The trouble I have with parliamentary systems

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The trouble I have with parliamentary systems

Post by Dominus Atheos » 2014-12-22 09:42pm

So I understand criticisms of the US system of government, a bicameral legislature and an independent executive; sometimes the presidency is controlled by a different party then the legislature. If even just one chamber is controlled by a different party then the system risks grinding to a halt.

The trouble I have with parliamentary systems is that you guys don't get to vote on the leader of your country. in the last election, David Cameron received 33,973 votes, and now he is the leader of a country of 64,000,000 people. Tony Abbott received 54,388 votes and Angela Merkel got 57,865.

Also, only current members ruling party of the legislature are eligible to be your countries leaders, not governors, retired elected officials, or any "outsiders" of any kind.

So what could be done to allay my concerns? Mandatory primaries for the leader of the party? A second election after the parliamentary made up of just members of the majority party?

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Re: The trouble I have with parliamentary systems

Post by Lord Revan » 2014-12-22 10:18pm

it should be noted that those people have less power IIRC then the US president so it's less of an issue and also IIRC there's parliamantary systems where the president or equilevant is elected independently Finland is like that IIRC and in case of the prime-minister he's appointed by president and in theory could be unrelated civil-servant though that's done rarely in Finland that is
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Re: The trouble I have with parliamentary systems

Post by bilateralrope » 2014-12-22 10:29pm

With the leaders of a parliamentary system having less power, I don't really see it as a problem that they aren't directly elected.

Though I'm not sure it's a simple as saying that the Prime Minister isn't voted for by the people in a proportional system. The leaders of each party are known before the election, so each vote for a particular party is a vote for that party with their current leader. Though it gets complicated when you start considering a government that is a coalition between multiple parties, which has been the standard for New Zealand since they switched to MMP.

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Re: The trouble I have with parliamentary systems

Post by Thanas » 2014-12-22 10:36pm

I don't see the concerns having any merit, the leading candidates will be chancellors/presidents and are the heads of the national campaigns. Votes for their party are votes for them, same as you vote democrat if you vote for Obama (who also is not elected directly).
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Re: The trouble I have with parliamentary systems

Post by Grumman » 2014-12-22 11:13pm

Dominus Atheos wrote:Tony Abbott received 54,388 votes...
Tony Abbott is a terrible human being, but he's literally the least effective example of the weaknesses of the Australian parliamentary system from recent years. People voting Liberal might not have been voting directly for Tony Abbott, but they knew that's what their vote meant. Labor, on the other hand, has had four leadership spills in the past four years - two of them successful coups.
Mandatory primaries for the leader of the party?
I think that's a terrible idea. It means the majority party has the power to keep themselves a majority by forcing the smaller parties to be lead by someone they want - either because they know they'll lose or because it would turn the smaller party into a puppet for their own. Americans admit to doing this in their own primaries, so I don't see why it wouldn't happen elsewhere.

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Re: The trouble I have with parliamentary systems

Post by Fingolfin_Noldor » 2014-12-22 11:56pm

Dominus Atheos wrote:So I understand criticisms of the US system of government, a bicameral legislature and an independent executive; sometimes the presidency is controlled by a different party then the legislature. If even just one chamber is controlled by a different party then the system risks grinding to a halt.

The trouble I have with parliamentary systems is that you guys don't get to vote on the leader of your country. in the last election, David Cameron received 33,973 votes, and now he is the leader of a country of 64,000,000 people. Tony Abbott received 54,388 votes and Angela Merkel got 57,865.

Also, only current members ruling party of the legislature are eligible to be your countries leaders, not governors, retired elected officials, or any "outsiders" of any kind.

So what could be done to allay my concerns? Mandatory primaries for the leader of the party? A second election after the parliamentary made up of just members of the majority party?
People in these countries tend to vote for a party they believe best represent their beliefs and not just the guy running for his precinct.
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Re: The trouble I have with parliamentary systems

Post by General Brock » 2014-12-23 02:14am

For Canada, the head of state is our Monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. The Prime Minister is just another elected politician; as leader of his party and parliamentarian, first among equals. It makes perfect sense that the head of government isn't directly nationally elected.

Prime ministers may not be voted for directly but their leadership qualities can make or break a party at the polls. This is tied to how well they are perceived to lead their parties and conduct themselves in parliament; people can see sometimes see them in action long before entrusting them with national leadership.

I'm not sure that electing the national leader directly confers any advantage to most parliamentary systems, only the disadvantage of an extraneous election and elevating a single politician unnecessarily above his or her peers.

