Category Archives: Asia

Indonesia – Democratic Retrograde Ahead of Elections, 2019?

With local elections ahead in July, 2018, and general and the presidential elections slated for April 17, 2019, in Indonesia, a useful question to consider is: how are political conditions in the world’s third largest democracy? Among the reasons for raising the question is President “Jokowi” Widodo’s recent allusions to Indonesia’s assumption of the political leadership mantle for the ASEAN and Southeast Asia countries, if not the larger international community. If the country is to exemplify political progress and development, how well are political conditions operating in the country, particularly ahead of the essential democratic process of open and fair elections? The short answer is: not great. Political progress in Indonesia has suffered a number of set-backs in recent years, most notably with the passing of President Jokowi’s Perppu on mass organizations, the passing of the amendment to the Law on Representative Assemblies, popularly referred to as the MD3 Law, the proposed revisions to the criminal code, and the approval of the 20 percent threshold for the Presidential Election Law, all of which compromise political openness. Add to this list President Jokowi’s endorsement of tough measures against drug trafficking and use – including shooting drug dealers – that puts the country in step with President Duterte’s war on drugs in the Philippines, and any hand-wringing over Indonesia’s political conditions may be understandable.

President Jokowi’s Perppu 2/2017 on mass organizations was issued on July 12, 2017, to ban groups that did not support Indonesia’s ideology of Pancasila. The Perppu, presidential decree, or regulation in lieu of law in Indonesia, was approved by the House with 314 of 445 votes on October 24, 2017, and seven of the nine parties in the House. While the law has been used to disband extremist hard-line Islamist groups, such as the Hizbut Tahrir, critics point out that it may be used to deny due process to organizations.

Also troubling is the amendment to the Law on Representative Assemblies, popularly referred to as the MD3, that was passed by the House on February 21, 2018. The MD3 allows the legislative body’s ethics council (MKD) to press charges against those critical of the House and its members, including “disrespect” of the House. Article 245 of the law also states that an investigation concerning a member of the House must receive permission from the president and be reviewed by MKD. Critics point out that these regulations will largely restrict the roles of agencies such as the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) and silence all criticisms. President Jokowi has announced that he will not sign the law; still, the law goes into effect automatically without his endorsement 30 days after the bill passes the House.

In addition, the House has made revisions of the criminal code one of the national legislative priorities in 2018. The criminal code is based on a penal code under Dutch colonisation in 1918, which was retained following Indonesia’s independence. While change is likely useful given that timing, a significant problem with the revisions lies with the retention of many of the old regulations, so that there is not much improvement. Further, the draft contains problematic provisions, including criminal codes that would take corruption investigation out of the KPK, criminalization of same-sex relations, extramarital sex and adultery, and codes that affect the civil liberties and rights of marginalized and vulnerable groups, and the poor. The draft also contains legislation that makes insulting the president a crime punishable by up to five years in jail. The draft is at the final stages in the House, and is expected to pass before the year ends to avoid running into the election year in 2019.

Minority parties and independents may not wield much impact to counter these political conditions: the House passed the 2017 Elections Law to maintain the presidential nomination threshold, where only parties or coalitions with at least 20 percent of the seats in the legislature or 25 percent of the popular vote based on the outcome of the 2014 legislative elections are able to nominate presidential candidates. The Law was challenged constitutionally, but the Constitutional Court rejected the challenge on January 11, 2018. With the threshold in place, small parties and independents are likely reduced to supporting roles to the larger, broad-based political parties.

These recent laws in Indonesia portend a democratic retrograde in the world’s third largest democracy. President Jokowi’s political rise was founded on his “man-of-the-people” persona that engaged voters across spectrums. Eyes are on how this man-of-the-people will structure the political road to the 2019 elections and beyond.

Indonesia – What lies ahead for Presidential Elections 2019?

