[EM] Fixed Terms

David Catchpole s349436 at student.uq.edu.au
Wed Aug 25 21:17:16 PDT 1999

(PS Blake's message includes responses to basically everyone's e-mails,
separated by ------'s. I'm honoured to be at the top)

On Thu, 26 Aug 1999, Blake Cretney wrote:

> David Catchpole wrote:
> > 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 ****, 
> I assumed that the **** was a key to a footnote that would be found
> below justifying this statement.  Couldn't find one though.

They're a bone of contention (what I call weird ****) in modern
constitutional law.

> > and the concept is mooted often for non-PR
> > legislatures. 
> I'm not sure what you mean by this, but it obviously has no relevance
> for PR legislatures.

It has relevance for PR legislatures in illustrating that any problem it
seeks to address probably may be found in non-PR legislatures also. The
discussion to some extent is of what would make a PR legislature different
and how this might effect its organisation and operation- and the question
of what reforms are mooted for non-PR legislatures becomes relevant; not
only for this but for considering what the situation is generally for most
legislatures and then how that reflects on PR legislatures. As for the
rest- both my contentions and yours really need empirical evidence to back
them up which I don't have at hand. Maybe for the moment we'll agree to
disagree on principles?

My experience of Israel (and this is the experience of occasionally
turning to the "World" section of the newspaper) is that elections have,
over the long run, been comfortably spaced. I'm not entirely sure of the
patterns during Bibi's big day out.

> -------
> Dear Markus,
> Markus Schulze wrote:
> > Dear Blake,
> > 
> > you wrote (22 Aug 1999):
> > > Election dates should be fixed and outside the control of the
> > > legislature.  Often it is suggested that the legislature or cabinet
> > > needs to be able to call an early election to resolve an impasse in
> > > the legislature.  My response is that such a rule has the opposite
> > > effect to that intended.  In general, as the opinions of voters
> > > change, it will frequently occur that a majority, or near majority in
> > > the legislature see a new election as likely to increase their
> > > standing.  If an impasse triggers an election, they have good reason
> > > to create an impasse.  If cabinet must be defeated on a major bill,
> > > they will seek an opportunity.  Also, if an early election does occur,
> > > it is not guaranteed to remedy the situation, and frequently doesn't.
> > > Furthermore, fixed terms have been used in PR municipalities, and some
> > > PR countries, such as Norway, without any obvious increase in
> > > governmental ineffectiveness over other PR jurisdictions.
> > 
> > I prefer the Swedish Method. The Swedish Method says that there are
> > ordinary elections on fixed days (e.g. on the first Thursday of
> > October of every year with a date dividable by five). Extraordinary
> > elections are possible. But the term of the then elected parliament
> > ends with the next ordinary elections.
> > 
> > The Swedish Method guarantees that the possibility to dissolve
> > the parliament cannot be misused to "corriger la fortune."
> In a later post Markus states:
> > There have been extraordinary elections in Sweden
> > in 1887, in 1914, in 1958, and in 1970.
> Interesting.  I find it rather frustrating that references seem never to
> properly explain the rules for when an election may be called in various
> countries.  Do you know of any other jurisdictions that use the Swedish system
> (besides Scotland)?
> It's pretty clear that Sweden has not had an excessive number of mid-term
> elections.  It would be interesting to know the reason for these elections,
> whether they seemed justified, and whether they were used to break an impasse,
> or to seek a special mandate.
> I am concerned that in a country that is used to frequent elections, this
> would not be a deterrent, as legislators would reason that a two (or even one)
> year term was well worth the election.
> --------
> Herman Beun wrote:
> > Markus Schulze wrote:
> > 
> > > The Swedish Method guarantees that the possibility to dissolve
> > > the parliament cannot be misused to "corriger la fortune."
> > 
> > Therefore, probably, the Swedish parliament (Riksdagen) has never in 
> > history been dissolved before the end of its regular mandate period. 
> > Coalitions just postpone difficult decisions and stumble on until the 
> > end, sometimes with minority support because one party leaves the 
> > coalition, rather than investing in costly extraordinary elections 
> > (extra val) for a mandate that is going to last only 1 or 2 years.
> If there really is majority support behind a particular proposal, then those
> in the majority would have a strong incentive to get together and pass it. 
> It's important not to confuse lack of action with stumbling.  It may be that
> there is simply no majority behind any major change.  This is hardly
> surprising if there hasn't been a major change of government for a while.
> ----------
> DEMOREP1 at aol.com wrote:
> > * Fixed terms
> > 
> > Recall elections should exist to be able to get rid of/change idiot 
> > legislative bodies or executive / judicial officers anytime.
> Do citizens in PR countries talk as much about recall as those in countries
> like Canada and the US?  It seems to me that if the public elects a
> legislature using a reasonable method, then the public is unlikely to want to
> throw them out before the next election.  Any comments from people who
> actually live in PR countries?  Am I being overly optimistic about either PR
> or human nature?
> -------
> Tom Round wrote:
> > 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.
> Part (b) indeed sounds like the Swedish system.  Part (a) sounds a little
> naive.  Since a simple majority can easily prevent a chief minister from being
> elected, it will never be necessary to use the 2/3 vote.  It would be more in
> keeping with the intent, I believe, to elect a chief minister using a method
> that does not require a majority of first-preferences, preferably one that
> selects the Condorcet winner.  I also like the German system that says that a
> Chancellor cannot be removed except by the selection of a new one.
> ---
> Blake Cretney
> See the EM Resource:  http://www.fortunecity.com/meltingpot/harrow/124
> My Path voting Site:  http://www.fortunecity.com/meltingpot/harrow/124/path

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