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Re: The trouble I have with parliamentary systems

Post by bilateralrope » 2014-12-23 02:25am

General Brock wrote:For Canada, the head of state is our Monarch, Queen Elizabeth II.
Is it the same arrangement as New Zealand has ?

Which seems to be one where the Queen doesn't use whatever powers she officially has and we decide that it isn't worth the cost of the paperwork to remove those powers.

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Re: The trouble I have with parliamentary systems

Post by GuppyShark » 2014-12-23 03:01am

I'll comment as an Australian that I have never heard anyone lament that we do not directly elect our Prime Minister. We all know what we're choosing between when we cast our ballots.

Abott is an idiot but he's the idiot we (collectively) voted into power.

(Also, nitpick - Americans don't directly elect their president any more than we elect the Prime Minister, thanks to the electoral college intermediary).

EDIT:
Also, only current members ruling party of the legislature are eligible to be your countries leaders, not governors, retired elected officials, or any "outsiders" of any kind.
Clive Palmer essentially ran for the Australian PM job as an outsider. Form political party, get members into parliament, ????, profit.

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Re: The trouble I have with parliamentary systems

Post by mr friendly guy » 2014-12-23 03:17am

People vote for the party rather than a prime minister per se. We accept the party's judgment that they will put a certain person as prime minister if they win. Of course if we don't like that person, and our dislike outweighs whatever policy the party may have (even if we agree with those policies), then we can simply vote for a different party.

The point is, we aren't voting for the person per se, we have voted for the party. Sometimes in Australia some politicians try to make it about personality of the leader rather than the policies of the party. Rudd did it with his branding, and some Liberals saying only religious people should be prime minister. However generally its the party, and short of putting a ficus plant as the leader, I will generally vote for the party. That being said, if I voted for a party with their leader, I would expect the leader to govern until the next election (and focus less on internecidine conflict), unlike Labor's knifing of their leaders in the back. One of the reasons I suspect a lot of Australians grew frustrated with Labor.
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Re: The trouble I have with parliamentary systems

Post by AniThyng » 2014-12-23 03:58am

It does lead to situations though where as a voter I have to choose between candidate and party - the candidate may actually be a good "local" MP (as in he tackles local issues effectively) from the wrong party (as in I'd rather the other party's candidate become prime minister). But I suppose it's not too much different in the end, given that having the party choose the leader and thus PM-designate is not much different from the party choosing the presidential candidate at the primary, and it's still maybe better that the legislature and executive be aligned rather than diametrically opposed in terms of "getting stuff done". But i do think the westminster system leads on occasion to individually better MP's losing on account of the party chains
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Re: The trouble I have with parliamentary systems

Post by Adam Reynolds » 2014-12-23 04:50am

AniThyng wrote:It does lead to situations though where as a voter I have to choose between candidate and party - the candidate may actually be a good "local" MP (as in he tackles local issues effectively) from the wrong party (as in I'd rather the other party's candidate become prime minister). But I suppose it's not too much different in the end, given that having the party choose the leader and thus PM-designate is not much different from the party choosing the presidential candidate at the primary, and it's still maybe better that the legislature and executive be aligned rather than diametrically opposed in terms of "getting stuff done". But i do think the westminster system leads on occasion to individually better MP's losing on account of the party chains
Though it's not like the American system doesn't also have this with local Congressmen. The dispersion of power between bodies is the root of the majority of the current problems given the lack of compromise.

I would say that the largest problem currently facing American politics is the fact that every politician devotes their time to winning elections rather than governing. The lack of compromise is merely a symptom of this.

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Re: The trouble I have with parliamentary systems

Post by The Romulan Republic » 2014-12-23 08:08am

Dispersion of power can be a very good thing. Its why we're not facing a Republican Congress with only the filibuster and their own minds to prevent them from passing whatever insane ideas they cook up in January. Sometimes a government that does nothing is better than the alternative.

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Re: The trouble I have with parliamentary systems

Post by Welf » 2014-12-23 09:55am

Dominus Atheos wrote:So I understand criticisms of the US system of government, a bicameral legislature and an independent executive; sometimes the presidency is controlled by a different party then the legislature. If even just one chamber is controlled by a different party then the system risks grinding to a halt.

The trouble I have with parliamentary systems is that you guys don't get to vote on the leader of your country. in the last election, David Cameron received 33,973 votes, and now he is the leader of a country of 64,000,000 people. Tony Abbott received 54,388 votes and Angela Merkel got 57,865.

Also, only current members ruling party of the legislature are eligible to be your countries leaders, not governors, retired elected officials, or any "outsiders" of any kind.