On 23 February, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) officially nominated President Joko Widodo, popularly known as President Jokowi, as its presidential candidate for the 2019 elections. The 2019 elections will be the first where both legislative and presidential elections are held on the same day since direct elections for the presidency was instituted in 2004. The latest reform follows a Constitutional Court ruling in January 2014, from a challenge to the Presidential Election Law, Law No. 42/2008, that governed the nomination and election of presidential candidates. The Presidential Election Law had stipulated that elections for legislative and presidential elections be held at least three months apart, so that only parties or coalitions that received 25 percent of the national vote or 20 percent of the parliamentary seats are able to field presidential candidates. The Court ruled that this sequential timing was unconstitutional; however, it left the legislature to decide on whether the thresholds for nomination should remain. On July 20, 2017, some 534 of the 560 lawmakers – an estimated 95.4 percent – attended a plenary session to pass the bill to maintain the thresholds. The attendance is testimonial to the significance of the bill: plenary sessions usually see less than half of the representatives of the House present. By the new law, only parties or coalitions with at least 20 percent of the seats in the legislature or 25 percent of the popular vote based on the outcome of the 2014 legislative elections are able to nominate presidential candidates. What lies ahead for the coming 2019 Presidential elections?

The threshold will certainly limit the number of candidates running for elections. So far, only President Jokowi’s candidacy has been formally announced. The President’s candidacy is supported by the National Democratic Party as well as Golkar, if not the other parties of the ruling Awesome Indonesia coalition that include the Hanura Party, the PAN (National Mandate Party), and the PPP (United Development Party). This is a big change from the 2014 elections, when the PDI-P’s surprise failure to garner the support needed to meet the threshold gave it a late start in the political jockeying among parties. Prabowo Subianto of the Gerindra party, the other presidential candidate in the 2014 elections, looks set to run as a candidate again, supported by Gerindra and the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), and particularly following the recent win by Anies Baswedan – the candidate supported by the Gerindra party-supported– in the Jakarta gubernatorial elections. There is talk of Anies Baswedan running for elections himself, replicating President Jokowi’s strategy back in 2014, although he will clearly need the backing of a number of parties in order to cross that threshold.

An issue that will undoubtedly surface in the presidential elections is religious divisions. Religious-based parties have kept a firm hold on the electorate: indeed, in the 2014 elections, Islamic parties reported better-than-expected results that contradicted expectations of significant setbacks to religion-based parties. Even the PKS (Prosperous Justice Party), which had been caught in a sex-and-corruption scandal, lost only about 1 percent of popular support from the previous election.[1] Religion was also used successfully as a strategy to divide the popular vote in the Jakarta elections: Governor Anies had sought the support of Islamist groups, including militant groups such as the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), known for hard-line stances and attacks against minorities, during the campaign. The former and highly popular governor, Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, who was running as the incumbent, had his election-bid upended when he was charged, and subsequently convicted, of blasphemy against the Qu’ran. Meanwhile, religiously motivated attacks have been on the rise in Indonesia, prompting the legislature to pass the President’s Perppu to ban organizations that did not support Indonesia’s ideology of Pancasila. That law has been used to disband extremist hard-line Islamist groups, such as the Hizbut Tahrir; however, critics are concerned that the law gives the government the right to disband organizations without due process of law.

As the world’s third largest democracy, and a country with the largest Muslim population in the world, many will undoubtedly be intently watching the local elections in 2018, and general elections in 2019, to see how Indonesia fares amid stalling democratization and even reversals in East and Southeast Asia.

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[1] Yap, O. Fiona. 2014. “Indonesia – Preliminary Results of the April 2014 Legislative Elections.” https://presidential-power.com/?p=1054 April 11, 2014 <accessed 5 March 2018>

Dan Slater – Victory vs. Reciprocity: Presidential Power-sharing and Party Cartelization in Indonesia

This is a guest post by Dan Slater, University of Michigan. It is based on his article in Journal of East Asian Studies

Democracy and opposition are supposed to go hand in hand. Opposition did not emerge as automatically as expected after Indonesia democratized in 1998, however, because presidents shared power much more widely than expected. The result has been what I call party cartelization, Indonesian-style. As I argue in my new article in the Journal of East Asian Studies, this differs significantly from canonical cases of party cartelization in Europe. Yet it exhibits the same troubling outcome for democratic accountability: the stunted development of a clearly identifiable party opposition.

