[EM] Stable PR governments

David Catchpole s349436 at student.uq.edu.au
Sun Aug 22 16:12:24 PDT 1999

I can give examples of a house of an upper house (the Australian Senate),
a unicameral legislature (New Zealand) and the cumulative experience of
continental Europe. None of these really have a homogeneous majority
faction (notwithstanding one could argue that no democratic legislature
ever has such a thing) but there do emerge identifiable patterns of
operation and coalition. All hell does not break loose in a PR
legislature- why should it if it's representative of a tolerant society?

Most of the following responses are not completely connected to PR or to
concepts of stability, but I hope they address them.

> * Fixed terms

Fixed terms are weird ****, and the concept is mooted often for non-PR
legislatures. Often tied to any campaign for them is an extension of the
maximum term of the legislature. I personally have problems with fixed
terms for any legislature, because I believe they have no effect and take
no account of the contemporary situation of constitutional and political
crises, or of the pursuit of mandates for specific policies (-this is not 
a particularly bad thing).

Unfixed terms allow a government/opposition to attempt to take its bat and
ball and go home, but they don't actually allow it to succeed. The real
risk is pissing off the electorate with too many elections.

> * Condorcet methods
> * Elections for Ministers, Prime Minister
> If cabinet positions, including Prime Minister are elected by the
> legislature, it is not necessary to rely on coalitions to form
> governments
[whoah, Nelly- how do you mean?]
> if all these positions were filled by members of the legislature, the
> result would be tremendous jealousy as parties counted the number of
> their members in cabinet, and expressed outrage at the perceived
> over-representation of small central parties.  I suggest, therefore,
> that all cabinet positions be filled by people outside the
> legislature, who would be able to act in a less partisan way.  These
> cabinet members could be replaced by the legislature, and would act on
> its behalf.

Partisan behaviour is politics is partisan behaviour. It doesn't behove me
to identify parliamentary or presidential election as the better system,
but I rather like parliamentary government and the creation of cabinets
from legislatures made up of mass political parties which actually
represent policies and win their seats and cabinet on the basis of them. 
This is in part due to my own partisanism- but I rather like the idea of
politics standing for something other than aspirations for public office.

Cabinet election systems are something we should have a closer look into,
because they're a juggling act between many different principles and I
don't think anybody's really ever developed one. Something for the <10
active members of this list to look into?

> * Proportional committees

Proportional committees are basically THE major modus operandi of the
Australian Senate, which as the "House of Review" (and the dwelling place
of those lovey dovey corporatists, the Australian Democrats) spends most
of its time off in other rooms investigating stuff. Most committees in
Australian parliamentary practice are appointed on a principle of PR-
though whether or not they're actually *elected* by PR, I don't know.

> * Restrictions on benefits
> Proportionality should be the governing principle of the legislature
> in all respects.  There should be no "Governing Party" or "Official
> Opposition" with special benefits, money, or time allotment.

...which takes no account of the realities of the Government/Opposition

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