The Case For A Strong Selfless Parliamentary System.
After Brexit, Trump, the rise of populism, fake news and alternative facts… this could restore the people’s trust in politics and send the populist and nationalist preachers of our time back to the one place they belong: the History books.
In a time when nothing is more certain than rapid changes in the world (Brexit vote, Trump’s election, rise of populism, rise of fake news and alternative facts), a time when people don’t trust their governments (French President Hollande didn’t dare running for re-election knowing he would be humiliated in his own party’s primaries), when people doubt politics can do anything to make their daily life better and their country a better place (although a majority of MPs voted remain in the EU referendum in June 2016, they nearly all voted the Brexit Bill to allow the Prime minister to trigger Article 50 and start the negotiations for Britain to leave the EU), the only viable system of governance is a strong selfless parliamentary system.
A STRONGLY INTERCONNECTED EXECUTIVE AND LEGISLATIVE.
What is needed is a system of democratic governance in which the executive and legislative branches are strongly interconnected and work in the national interest, and certainly don’t follow or receive orders from right-wing tabloids and newspapers and their multi-billionaire media-mogul owners, nor allow swinging opinion polls to command their decisions, lead their debates or preside over the way they should vote in Parliament.
The executive branch must derive its democratic legitimacy from the legislature. Because the Members of Parliament are elected to represent the people, therefore only THEY hold the legitimacy to choose how the country should be led and what is in the best interest for the country. Because they are elected to represent their constituents, MPs should always keep in mind what is best for them in the first place, but they should also be allowed to use their common sense and feel free to disagree with their constituents and to disagree with what the press and opinion polls claim is the “will of the people”. If they think it is in the interest of the nation for them to vote unpopular bills or vote down popular bills, so be it.
A PRIME MINISTER ‘LIGHT’.
The executive may take the form of a Prime minister who is elected by the legislature, not simply nominated as the leader of the majority as it usually is the case. The Prime minister will neither be the head of state nor the leader of the country, rather the country’s home policies executor and the country’s representation abroad. The PM cannot hold any special powers: no power to dissolve the parliament, no veto, no ‘Royal prerogative’, no ‘Article 49.3’ to allow the government to force passage of a bill.
The role of the Prime minister must be stripped to the bare minimum to allow them to simply do the job for which they and their cabinet have been elected. Whilst the mandate of the legislature must not exceed 4 years, the Prime minister’s mandate must not exceed 2 years and cannot be renewed more than once, in order to favour the democratic rule of alternation in power.
Although the government ministers can be chosen by the Prime minister, parliamentary commissions must investigate their background individually and ensure they are fit for the job. The Prime minister and the government ministers must be held accountable to the legislature and can, therefore, be taken down with a simple required majority of the votes in Parliament.
Why should a man in a golden office have all the power of a country in his hands, when the directly elected members of the Parliament are the real people’s representatives?
POWER TO THE PEOPLE, THROUGH THEIR ELECTED PARLIAMENT.
Although the Prime minister and the government ministers can be taken down by a vote of no-confidence in Parliament, the Parliament itself cannot be dissolved by the Prime minister.
Choices about the Economy, Education, Health, Employment, Transport, Environment, etc. must go through commissions before being presented by government ministers to the Parliament, where votes must take place to finalise policies, with or without amendments. Choices and orientations are discussed in commissions and presented to the complete chamber by the Members of Parliament themselves.
The need for national referendum totally disappears with this system as all decisions are taken for the people and in the interest of the country.
War time decisions must not be taken by the Prime minister. The Prime minister and his cabinet may make the case for or against war, but the ultimate decision must be taken by the Members of Parliament through a free vote that will be in the interest of the country.
As a principle, the rule of the country should never be put in the sole hands of one individual.
HOW CAN / DOES IT WORK?
Such parliamentary system may work in a country with a constitutional monarchy, with a monarch as the ceremonial head of state and the Prime minister a member of the legislature (such as the United Kingdom, Sweden or Japan). It may also work with a republic, with a president as the ceremonial head of state (such as Germany, South Africa or Botswana).
The European Union is certainly the closest entity so far to the parliamentary system described above, in the way it functions, regardless its imperfections and sometimes technocratic feel.
RESTORING THE PEOPLE’S TRUST IN POLITICS.
What is needed to make it work in a country like Britain for instance? A selfless Prime minister who can work together with selfless ministers and Members of Parliament with a common interest in mind: the almighty national interest.
This system of governance is no utopia. It only needs a little bit of thinking, a little bit of work and a big deal of willingness from both the people and the politicians to change the way a country works.
The creation of a selfless parliamentary system is a real revolution in itself. It is a new way of doing politics, but it is also and mainly a way to restore the people’s trust in politics, and send the populist and nationalist preachers of our time back to the one place they belong: the History books.
It may come true… one day… if we all want it hard enough!