Since the advent of direct presidential elections in 2004, Indonesian democratic competition has unsurprisingly assumed somewhat more of a government-vs.-opposition cast. But this shift has arisen more from contingent failures of elite bargaining than from any decisive change in the power-sharing game. So long as Indonesia’s presidents consider it strategically advantageous to share power with any party that declares its support, opposition will remain difficult to identify and vulnerable to being extinguished entirely in the world’s largest emerging democracy.

I reached these conclusions by asking three interrelated theoretical questions. First, how does opposition emerge as a political process in newly democratic settings? Second, how do democratically elected presidents share power and build ruling coalitions? And third, how might new political rules reshape those power-sharing practices?

Presidential power-sharing is a strategic political game. It is shaped, accordingly, by political institutions. Of particular importance are the rules governing selection of the chief executive; in Indonesia’s case, always a president. If a president is elected by parliament, as in Indonesia from 1999-2004, he or she is an agent of parliament. He can be expected to share power, roughly proportionally, with the parties resident there that selected him. If the people elect the president, he is an agent of the people, and should face less imperative to share power with parties in parliament that not only played no role in putting him there, but in many cases directly opposed his candidacy.

Yet in both instances, the same implicit assumption underpins our expectations. We assume that a president will share power with whichever parties helped put him in power, and not with those who played no role or even tried to prevent his election. This is what I call Victory: a power-sharing game predicated upon the unwritten rule that presidents will share power only with parties that supported him during his election campaign. To the extent that Victory is the power-sharing game, identifiable party opposition arises automatically. Someone must lose, so someone must go into opposition.

But what if Victory is not the game presidents play? Either in the presence or absence of direct presidential elections, a president might offer to share power with any and all parties that promise to support the presidency, even if they earlier opposed the presidential candidate. Instead of Victory, I call this power-sharing game Reciprocity. If a president prefers or is pressured to play Reciprocity, the emergence of identifiable party opposition becomes contingent rather than automatic. So long as post-electoral Reciprocity bargains can be struck with all parties, all parties can join the executive. Identifiable party opposition may thus vanish, as it did in Indonesia from 1999-2004, even in a perfectly functional and democratic electoral system. Someone must lose the election, but no one has to lose power.

This allows us to recast Indonesia’s struggle to generate an identifiable opposition in straightforward theoretical language. Party cartelization, Indonesian-style rests upon the power-sharing game of Reciprocity. Direct presidential elections will only disrupt or dismantle the cartelized party system if presidents build coalitions comprised of parties that supported him as well as nonparty allies of his own choosing, through the game of Victory.

Yet there are two critical wrinkles to consider. The first is that presidents not only make strategic choices about whom to share power with, but about how much power each partner will receive. Power-sharing games involve distributional conflict among coalition partners, not just between government insiders and outsiders. This means that presidents can strategically provide bonuses to existing supporters through a super-proportional share of cabinet seats, while relegating previous opponents to a sub-proportional share.

Hence when examining cabinet data, we must be attentive not only to whether presidents are sharing power with parties that opposed them during the election (i.e. playing a Reciprocity game), but also to deviations from the principle that cabinet seats should be distributed proportionally to coalition partners. This should indicate whether presidents have always strategically offered bonuses to electoral backers and imposed punishments on electoral opponents, and whether they are doing so more often since direct presidential elections were introduced. The more willing Indonesian presidents are to sideline erstwhile opponents, the more they shift from a Reciprocity game toward a Victory game, and the better the prospects become for identifiable opposition to emerge and strengthen in Indonesia.

The second caveat is perhaps even more important. It is that presidential coalitions are not necessarily faithful reflections of a president’s strategic preferences. Although presidents can choose to play a Victory game by fiat, Reciprocity is a resolutely two-sided game. In other words, Victory games only require a directly elected president to exclude electoral opponents from power as a unilateral strategy. Reciprocity demands that they engage those former opponents in a more complicated, multilateral bargaining process.

Whether a president seeking to play Reciprocity can actually find willing coalition partners at a price the president is ready to pay depends not on executive decree, but on hard political bargaining. Hence even when we see a coalitional outcome that seems to reflect a Victory game, we must examine whether the absence of Reciprocity arose from a president’s strategic decision to play Victory, or from his contingent failure to “seal the deal” with active negotiating partners in an ongoing Reciprocity game.

