[EM] (6) APR: Steve’s 6th dialogue with Richard Fobes

steve bosworth stevebosworth at hotmail.com
Sun Dec 28 05:07:26 PST 2014

APR:  Steve’s 6th dialogue with
Richard Fobes



our 5th dialogue, I promised that I would address your following
comments about the formation of a “majority coalition”:

R:  In case I
forget, your method involves an additional complication that I have not yet
mentioned. The fact that seats would be awarded to many associations means that
a ruling/majority coalition would need to be formed, and the process of forming
a coalition always involves back-room compromises that undermine the most
important political priorities of many voters. The long-term solution to this
issue is to improve the voting methods that are used within the
legislature/parliament, and then your associations would not need to form a
ruling coalition.


> Richard Fobes

S:  My response follows and I look forward to our
future dialogues.


APR’s Majority Coalition and Effective Government


Is APR Incompatible with Effective Government?

Every democratic state needs an effective government (a chief
executive organ) as well as a legislative assembly to administer and to enforce
the laws.  Consequently, some people could
fear that need could be seriously threatened by electing the assembly by any
thoroughly proportional system like APR, e.g. up to 500 conflicting ideologies,
shades of opinion, and interests could theoretically be represented in a 500
member assembly.  They might fear that
such assemblies would find it too difficult to form a majority coalition both to
pass laws and to support and monitor an effective government.

 Of course, a fragmented assembly can be elected by almost
any electoral system but later I will explain why I believe that it is likely
that APR assemblies would form such a majority coalition, that an APR assembly would
be especially likely to contain factions who will successfully respond to the
imperative to become part of such a working majority in order to shape the
binding decisions of the state in line with their own ideological agendas.

 Firstly, however, I will describe several constitutional
arrangements that would help to guarantee the existence of an effective
government even if and when the assembly (elected by any system) is too
fragmented to generate such a majority. I will discuss these arrangements both
in relation to a parliamentary democracy (e.g. UK) and to a presidential
democracy (e.g. USA).  


parliamentary constitutions can also contain the following three arrangements
that would help effective governments to be formed even in the absence of a
supporting majority in the assembly.   If
so, this would remove the presumed extra threat to effective government offered
by APR or any other system.  

in the face of a fragmented majority in an assembly elected by any electoral
system, the head of state (monarch or president) could be given the reserve
power to appoint the member who seems to be most supported by the assembly as
the head of government (prime minister (PM)), even when this support is composed only of a minority.  

the head of state could be given the authority to sustain a minority government
even against a formal majority vote of no confidence by the assembly provided
only that that majority remained too divided also to elect a new PM.  This provision already exists in the
constitutions of Germany, Spain, and Poland. 
It is called the Constructive Vote of No Confidence.   The CVNC procedure prevents the
removal of the existing PM by the assembly unless an absolute majority of its votes
firstly elects a new PM.  Also, in
Britain, the monarch (on the advice of the Privy Council) has the reserve
authority to appoint and sustain a minority PM even when the House of Commons
is too divided to give majority support to that PM.  

a president in a parliamentary system could also be given another reserve power
that the British monarch seems already to have (upon the advice the Privy
Council):  to strengthen such a minority
government by helping it to guarantee legislative and executive coordination by
allowing it to make or change some laws by decree when the head of state also
judges this to be necessary.  In this
case, the head of state would also have to sign the relevant decree before it
could be a part of the law of the land (i.e. the Monarch would have to sign the
relevant ‘Order in Council’ in the case of the UK—see Cabinet Handbook. 2011.
Para. 1.5 & 3.33).  

three arrangements would seem not to conflict with the concept of democracy
especially in the case of APR.  This is
because the fully proportional and responsible assembly that APR would provide
could immediately change or reverse any such decree as soon as a majority of
its votes made this a condition when electing a new PM. 

 Of course, a presidential democracy is rationally less ideal
because its separations of power between its branches provide no easy way for
any conflicts that occur between its legislative and executive branches to be
resolved.  Its constitution does not
guarantee the same degree of legislative and executive coordination and mutual
support as provided by a parliamentary system. Gridlock between Congress and the
US President is not uncommon. 
Unfortunately, the US Constitution’s separation of powers also allows any
gridlock to be sustained between the House of Representative and the Senate.

 Consequently, I personally would like the existing US
Constitution eventually also to adopt the parliamentary in form, e.g. to

1)      instead
give the President the powers of the German President:  to appoint the PM who is most supported by an
APR elected House of Representatives, 

2)      give
the Senate only advisory powers similar to those of the British House of Lords,

3)      give
the President the above mentioned power to endorse decreed legislation held to
be necessary by a minority US Prime Minster faced with an opposed House  of Representatives, i.e. a House that does not
contain a constructive majority as defined above.

