Turkey holds its parliamentary elections on Sunday 7 June. In Turkey’s last parliamentary elections, in 2011, 43 million of the country’s 50 million eligible voters came to the polling station. On Sunday, a similar number are predicted to turn out to elect 550 people to form the 25th parliament of Turkey. The parliament is known as the grand national assembly. Turkey is an emerging democracy and has an interesting electoral system, which will be tested during this election. The president is hoping his party will gain a “super-majority” in the parliament, allowing it to make changes to the constitution without holding a referendum, and thus enabling it to introduce stronger presidential powers and change the shape of Turkish politics.
Rising frustration with Washington and conservative electoral victories across much of the United States are feeding a movement in favor of something America hasn’t done in 227 years: Hold a convention to rewrite the Constitution. Although it’s unlikely to be successful, the effort is more serious than ever before: Already more than two dozen states have called for a convention. There are two ways to change or amend the founding document. The usual method is for an adjustment to win approval from two-thirds of both houses of Congress and then be ratified by three-quarters of the 50 states. There have been 27 amendments adopted this way. The second procedure is separate from Congress. It requires two-thirds of the states, or 34, to call for a convention. The framers thought this might be necessary because Congress wouldn’t be likely to advance any amendments that curtailed its powers. But this recourse has never been used. Two states, California and Vermont, have called for a convention to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that permits huge amounts of unregulated money into federal campaigns. Larry Sabato, a University of Virginia political scientist, wants a convention to adopt sweeping changes, including a single six-year presidential term, and concomitant House and Senate terms to create more of a parliamentary system. Petitions to adopt term limits for members of Congress have circulated for years. But much of the current impetus comes from fervent fiscal conservatives. This includes calls for an amendment requiring a balanced budget and other restraints on the federal government’s spending and taxation powers.
Voting Blogs: Taking on American Political Dysfunction without Changing the Constitution | FairVote.org
In his draft paper on Political Dysfunction and Constitutional Change, University of California-Irvine professor Rick Hasen makes a powerful case for the need for out-of-the-box thinking on American political reform. But he also makes a curious omission. Fair voting alternatives to winner-take-all elections do not receive a single mention in the paper, even though they were promoted in one of Hasen’s major sources, Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein’s 2012 book It’s Even Worse Than It Looks. Hasen has a well-deserved reputation as one of our most thoughtful law professors, and his paper has generated considerable reaction in the political blogosphere. It posits three basic claims: 1) The government of the United States is currently dysfunctional, 2) that dysfunction could be solved by switching to a parliamentary system of governance – that is, government where the executive is chosen by the legislature, and 3) switching to a parliamentary system is the only way to end the dysfunction if the problem does not eventually solve itself.
Rick Hasen has a really interesting paper up discussing partisan polarization and the possibility of changing the Constitution to deal with it. (And you should really read Jonathan Bernstein’s response, too.) Hasen starts off by asking whether we should be considering moving toward a more parliamentary style of government. It’s a fair question. We have what looks like a serious mismatch between our parties and our governing institutions. We live in an era of sharply distinct, internally disciplined, programmatic parties with very different visions of how the nation should be run. That’s fine—we have some time-honored institutions, such as elections and majority-rule legislatures, for settling disagreements, even when the disagreements are sharp. But that’s not all we have. Under our constitutional system, we have many rules designed to thwart majority rule and slow down lawmaking. A bicameral legislature and separation of powers, for example, are built into the system, with the explicit purpose of making it harder to pass laws—and over the years we’ve added things like the filibuster and debt ceiling votes that slow things down further. At times when parties are weak, as they were in the mid-20th century, it’s possible for legislators to come together across party lines and work out agreements despite these impediments. But when parties are strong, the minority party has a lot of tools to keep the majority from accomplishing much of anything.