The implications of this seemingly minor distinction are quite major. If direct presidential elections have emboldened Indonesia’s presidents since 2004 to start pursuing Victory rather than playing Reciprocity, then the strategic underpinning of party cartelization is seriously weakening. This would mean that recent moves toward more identifiable opposition, as detailed in my JEAS article, are unlikely to be reversed. But if directly elected presidents are still playing Reciprocity, and simply failing to strike bargains, then the game of power-sharing remains unchanged, even as the final outcome has shifted. This implies that a return to the full party cartelization of the 1999-2004 period remains a meaningful specter, even more than a decade after direct presidential elections were introduced and the party cartel was first disrupted.

As my article’s data and narrative show, presidential power-sharing in Indonesia has gradually drifted, but not definitively shifted, from a Reciprocity game toward a Victory game. In raw quantitative terms, the figure below unmistakably shows that parties have increasingly positioned themselves outside of government since 2004. Yet the numbers obscure much of what my qualitative assessment reveals. The lingering importance of Reciprocity can still be seen in vigorous efforts by both President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (2004-14) and President Joko Widodo (or Jokowi, 2014-present) to forge alliances across the full range of Indonesian parties.

In my earlier collaborative research, I call this promiscuous power-sharing: “an especially flexible coalition-building practice in which parties express or reveal a willingness to share executive power with any and all other significant parties after an election takes place, even across a country’s most important political cleavages” (Slater and Simmons, 2013). From this perspective, promiscuous bargaining has continued almost unabated since 2004, but it has not always been consummated in power-sharing bargains. In sum, promiscuous power-sharing primarily arose from 1999-2004 because parliamentary parties had the power to demand it; it has persisted since 2004, even while evolving and abating, because even directly elected presidents have had a strategic interest in maintaining it.

Continued attempts at promiscuous power-sharing strongly suggest that Reciprocity remains the dominant game. Party cartelization has abated in Indonesia, but not vanished. And it could still easily come back in its most extreme form. Even if it does not, the public willingness of all parties to consider power-sharing alliances with all other parties means that Indonesia’s voters can never be confident that a vote for one party means a vote against any other. Under conditions of promiscuous power-sharing, objectionable and unpopular parties and individuals can only be removed from office by elites, not by the voters. Indonesia shows that direct presidential elections make party cartelization harder, but far from impossible.

In conclusion, the most intriguing implication of Indonesia’s experience with democratic power-sharing may be this: Presidents may sometimes see broad coalitions as a source instead of a drain on their power and resources. Oversized coalitions are typically seen as being more expensive to maintain. But this may not be how presidents see things at all, at least under certain conditions. Oversized coalitions may be better conceived as ways for presidents to spread the same amount of resources across more claimants, thus ensuring that no single partner can become too strong as a rival. If nothing else, the persistence and evolution of party cartelization, Indonesian-style suggests that power-sharing should not be seen as occasions for presidents simply to give. Political scientists should look more carefully to see what presidents may sometimes be taking away.

Rui Graça Feijó – Timor-Leste: The president dissolves the Assembly

This is a guest post by Rui Graça Feijó of the Institute for Contemporary History, New University of Lisboa

Over the last year or so, Timor-Leste has been confronted with a significant number of political novelties, the positive effects of which are reflected in the last Freedom House index “Freedom in the World” where the country has finally moved into the club of “Free Countries”. If the move has long been expected, the reasons evoked –  the success of the 2017 round of elections – are far less so.

Major changes started roughly a year ago when the two largest forces in the country – the historical Fretilin and the charismatic leader Xanana’s CNRT – joined forces in the first round of the presidential elections to support the candidacy of the chairman of Fretilin. In the previous three elections, the two forces had opposed each other, and twice (2007, 2012) they had faced each other (if only by proxy in terms of “independent” candidates supported by CNRT) in the electoral run-off. In 2017, however, the fact that the two parties supported a “Government of National Inclusion” formed in early 2015 and expected to last well into the next legislature, created a different situation. Francisco Guterres Lu Olo easily won the presidency in the March election. He was the first President to be affiliated to a political party.

