to adjust the dates of the various series, which is the ostensible reason for a one-year use of the 2-3 Division Series format, really was inexcusable.
I would still prefer my alternative proposal of Two Divisions, Two Wild Cards (2D2W). The AL would be featuring a good wild card race for two slots between the A’s, Orioles, Angels, and Rays. The Tigers and White Sox would only recently have faded from the race (rather than one of them being ensured a Division Series slot). The Rangers and Yankees would be leading their respective divisions, just as they are under the actual format. The NL would actually not have races involving in vs. out of the postseason, because the top four are so well separated from the rest of the pack. However, in the actual format we have hardly had any division races for at least the last two months.5 Under 2D2W we would have a good contest in the East division between Washington and Cincinnati, with Atlanta now four games out.6 We would not have a race like the one we have had, at least until about a week ago, among the Dodgers and the surging Brewers7 for a wild card slot. But really, why is a race for fifth place among teams barely above .500 something to cheer?8 In articulating my proposal for the 2D2W alternative in September, 2010, I suggested some ways in which winning the division could be made more valuable than a wild card than was the case in the rules in place through 2011. These mechanisms could still yield significant battles to secure a division rather than wild card slot in the final week.
Bud’s format is a dud. It should be revisited, to maximize the chances that the four best teams advance to the Division Series, under whatever seeding mechanism, and that races do not involve fringe teams, or set up single elimination games between teams that were widely separated in the regular-season standings.
I had missed this before, but in June, Indridi Indridason posted about the Icelandic Constitutional Council’s proposals for the country’s new electoral system. He notes that the proposal is rather vague in critical respects (and I understand it remains so even now), but broadly:
the proposal stipulates that 63 members will be elected from eight or fewer districts and that voters can either vote for a party list or individual candidates. If the voters opt for voting for individual candidates they are allowed to distribute their votes across candidates of different parties and are free to vote candidate running in any district (if there is more than one district). The electoral law can require up to 2/5 of the seats in parliament to be elected from district lists (rather than a national list).
I was not aware till I came across a Globe and Mail article from September 10 that Nova Scotia has provincial electoral districts that are drawn for the benefit of two groups: Acadians and African-Nova Scotians. These “dedicated ridings”, or what in the US would be called minority-majority districts, represent cases of affirmative gerrymandering: the drawing of district boundaries to enhance minority representation.
The article says that these districts are believed to be the only ones of their kind in Canada.
These districts were established 20 years ago. The NDP government of the province has appointed a boundaries commission to attempt to equalize populations of districts (ridings). The commission’s terms of reference require each riding be within 25 per cent of the province’s average number of electors. Nonetheless, the commission recommended retaining the affirmatively gerrymandered ridings. The commission regarded the terms as non-binding; the government’s attorney general has considered the proposed retention of the districts as “null and void.” (See map of proposed changes.)
Regarding the districts themselves:
Right now there are three Acadian MLAs representing the Acadian ridings, but there has not been an African-Nova Scotian MLA in the designated black riding of Preston (outside Dartmouth) for more than 13 years. The ridings each have about 7,000 voters, far fewer than the other 48 ridings which vary between 10,000 and 21,000 voters.
Thus the districts are not only gerrymandered–drawn for a political purposes–but also malapportioned, meaning having fewer voters per single-seat district.
A very interesting case not only of boundary-drawing for minority representation, but also commission-vs.-government conflict over the process!
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. [↩]
The following entry is authored by JD Mussel, who frequently comments here at F&V. Because JD is in the Netherlands, I asked him if he would like to offer a preview of the 12 September elections in that country.
All of what follows is by JD, not me.
On Wednesday 12 September next week, Dutch voters will choose the ‘Second Chamber’ – the lower house of the Dutch Parliament. The elections are being held two years early after the government fell in April – in short, the Freedom Party (PVV), who were supporting the minority Liberal (VVD)-Christian Democrat (CDA) government, withheld their support after some weeks of consultations on the budget. Since it was calculated the deficit was going to rise above the EU-agreed norm of 3%, the two government parties wanted another round of cuts, which the PVV could not agree with. Despite being able to quickly make a new budget with three other parties, the government resigned and new elections were called.
