The People’s Republic: Constitutional basis

CONTINUED FROM LAST WEEK

It may be contended that this process of second thought does not yield the same satisfaction to the voter as his first preference. Very well. But the gross irresponsibility in party politics which the proportional-representation system inherently encourages must be considered against the conscious and deliberate efforts which the absolute-majority system makes to ensure that all shades of political opinion in the state are represented in a Parliament in which a single political party has absolute majority, and is thereby equipped to run a stable administration capable of lasting its full term of office.

In fairness, it must be stated that the proportional-representation system and the relative-majority system can work, and have in fact worked in some parts of the world to ensure political stability. Italy is an example of the former and Britain of the latter. But the proportional-representation system in France led-to political instability of the worst kind until de Gaulle came to the rescue. It is our well-considered submission, therefore, that it is the national character and ethos of the people concerned, rather than any intrinsic virtues in the proportional-representation and relative- majority systems, which have made the systems succeed in countries such as Italy and Britain. Executive: In some countries, the members of the Legislature alone are elected by and responsible to the people, while those of the executive are chosen from among, and are responsible to, the Legislature. This is the British method, under which the leader of the party with a majority of the members in the parliament becomes the head of the government, and chooses some of his fellow-partymen in Parliament to join him in forming the Executive. The chief merit of this system is that each member of the executive is made answerable both to the Parliament which consists of the accredited representatives of the electorate, and the constituency which elected him. Its chief demerit is that it tends to encourage partisanship and narrowness of outlook. Every member of the executive should view ‘every problem or issue that comes before it in its wider countrywide ramifications and interests. But since he owes his seat only to one constituency, such a member will, for as long as he intends to keep . his seat in Parliament, be tempted to favour his constituency more than any others. The British system suffers from two other demerits .

Firstly, because of the relative-majority system which we have already considered, more often than not, the members of the executive represent only a minority of the electorate whom they set out to govern. Secondly, since the members of the executive are usually among the most influential in the party in power, and because of the expectation of patronage on the part of the other members in the Legislature, the said members of the Executive are able to combine in themselves the three functions of formulating proposals for a law, making, the law itself, and executing it. The checks and balances which are brought into play by vesting the legislative and the executive functions in separate hands tend to be absent under this system. But somehow, even the British Lord Chancellor manages to live in a separate water-tight compartment whenever he performs each of the three functions of the legislature, executive, and judicature vested in him. It must be conceded, however, that only a Briton can do this with honourable and outstanding success.

On the other hand, in some other countries, the members of the Legislature on the one hand, and the head of the government on the other, are separately elected by and are responsible to the people.

This is the American system, and also the French system under de Gaulle. Its chief merit is that it faithfully observes the doctrine of separation of powers, and does not permit anyone or any group of persons to be in a position both to make the law and execute it. The only demerit of the American system is that, under the relative-majority method, it runs the risk – and it is only a risk – that the members of the ruling party in the legislature with a majority of seats there might have been elected by a minority of the electorate. The French system does not quite run the same risk; though it is on record that in the last French general election the party of de Gaulle had a slender – only a slender – absolute majority of seats in the French Parliament, via the votes of a minority of the electorate.

Under the relative-majority system, de Gaulle’s party would most probably have won a much larger number of seats for fewer votes.

Under the American and the French system, the Head of the Government is known as the President, and he is directly responsible to the electorate. In the United States, he is enjoined by the constitution to select the members of his executive only from outside the legislature. But in France, he is free to choose them from among or from outside the members of the Legislature.

From the examination which we have made, it is obvious that perfection is still to be achieved in the practice of democracy. But in all countries where democracy, as we have described it, is faithfully practised, there is a continual and conscientious striving towards perfection.

No matter whether the method is relative-majority, proportional-representation, or absolute-majority, the objectives are the same; namely, to ensure:

(1) that those elected are truly representative of and are strictly accountable to the people;

(2) that as far as possible, there is no facility for complicity among those in charge of the organs of Government to subvert the interests of the people, or to further their own selfish ends;…

CONTINUES NEXT WEEK

 

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