Legislative elections were held in late July, and the parties supporting the outgoing government (except for the small Frenti-Mudança) did well, winning close to 70% of the vote. Fretilin was the winner by a mere 1,000 votes. Two new parties – one formed by the outgoing president, Taur Matan Ruak (TMR), before leaving office (PLP), and KHUNTO, whose roots are in the new generation and has close links to important martial arts groups – both of which opposed the strategic options of the government, obtained 10.6 and 6.4. percent respectively. It would seem that the conditions were ripe for the continuation of the Government of National Inclusion.

However, one of the critical conditions for the creation of such a government – that the old guard, the Gerasaun Tuan of those who had lived the critical period of 1974-76, would gave way to the Gerasaun Foun of those who came of age under Indonesian occupation – was soon questioned when Fretilin’s secretary general and actual leader, Mari bin Amude Alkatiri, claimed the right to be appointed prime minister. Both CNRT and PLP declared they would rather sit in the opposition, and spoke vaguely of providing confidence and supply to Fretilin’s executive.

Fretilin announced it would seek a broad coalition, but faced great difficulties when it came to talking to Xanana and TMR. With two major players now feeling free to act against the government, President Lu Olo felt compelled to intervene and promoted a meeting in the presidential palace with himself, Xanana, TMR and Alkatiri. But he was not able to convince Xanana or TMR to accept Alkatiri’s terms, nor was Alkatiri willing to change his mind on the conditions under which he would form a coalition with CNRT and/or PLP.

Fretilin negotiated then with two smaller parties: PD (a member of the last three executives) and the newcomer KHUNTO. While negotiations were happening, the three of them joined forces to elect the Speaker of the House, a member of Fretilin. But further agreement could not be found with KHUNTO, and it abandoned negotiations. As a result of this brief period of collaboration with KHUNTO, Fretilin – which had polled just under 30% of the vote – managed to control the three leading figures of the state – PR, PM and Speaker of the House. This is in sharp contrast with the recent history of institutional equilibrium and power-sharing in which “independent” presidents had a major role.

Lu Olo invited Alkatiri to form a government. When he came back with his government proposal, it was based on an agreement with PD alone, which together were supported by 30 out of 65 seats in the House. Thus, it was a minority executive. At that time, the three other parties had not yet formed an alternative alliance, which offered some room for a positive expectation regarding the minority government. The president could nevertheless have asked Alkatiri to find a sounder basis for his government by including members of the opposition parties (PLP expelled two of its militants who accepted jobs in the government) as well as respected independent figures like former PR and PM José Ramos-Horta (JRH). However, the leader of Fretilin insisted on moving ahead with the minority government, admitting that either the opposition would not block the way in the House, or that some opposition MPs would defy their party’s stance and abstain. So, on 15 September, Lu Olo agreed to put all his political (and not merely institutional) weight behind a government that was sworn in that day.

The Constitution offers presidents room for the choice of the prime minister (as JRH did in 2007 and TMR in 2015), but it stipulates that the government must undergo a parliamentary investiture vote. The government must present its program before the House within 30 days of being sworn in (Art. 108.2), and during that period it is merely caretaker cabinet not being entitled to take major political decisions. There is no mandatory vote on the program, but both the opposition and the government may take action: the former proposing the rejection of the program, the latter proposing a vote of confidence (Art. 109). In Dili, in October 2017, the opposition – now formally comprising CNRT, PLP and KHUNTO which had formed a Aliança para uma Maioria Parlamentar /Aliance for a Parliamentary Majority – AMP) – moved to reject the government’s program and it won 35 to 30 votes. For the first time in Timorese history, the government lost a vote in the House. However, the Constitution offers new governments a second change of submitting a revised program before it implies its dismissal (Art. 112 d.).

So far, all was within the constitutional boundaries. Henceforth, the process would derail and move into wild institutional territory. Although the Constitution does not explicitly refer to any deadline for the second presentation of the government’s program, it is assumed that it cannot take longer than the original period of thirty days. Alkatiri, however, suggested he would need ”until the end of the year” (i.e., two-and-a-half months) to resubmit its program. More than that, he assumed the government was fully invested (which was a false premise) and capable of full powers. In this vein, he submitted a revision of the state budget – something that clearly goes beyond the powers of a caretaker government. In the end, the AMP parties used their majority to block such move. This governmental attitude was to be seen in other initiatives. For instance, in late January, the vice-minister for Education (Lurdes Bessa) decided to alter the legislation on a sensitive issue – the use of native languages in school – arguing that “this may be our last bill but until the last day of this government we are working hard”. This position is not supported because it has not been supported by a parliamentary investiture vote.

