The New Livonian Constitution
Sunday, December 9, 2018
Pol-UA 500 Comparative Politics
The New Livonian Constitution
The nation of Livonia is undergoing a massive change. The Soviet Union has fallen, and with it, many countries are now left to their own devices and forced to reform their governments. The state of Livonia now liberated is currently on a path to becoming a new democracy and in desperate need for economic reform. The country with a population the size of New York City is one faces strong economic issues with 45% percent of its people living at or below the poverty line and a small middle class compromising 15% of the population and highly concentrated wealth amongst 5% percent of the population. Not only that there are ethnic cleavages with 75% of the people speak Livonian the rest speaking Russian, and as well half are Catholic, a quarter Buddhist, and 20% identifying as Eastern Orthodox Christians. With these challenges in mind, experts have come up with two options to install a democracy in the nation. Both of the systems that have been proposed to are parliamentary systems which operate in significantly different ways that can prove to be very impactful to Livonia and it hopes to reform into a full-fledged democracy and a free open and competitive market.
The first of these options, Option 1 is a more traditional parliamentary system similar to that adopted by countries like Germany . This option forms a parliament with 150 seats; a proportional election and parties allocate the seats have to meet a threshold of 5% of the national vote to gain any seats in government. Once the vote has determined how many seats each party gets the actual representatives that go into the parliament are from a closed national list from each party. This option also calls for elections to be called every five years, however like other parliamentary systems they hold a “vote of no confidence” which would force a new election within 30 days. If that initial election fails to elect another government, another one must be held within an additional 35 days. Lastly, there is a ceremonial president whose only power is declaring new sessions of parliament, elected every seven years.
The second option, Option 2 is more of a mixed system of government. The parliament is composed of 225 seats. For the legislators in 200 of those seats, they must win a plurality of the vote in their local districts. These 200 districts are drawn up in a way that that stays within a single oblast zone and as well are composed of a roughly equal number of residents. The additional 25 seats are given to the party who won the overall popular vote. This parliament is obligated to hold new elections after four years of serving; however, likewise, the parliament can hold a “constructive vote of no confidence” after two years of the previous election in which they must form a new government. Another aspect that makes this option distinct is that there will also be a popularly elected president. As with the parliament, the president is elected every four years must win more than 50% of the vote if no candidate manages to do this in the first round a second round with the two candidates with the most votes compete two weeks later to determine the winner. The president may not have two consecutive terms. Additionally, the president is not the head of government. The president may veto legislation; however, a majority of the parliament can override the veto.
The first main difference is the role of the executive for both options. In Option 1 the president is more of a figurehead. The president role is purely ceremonial and holds little to no power. In Option 2, however, the president may not be the head of government but does have significant power. The ability to veto legislation is a powerful tool in government and can effectively shift policy. While the exact powers of this president would be vague and would be shaped as evolution with interactions with the parliament, this could give the present power like the “all-powerful presidency” like in France or a weak like Austria. This distinction is vital as many presidencies have more often backslid into authoritarian regimes.
Another critical difference between the two is the most fundamental part of governance. The process of which is the ability to pass laws. In Option 1 the parliament being both the legislature and executive the process is simple. The ruling party or coalition work on proposals and with such strict party discipline pass the laws as they see fit and implement it as they see fit. In Option 2 there is a risk that the president may decide to veto the resolution, while as it seems that only a simple majority can override a veto, it makes the process more complicated. As well there is all the issue of who represents the people the members of parliaments elected by their single-member districts or the president that is elected by the president in either view legitimacy of the government is adversely affected.
There are additional issues for option 2. What happens when the party that wins the parliament but fails to get the presidency? This divided government in Option 2 would mostly make the government inefficient and slowed down for at least two years. There could be constant bickering between the president and parliament. Furthermore, there is an issue with the executive as well with Option 2 seeing as there is presumably ahead of government taking the role as Prime Minister or Chancellor. This dual executive could be very problematic and further cause issues for the government. Option 1 does not have this issue at least to the same degree. If there is an issue with the majority in Option 1, a vote of no confidence can be held. In this option, the vote has less of a burden and can be done at any time. It cannot be denied that the electorate can keep voting in many different parties denying an outright majority it is a preferable outcome and could convince parties to be more conciliatory and willing to compromise instead of a blame game that Option 1 often devolves into as like other systems where this is possible.
Those address the major formal institutional issues that are faced by both options. There is also another important thing to keep in mind which is the role of parties in this new democracy. The country of Livonia so far has multiple parties some with a wide range of concerns other are relatively single-issue parties. Under Option 2 one can see that parties while powerful would be significantly less so. With single-member districts and a president elected by the people it means an individual’s charisma and charm can matter a lot more than party affiliation. Also, with Option 2 it would allow for regional parties a greater chance of making it into the national parliament. As well it would bar out parties for small ethnic minorities on the national front assuming that they do not have a significant presence in some regions. This would be more to the advantage of the Russian speaking people which dominates the eastern side of the country however in other parts it would not be as effective. In Option 1, however, has different consequences for parties. This system would make it harder for fringe parties from ever achieving any political power. This, however, would mean that a party like the Livonian Tree-Huggers Party (LTH) may have a more of a role in the government. This system also would make it harder for a demagogue to take over the pollical system.