 Unfortunately, I do not expect any of these changes in the
US to occur in the near future if ever.  Still,
perhaps President Obama’s recent “executive orders” regarding the enforcement
of the existing immigration laws might eventually lead to the acceptance that a
President has the right to make laws by decree, but, of course, only on the
understand that any such decree could be cancelled immediately by a relevant
concurrent majority  in the House and the

 The Political
Imperative to Form a Majority Coalition by APR Representatives 

The above are constitutional arrangements to help guarantee
that an effective government will always be in place to make the necessary
executive decisions even when there is no majority coalition in the legislative
assembly to support it.  However, next
I wish to explain why these arrangements might need to be used only rarely if
at all when the assembly is elected by APR. I want to explain why it seems
likely that an APR assembly would seem to be ideally composed of the skilled
and determined reps who would generate a legislative and government supporting

 The most obvious advantage that each APR rep has is that he
knows that he has been elected by citizens who trust him to work and vote to
promote their common scale of values. 
Thus, APR seems maximally to provide the human resources and the conditions
for the kind of productive debates and negotiations in the assembly that would
be most conducive to the formation of such a majority.

Firstly, in comparison to other systems, the way APR
recruits and elects the reps makes this more likely.   Its general election enables each citizen to guarantee
that their vote will be added to the ‘weighted vote’ in the legislative
assembly of their most favoured representative (or the one most favoured by
their first choice but eliminated candidate). Moreover, this qualitative
advantage would seem to be increased by the earlier discovery by APR’s Primary
election of the most popular voluntary organizations in civil society that will
be recognized as the official electoral ‘associations’.  At the same time, this primary determines the
number of representatives each association will be allowed to elect to the
assembly. To the extent that this would both help politically to energize these
popular associations and stimulate more attractive candidates to seek office in
the general election, the average quality with which all citizens would be represented
in the assembly should be raised.

each rep’s “weighted vote” will have been determined by each of his electors who
believes that he is the best rep among the many hundreds of candidates in the
country.  Moreover, APR’s associational
structure would seem to assist the development of a much closer identity
between each elector and his representative, a more intense personal and mutual
bond. Thus, the ideological fit between
each set of APR’s associations, electors, and representatives is likely to be
much closer, on average, than that between the more defuse and vague relations
between the agendas of each set of parties, districts, electors, and
representatives in other systems.

evolution of these closer relationships in APR might grow partly as a result of
the time between APR’s two elections. Firstly, the “bottom-up” Primary might
prompt more electors to start to familiarize themselves with the existing
members, officials, and other potential candidates of their preferred
organizations. Thus, each APR representative might be more likely to have been
known and explicitly favoured by his electors at least several months before
the general election.

bond would help each rep’s focus and work in the assembly to be both clear and clearly
known to be backed by his association and his electors.  The goals toward which each rep is working
within the assembly should be more evident, and each would be
more likely to have the skills to present the strongest possible case for his
own legislative proposals to be adopted by the assembly.  An assembly composed of such able,
different, well informed, clashing, and focused reps would provide an optimal
debating and negotiating chamber for the production of decisions based on
evidence and rational thought.  The wise
of any decisions resulting from this deliberative process is also likely to be
aided by the fact that it would take place in an assembly whose composition
most accurately reflects the real variety and intensity of the concerns of all

so, this assembly would also be better able to respond to the imperative to
form a working majority in the assembly. 
Without such a majority coalition, any wise legislative solutions to
problems that such deliberations might have discovered could not be passed into
law. Also, the fact that each APR representative, on average, is more likely to
be focused and trusted by her electors would seem better to enable her also to
arrive at any necessary compromises between the contending parties and
representatives in order to achieve their common ends through the establishment
of a working majority coalition.  A
trusting citizen is more likely to believe his rep’s claim that the compromises
were necessary.

 These APR reps are also more likely to appreciate the other
need for them to be an essential part of a majority coalition so they can
ensure that the government will be lead by executives who can be trusted to
apply the laws as expected.

 Each APR rep is more
likely to see that if their own coalition is not the majority that will shape
these binding decisions, their own agenda will not be advanced, especially by
an opposing majority coalition.  Also,
given the above constitutional guarantees, even when no majority coalition can
be formed within the assembly, many of these decisions will still be authoritatively
made by the president in a presidential democracy, or by a government appointed
and sustained by the head of state in a parliamentary democracy.

 Consequently, the above practicalities and suggested
constitutional arrangements make it clear to every rep that unless they can
help to build and maintain a majority coalition in the assembly, the binding
state decisions will still be made without them, and perhaps against their own
agenda.  At the same time, I hope the
above has successfully suggested why APR reps are more likely than other reps
to respond creatively to the political imperatives to construct a majority
coalition (or party) in which they will be an essential member.

wider appreciation of this imperative would also help each APR association and
its electors to organize their combined resources more efficiently to help
shape the binding decisions taken by the state. 


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