Two weeks ago, I participated in a conference regarding transparency and accountability in public administration. In my position of CSO representative serving a 3-year mandate on the National Integrity Council, I made a short presentation explaining the role of the National Integrity Agency in fostering accountability while taking advantage of the current standards on transparency. And most of the presentations revolved around the concept of public trust, with many critical voices targeting, unconsciously and unwillingly, the poor performance of parliaments, especially during transition.
I’m afraid that parliaments all over are in bad need of some reforms! [Well, I do have a poor, nasty and brutish experience with the Romanian Parliament, but reading the news and listening to presentations simply reinforced my contention.] I was taught that Parliament is the corner-stone of representative democracy, and that a Parliament’s level of performance cannot surpass that of the nation it represents and regulates. What if that nation needs to be pushed and pulled beyond such a threshold of (poor) performance?!? Can we imagine a new role for Parliaments?!? Or even do away with such a structure?!? Would that nation still enjoy a democratic form of government, then?!? I believe we can, and we probably should! In the next 20-50 years, for sure!!!
Participatory and/or deliberative democracies supposedly need little of the representation provided with a Parliament. But such democracies may not function properly without high performance levels from political parties, civil society groups and/or business associations. And that’s precisely the push or pull that a transition country would actually need… In theory, ex ante consultations with stakeholders, on any given policy topic or draft piece of legislation, should compensate for the parliamentary debates, especially as stakeholders would send in their best experts, in contrast with political representatives that only have limited resources. [And, let’s face it, most parliaments yield to majorities supportive of (if not manipulated by) their respective prime-ministers 🙁 ] Therefore, let’s assume (half of) the problem solved, provided that stakeholders would see the incentive for increasing their participation, and would reach sound, expert consensus quicker and stronger than politicians.
So, we replace the current faulty representation via political parties with direct participation in decision-making, and we delegate the legislative powers, in full, to the Executive branch of Government… Good enough?!? What shall we do, then, about checking and balancing abuses from the Executive?!? Again, in theory, citizens, stakeholders and the Judiciary, as well as an Ombudsman and a Constitutional Court, would see the niche, and censor ministers ex post, according to some new Constitutional arrangement, in full accordance with international guarantees for human rights. [I may be dreaming, but discretionary power would wither away, leaving room for public trust and integrity.] It would, probably, work just fine, since such course of action would simply take care of all three functions of a Parliament–representation, legislation, verification. Oh, who appoints and/or recalls the head of the Executive, you ask?!? The head of State, whether it be an anointed Monarch or an elected President…
Am I mad, have I lost my senses, am I advocating for dictatorship?!? No, I’m just looking for an answer to a very current dilemma–the current constitutional arrangement places too high responsibilities in the hands of political representatives that never meet the voters’ expectations, and hide too easily behind collective (non)decisions. Unless parliamentarians become accountable for each and every one of their (in)actions, unless we have and use the right to revoke/recall a member of parliament for their poor performance in decision-making, I think we can easily design an alternative, and should call for its implementation. Otherwise, what good is it to sit and wait, doing nothing to solve the problem?!?
One last note, indeed, is in order: My proposal doesn’t push or pull the level of performance–rather, it’s an exhortory measure that would stimulate the natural growth thereof… Or will it?!?