So what could be done to allay my concerns? Mandatory primaries for the leader of the party? A second election after the parliamentary made up of just members of the majority party?
In a parliamentary system not directly voting a prime minister is a feature, not a bug. The parliament has all the power and elects a prime minister and cabinet to execute the policy the majority of the MPs orders them to do. And this power also means they can remove them. This means the parliamentary system is more dynamic than the presidential system, because a new government can be installed by a few MPs changing party, or a small party changing alliance. The downside can of course be, that this can happen too often and you end with quickly changing governments and regular early elections.

This setup solves a few problems that the US system has, namely the "Imperial presidency". In recent decades presidents have accumulated a lot of power. This is partly overreach, but also partly necessary, because the congress refuses to do his work and shifts this to the president and Supreme court. The last example was Obama's decision to reform the immigration system by executive order. It's a good reform, it's an overdue reform, but it feels wrong such a fundamental change to the demographics of the US is done by the executive.
In the parliamentary system such a shift of power to the executive is much more difficult, because an prime minister will always be deeply integrated in the workings of his party and parliamentary group, and at the same time the MPs will be part of the government. This for example prevents the creation of an too powerful executive office for the prime minister, because his faction members will want posts as ministers, and they want it with power.

So it wouldn't make sense to add elements of direct plebiscite to a parliamentary system. They would hurt double. They would reduce the advantages of it by reducing parliamentary control and add the problems of the imperial presidency by making the executive too strong.

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Re: The trouble I have with parliamentary systems

Post by Irbis » 2014-12-23 11:11am

Dominus Atheos wrote:So I understand criticisms of the US system of government, a bicameral legislature and an independent executive; sometimes the presidency is controlled by a different party then the legislature. If even just one chamber is controlled by a different party then the system risks grinding to a halt.
We have bicameral systems too. It's just when the system doesn't have filibuster and has built in veto breakers even someone controlling one chamber of parliament has to compromise with other power centres unless they also have strong veto disabling presence there.
The trouble I have with parliamentary systems is that you guys don't get to vote on the leader of your country. in the last election, David Cameron received 33,973 votes, and now he is the leader of a country of 64,000,000 people. Tony Abbott received 54,388 votes and Angela Merkel got 57,865.
You might as well say Obama got 100 votes because it's the number he got in random county. These leaders ran in small districts, of course they won't get a lot of votes. You might want to note though if they score very low in that district their position will be greatly weakened, isn't that what you wanted?
Also, only current members ruling party of the legislature are eligible to be your countries leaders, not governors, retired elected officials, or any "outsiders" of any kind.
Why not? :|

It's rare, but it happens, especially seeing a party has to fill 4 or 5 big spots (Prime minister, president, speakers of chambers, often first vice-PM with power resort) so they often run out of leaders and turn to whatever free influential people they have.
So what could be done to allay my concerns? Mandatory primaries for the leader of the party? A second election after the parliamentary made up of just members of the majority party?
That is counter-productive and besides, already happens in parliament. Prime minister usually has to be voted in or confirmed by majority of freshly elected parliament, which is enough, and they also can be removed by the same parliament in simple process unlike US president (yeah, impeachment, but it's incomparable and how many times that happened?).

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Re: The trouble I have with parliamentary systems

Post by Starglider » 2014-12-23 11:52am

The Romulan Republic wrote:Dispersion of power can be a very good thing.
Preference voting (range/STV/approval/etc) and proportional representation are a much better idea than independently elected executive. If you're going to disperse power it's better to force coalitions and consideration of minority parties, than to have the US situation of just two parties that try to block each other from doing anything. Particularly for countries like the UK where the head of state is not part of the executive, though if our monarchy wasn't both toothless and of significant historical value then that should be an elected post as well.

That said it is arguable that the cabinet system prevents the UK from exploiting executive experience from qualified people who aren't interested in legislating (i.e. don't want to be MPs), and is detrimental to the interests of voters in the cabinet member's consituencies (because cabinet members have less time to champion local interests). I'm not qualified to design a better system (i.e. I'm not a political science graduate), but I'm pretty sure a modern from-scratch government design would do better.

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Re: The trouble I have with parliamentary systems

Post by bilateralrope » 2014-12-23 04:59pm

AniThyng wrote:It does lead to situations though where as a voter I have to choose between candidate and party - the candidate may actually be a good "local" MP (as in he tackles local issues effectively) from the wrong party (as in I'd rather the other party's candidate become prime minister). But I suppose it's not too much different in the end, given that having the party choose the leader and thus PM-designate is not much different from the party choosing the presidential candidate at the primary, and it's still maybe better that the legislature and executive be aligned rather than diametrically opposed in terms of "getting stuff done". But i do think the westminster system leads on occasion to individually better MP's losing on account of the party chains
New Zealand runs MMP, which does mitigate that problem. Voting for the party you want, while voting for a local MP from a different party is a viable option. Often even encouraged by the parties, because they don't expect their electorate MP to win*, so they suggest voting for whichever of the two more likely to win is preferable. Usually an MP from a party they are planning to form a coalition government with.

