CLS Euro pres

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Published on January 2, 2008

Author: Carlton


Parliaments in Conflict and Post-Conflict Situations:  Parliaments in Conflict and Post-Conflict Situations Lessons Learned from Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States Prepared by Dr. Daniel Smilov, CLS Studying the Role of Parliaments :  Studying the Role of Parliaments Approach 1: Institutionalisation and strengthening of parliament is always beneficial in a representative democracy Increasing the role of parliaments in conflict prevention, management and resolution necessitates enhancing the general capacity of the legislature in terms of legislative powers, oversight of the executive, material resources, etc Studying the Role of Parliaments:  Studying the Role of Parliaments Approach 2: General strengthening of parliaments may not prevent their marginalisation in a conflict situation, or even worse – their involvement as an exacerbating factor in the conflict Attention should be focused on the factors, which prevent parliaments from playing a constructive role in a conflict and post-conflict situation Roles of Parliaments Conflict provocation v. Conflict prevention:  Roles of Parliaments Conflict provocation v. Conflict prevention Expression of national/popular sovereignty and forum for identity politics Instruments for majoritarian oppression of the minority Subservient bodies to a powerful executive Constitutionally constrained powerful players in a system of separated powers: rationalised parliamentarism Guarantors of political pluralism: fora for the opposition Instruments of political learning The experience of the six countries :  The experience of the six countries Parliaments have more often played a marginal or even a conflict-exacerbating roles The main reason for the failure: in all six cases, parliaments have been mainly seen and used by the public as instruments of nation-state building after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the breakdown of Yugoslavia. Conflicts have been mostly about the issue of national self-determination (with the exception of Ukraine) It is useful to compare the failures with the success stories of Central Eastern Europe and the Baltic States The Trap of National Sovereignty:  The Trap of National Sovereignty Adoption of a constitution legally entrenching a contested national project: Georgia, Serbia, Moldova, and to a lesser degree Macedonia Adoption of legislation insensitive to national, ethnic and religious minorities: Georgia, Serbia, Macedonia, Moldova Denial of regional autonomy: all except for Moldova Exclusion of representatives of the minorities through prohibitions or electoral laws; boycott of parliament by the minority Rejection (by the parliamentary majority) to cooperate with international organisations Avoidance of significant external conditionality (either by NATO or EU) Creation of nationalistic media and civil society: political control over the public electronic media (especially evident in Milosevic’s regime) The Trap of Majoritarianism:  The Trap of Majoritarianism Marginalisation and fragmentation of the political opposition through control over the mass media, administrative harassment, starving from funding, administrative bias in favour of governmental parties and their supporters, and even through openly criminal methods as political killings, bribery, etc Lack of independent judiciary – governmental control over the personnel and budgetary policies of the judiciary Election manipulations and manipulation of electoral laws in favour of governmental parties The Trap of the State of Exception and the State of Emergency:  The Trap of the State of Exception and the State of Emergency In exceptional circumstances the role of parliaments is reduced and the executive comes to the fore (Carl Schmitt) The Schmittean rationale of super-presidentialism (Ukraine, Serbia, Georgia); the greater vulnerability of presidentialism “Clan-ism” – from political representation to corporate representation The lack of internal democracy in political parties Elements of Success:  Elements of Success Self-restraint in the pursuit of national sovereignty: Moldova’s Gagauz autonomy, Macedonia’s Ohrid Agreement Self-restraint of the political majority and the establishment of a viable opposition: Macedonia, Ukraine, Moldova Rationalised parliamentarism? Not quite there yet Parliamentarism as a learning process? Macedonia, Moldova, Georgia, Ukraine Overall assessment of the role of parliaments:  Overall assessment of the role of parliaments Conflict prevention: parliaments are the bodies which often take measures provoking conflicts. In this sense, their role in avoiding conflicts by avoiding certain (discussed) traps can be significant Conflict resolution: limited resources to deal with conflicts which have turned violent, especially secessionist conflicts where the interests of other countries are involved as well Negotiations and settlements: not good in negotiating settlements, but indispensable for the endorsement and ultimate legitimation of the settlements (Ohrid agreement) Post-conflict recovery – key role for the parliaments. They need to avoid the traps of nationalism, majoritarianism, and subservience to the executive, by becoming examples of rationalised legislatures Main recommendations:  Main recommendations Notions of parliamentary sovereignty as expression of national sovereignty are dangerous. Parliaments should be treated as constitutionally constrained bodies, working within a frame of domestically and internationally recognised rights The existence of viable opposition is a key to the establishment of parliament as a guarantor of political pluralism: the opposition should have sufficient funding, international contacts, media exposure, etc Main recommendations:  Main recommendations Super-presidentialism is dangerous. It leads to the marginalisation of the political opposition and ultimately reduces pluralism and denies representation, which is a step towards a violent conflict. Separation of powers should be well-entrenched International actors should attempt to enter, where possible, into processes of imposing conditionality in return for membership in prestigious clubs or other benefits Main recommendations:  Main recommendations There is no parliamentarism without political parties. Much more attention should be paid to the internal organisation of political parties, their funding, level of internal democracy, public trust, etc. The parliamentary process extends beyond the walls of the legislature. It covers areas such as coalition negotiations and building, political education of members and supporters, etc. These areas need to become the focus of sustained efforts to improve the current practices Main recommendations:  Main recommendations Political education thus far has been entrusted either with the government or with the non governmental sector. It is worth exploring the German experience, where political parties (through their foundations) have been and still are involved in political education. This approach will strengthen the influence of parliament vis-à-vis the executive in the area of political education

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