The electoral system is flexible-list PR – and is probably the most proportional in the world, as all 150 seats are one nationwide constituency with the only threshold being that a party needs to win enough votes to fulfil one quota – ie 0.67% of the national vote. Partially as a result of this system, but perhaps more so as a result of the breakdown of the Dutch social order based on ‘pillarization’, the political landscape has been very volatile ever since the turn of the century. Most importantly, new parties have been storming in and out of parliament, radical or protest parties have grown in size while the three ‘established’ parties – CDA, VVD and Labour have been collectively losing ground (especially the CDA) and therefore finding it difficult to form relatively comfortable (and stable) coalitions. Since 1994, with the exception of the elections that followed in 1998, after every election, a coalition government has been formed in a way that had never been tried previously, with the most recent example being the Rutte minority cabinet supported by the PVV. Moreover, since 1998, a government has never served for the full term.
Over the month or two, the main election battle – for which party would become biggest – seemed to be between the VVD and the formerly-Maoist Socialist Party (SP). However, about a week ago the Labour party leader did very well in an important televised debate, and since then left-wing tide has turned in favour of the more mainstream Labour. This is a radical turnaround – in mid-August the SP was still predicted by the polls to win twice as many seats as Labour, while now it is Labour, with continuing momentum, who are vying for a first-place finish with the VVD.
But what is the importance of such a ‘victory’? After all, no party is even close to winning a majority. I think the main the main issue is that of which party will provide the prime minister. But what I hear more often (from Dutch as well as external sources) is that the biggest party ‘gets the first attempt at forming a government’. However, the Netherlands uses a system where ‘informateur(s)’ are appointed to hold consultations with party leaders as to a possible coalition. Only once agreement has been reached for a coalition, a ‘formateur’ is appointed to actually form the cabinet, with the formateur usually becoming PM.
Since the above system has been put in place, the Dutch Queen has had an important role in the formation of a government. First, she would meet with each party leader, as well a number of other important figures, for advice. Then she would appoint an informateur, usually some preeminent figure from the political establishment, with the task of exploring the possibility of a certain coalition. Often there would be more than one round of ‘information’ conducted, with multiple informateurs, until an agreement was in sight and a formateur could be appointed to finish the job of forming a government. However, sometime last year, the parliamentary rules of procedure were amended to provide for election of informateur and/or formateur by the incoming Second Chamber. This was possible as the whole system of government formation is in convention rather than law. If the newly-elected chamber manages to make this new system work, it will now all be done independently of the Queen, who will only have to sign the ministerial appointment documents and pose with the new ministry. With regard to the new system, many have suggested that the Chamber should elect the leader of the largest party as informateur, or elect him straight away as formateur – thus returning, in essence, to the 19th-century system where the Queen would appoint formateur after formateur until one of them succeeded (the only difference of course being the appointer).
Lastly, I’d like to mention a trend among Dutch party leaders – some time ago, the VVD codified an existing convention that their political leader, who stands at the head of the list, remains in the Chamber to lead the faction unless he becomes the PM (Ministers in the Netherlands have to resign their seat in parliament). Recently in the campaign, Labour party leader Samsom said he would do the same – he would not become minister in a cabinet led by someone else if Labour participates in the government, but remain in the chamber unless he becomes PM.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my entry! If I’ve managed to interest you in Dutch politics, do have a look at the great website by Peter-Paul Koch. It’s absolutely fascinating, and I’ve learned quite a lot from it myself.
This has been JD Mussel, reporting from the heart of Dutch democracy in The Hague.
On a “how to vote” application for the upcoming Dutch election, the second statement you are asked to agree or disagree with is:
The number of members in the Lower House should remain at 150.
Is the size of the chamber an issue in the Netherlands?
For the record, the chamber is one of the most undersized among the major democracies (see graph), according to the cube-root rule.
On a somewhat related note, can anyone explain the Central Planning Agency, mentioned in a Monkey Cagepost as an “authoritative” institution that “runs each party’s submissions [i.e. campaign proposals] through a model and offers projections”?
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