*Leading to those electorate MPs campaigns focused on getting the party vote.

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Re: The trouble I have with parliamentary systems

Post by Enigma » 2014-12-23 05:12pm

For better or worse, in a parliamentary system, if the party in power have the majority of the seats, they can more or less cram any sort of legislation through parliament with the opposition just looking on impotently. They ruling party doesn't have to fear having the government ground to a halt by the opposition. AFAIK.
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Re: The trouble I have with parliamentary systems

Post by Thanas » 2014-12-23 10:04pm

How is that different from the presidential system when the ruling party has a majority?
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Re: The trouble I have with parliamentary systems

Post by AniThyng » 2014-12-23 10:35pm

Thanas wrote:How is that different from the presidential system when the ruling party has a majority?
I hear a lot about RINOs and DINOs but it's rare to hear an Australian or UK legislator referred to as a <party>-in-name-only, so assuming a non-coalition scenario, ruling party parliaments are much more likely to vote en-bloc? But then again lately it seems the US is doing everything on party lines so perhaps that is no longer the case. And again except for a minority government scenario, by definition the executive party is always the ruling party in a parliament so the US style scenario doesn't arise at all.
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Re: The trouble I have with parliamentary systems

Post by AniThyng » 2014-12-23 10:41pm

Adamskywalker007 wrote: I would say that the largest problem currently facing American politics is the fact that every politician devotes their time to winning elections rather than governing. The lack of compromise is merely a symptom of this.
Would the solution be longer terms then? All democracies are about politicians devoting their time to winning elections.

Heck...even in non-democracies, arguably the leaders are busy securing their position and avoiding being backstabbed over governing...
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Re: The trouble I have with parliamentary systems

Post by bilateralrope » 2014-12-23 11:16pm

AniThyng wrote:
Thanas wrote:How is that different from the presidential system when the ruling party has a majority?
I hear a lot about RINOs and DINOs but it's rare to hear an Australian or UK legislator referred to as a <party>-in-name-only, so assuming a non-coalition scenario, ruling party parliaments are much more likely to vote en-bloc? But then again lately it seems the US is doing everything on party lines so perhaps that is no longer the case. And again except for a minority government scenario, by definition the executive party is always the ruling party in a parliament so the US style scenario doesn't arise at all.
Under the US system only two parties can be viable. Anyone outside those two is a non-entity, leading to people within the Republicans and Democrats who disagree, but stay in the party because that's the best way to get their agenda across. Leaving the party will mean losing what clout they have at best, at worst it splits the vote.

Under a proportional system running a third party is a viable option. So when there is a disagreement within a party, one group splitting off, forming a separate party and expecting the new party to get seats is a viable option. Since splitting the party is easier, parties split.

But since a minority government is the usual outcome of elections, every bill requires cooperation between at least two parties. Those two parties that split will work together in areas where they have common ground.

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Re: The trouble I have with parliamentary systems

Post by The Romulan Republic » 2014-12-24 12:30am

Is there any reason why you can't have a proportional system to elect the legislature and still have a separately elected leader?

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Re: The trouble I have with parliamentary systems

Post by Fingolfin_Noldor » 2014-12-24 12:43am

The Romulan Republic wrote:Is there any reason why you can't have a proportional system to elect the legislature and still have a separately elected leader?
Well... there are governments where the president is a mere figurehead and is directly elected...
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Re: The trouble I have with parliamentary systems

Post by bilateralrope » 2014-12-24 12:59am

The Romulan Republic wrote:Is there any reason why you can't have a proportional system to elect the legislature and still have a separately elected leader?
How much power would you give to this leader ?

Too much power and some troubling situations arise:
- Leader is of the same party as a minority government. A bill comes up that is supported by all other parties, including the other members of the coalition. But this leader uses his power to delay and/or veto it, despite the proportion of voters that voted for the parties in favor of the bill being higher than those opposed.
- Leader is of a different party to the governing party. So he goes against them. Look to the US for examples of how that could go.

Too little power and the leaders election becomes a lot of spectacle that doesn't accomplish much. Maybe a distraction from the rest of politics.

A system that avoids those problems seems possible.

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