October 17

A naked power grab

 

 

We have seen in the Ukraine a failure to resolve a constitutional crisis which has led, unbelievably, to three elections in three years. The problem is in the constitution- the fact that the president and the prime minister are powerful politicians with different agendas. Both claim a mandate from the people. In Turkey, the president is chosen by a two thirds majority of Parliament. The last presidential election was preceded by a long crisis with the Army threatening to intervene if an Islamist president were chosen. The army believe they must maintain the secular heritage bequeathed by Kemal Atatürk (pictured). Now a referendum is to be put to the people to approve a constitutional change that future presidents be elected by the people. They think this will avoid similar cries in the future.

These two examples straddle the two models proposed by the diminishing band of republicans who are demanding we change our constitution to produce a similar problem.  The 1999 model would have left the choice of the president  to a deal between the politicians. This reminds me of an observation by Edward Heathcoat Amory in The Spectator on 14 February, 2004 , “ one of the few certainties about out British public life is that if all three political parties agree on anything, they are virtually certain to be wrong.” The 1999 model made the president instantly dismissible by the prime minister. As ACM said, this would be “the only republic in the world where it would be easier for the prime minister to sack the president than his cook.” The 1999 proposal would have vastly increased the powers of the prime minister, the government and the ruling political party.

Ted Mack was a mayor of North Sydney and an independent member of both the NSW and Federal Parliaments. He resigned from both parliaments just before he was eligible for that pot of gold, a parliamentary pension. Why? He thought them improper. He is also a republican, but only one in which there are strong checks and balances and one where the peoples’ powers are considerably increased. I was with him in 1999 for a debate organized by The Australian at Corowa. I asked him about the 1999 model. “We can’t get through to the republicans and the media. Don’t they understand that this awful model will vastly increase the prime minister’s and politicians’ powers?”
He replied: “ Of course they do. That is precisely what they want.” 
 

Changing to a republic must be exposed for what it is –a naked grab for power by the political class. 


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