[EM] No Lame Ducks Allowed

Tom Round T.Round at mailbox.gu.edu.au
Wed Aug 25 18:10:45 PDT 1999

I think what Markus meant (from the context of discussing Sweden) is that
if the PM calls an early election, the newly-elected Riksdag serves out
only the remainder of the preceding term -- analogous to an official
elected in a special election in the USA or a by-election in UK, Canada,
Australia, etc. By contrast, in the UK, Australia, Canada, France, Germany,
etc, a legislature elected after an early dissolution gets a full new term.

But I agree with Donald that newly-elected officials should take over ASAP
once the results are known. In Australia this applies to the House of Reps
(term: 3 years maximum, no minimum) but not the Senate. Senators' terms
always begin on 1 July under the Constitution, but the actual election (for
half at a time) can be held, at the govt's discretion, anything up to 12
months beforehand. Eg, on 3 October 1998 the govt lost seats in a
half-Senate poll but between that time and 30 June 1999 could still put
legislation through the "old" Senate, where the numbers were more
favourable to it. 

Apart from the fact that allowing the govt to choose which Upper House it
favours more, knowing the numbers in advance (thus undermining the Senate's
supposed value as an independent safeguard), it also offers a standing
incentive for a rush of quick legislating, which is not good governance by
anyone's standard.

In practice, opportunism by the PM in selecting a half-Senate poll date is
mitigated by several political factors, mainly [1] desire to save money by
having it together with a House of Reps poll, [2] separate Senate polls
usually see a high protest vote for minor parties given the "by-election"
atmosphere (20% at the last separate Senate poll, in 1970), and [3] the
fact that legally Senate election writs are issued by State Governors, who
usually defer to the Federal PM's request but could conceivably refuse if
they thought (or were so advised by their State Premiers) that it was a
blatant stunt by the PM.

But still, given that winning a Senate majority is always harder for a PM
than winning a House majority, the "forum-shopping" allowed by the current
constl rule seems to me highly unsatisfactory. Better fixed election dates
with terms commencing immediately than a flexible election date combined
with a fixed date for terms to begin -- the wider the time-lag, the worse.

I note that the USA reduced (but did not eliminate) this problem with a
const amendment some decades ago that brought forward the swearing-in of a
new president and congress from March to January following the elections
the preceding November.

I note also that the new Scottish Parliament has a fixed four-year election
cycle with the Swedish option -- ie, an early election (allowed only if the
Assembly (a) votes by 2/3 for one, or (b) fails to elect a new chief
minister by majority after 28 days) does not cancel the regular scheduled
election unless the latter would be less than 6 months after the former.

At 08:37 PM 8/25/99 -0400, you wrote:
>- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - August 25 1999
>Greetings EM list,
>Markus Schulze wrote on Mon, 23 Aug 1999:
>     "But the term of the then elected parliament ends with the next
>ordinary elections."
>     This is good, if this means the term ends on the date of the election.
>     If so, the losers will not be able to do any harm after the election.
>     Lame Duck officials have been known to become corrupt after losing -
>sometimes before and after. That may be why they lose.
>     The last governor of my state made questionable appointments and
>pardons after he lost an election the polls said he would win.
>     A better policy would be to end the term two or three weeks before the
>election date, before it is determined who will lose.
>     Besides, they are all busy with the election in that period anyway, so
>we, the public, will not be losing any representation, we may as well save
>their salaries.
>     The next term should start one week after the election. That will give
>the losers time to clean out their desks and offices - after a proper time
>for weeping.
[snip ...]

Tom Round
BA (Hons), LL.B (UQ)
Research Associate -- Key Centre for Ethics, 
	Law, Justice and Governance (KCELJAG)
(incorporating the National Institute for Law, Ethics and Public Affairs)
HUM[anities] Building, Room 1.10, Nathan Campus
Griffith University, Queensland [Australia] 4111
Ph:	07 3875 3817
Fax:	07 3875 6634
E-mail: 	T.Round at mailbox.gu.edu.au
Web:	http://www.gu.edu.au/centre/kceljag/

More information about the Election-Methods mailing list