Once a month had elapsed since the rejection of the first program, and without any signs that a second version would be presented on time, AMP tabled a motion of no-confidence, which, if approved by an absolute majority of MPs, would bring the government down at once (Art. 112 f.). President Lu Olo could also consider that the government was in breach of its constitutional duties and dismissed it in order to “secure the regular functioning of institutions” which was patently the case.

The most unexpected event was still to take place: the Speaker of the House refused to set a date for the plenary session to discuss and vote on the no-confidence motion, which in the overwhelming majority of parliaments takes precedence over other matters. Before such a situation, the opposition tabled a motion to revoke the Speaker’s mandate, in accordance with the House’s regulation (approved a few years ago with the active support of the current Speaker). The Speaker referred the issue to the Courts, where he lost in the first instance, but then made an appeal (still pending).

In order to try and ease the growing tension which was being fuelled by radical rhetoric from both camps and by the clear deviation of National Parliament from its powers, the Speaker took two initiatives: in late December he wrote to the PM asking for the new government program to be submitted “within the next thirty days”; and he set a date – with the approval of the government – to discuss and vote the rejection motion for 31 January 2018, that is, two full months after it had been presented, suggesting that a rejection motion should be voted at the government’s discretion and not as a priority matter.

This sequence of events constitutes an attempt to reduce the role of Parliament in the equilibrium of powers inscribed in the constitution, and it reveals that institutions are not functioning according to the law. As such, it offered ample grounds for the President to intervene, force the dismissal of government, and consider other alternatives: he could have invited the outgoing PM to try to reach another, broader agreement; he could have appointed an independent formateur to try to build a majority coalition including Fretilin; or he could have offered AMP a chance to form a government. He chose otherwise not to interfere, as his power to dissolve the parliament was curtailed until January 22, 2018, that is, exactly six months after the last parliamentary election. And early elections rather than a solution within the incumbent parliament was Fretlin’s preferred choice for resolving the political crisis in Dili.

On January 23, Lu Olo called all the parliamentary parties as it is his duty before dissolving the House; next day he summoned the first meeting of the Council of State, an advisory organ whose opinion he is bound to seek, even if the Council has no binding powers (Art. 86 f.). And on 26th January he announced on TV that for the first time the parliament was dissolved and fresh elections would be called (though a date has not been set).

The Chairman of the National Electoral Commission has stated that he is preparing the “machinery” for early elections (implying, among others, an update of the voting register), and suggested that more than the constitutionally necessary sixty days would be preferable to guarantee a modicum of quality in the electoral process. So, for the first time Timor-Leste will experience early elections somewhere between late March and May 2018 – and a new, fully installed government is likely to see the light of day around a year after the last parliamentary elections. As the country has not passed a state budget for 2018, it must live with a copy of the 2017 one – and this may generate several problems, not least in the amount of money spent on the electoral process. It will take the goodwill of the opposition to vote in favour of various budgetary measures necessary to finance the electoral process.

It is unclear whether the current government parties will form a pre-electoral coalition or not, or whether AMP will run alone. However, a new entity has been formed: 9 smaller parties who failed to pass the 4% threshold, but who together polled about 10% created the Forum Democrático Nacional/ National Democratic Forum – FDN). If they run as a pre-electoral coalition they may contribute to the rise in the number of parliamentary parties (in theory, by running together they might get one seat each) – and they have been severe critics of Fretilin and the way the process has evolved. If they run as FDN, life is likely to be more difficult for Fretilin.

President Lu Olo chose not interfere when Mari Alkatiri failed to secure majority support in parliament (but then again, minority governments are legitimate). Later, when the process of the government investiture in parliament went completely off the track stipulated by the Constitution of Timor-Leste., he was deaf to cries that instability was threatening social peace, and that the economic rate of growth was slowing down significantly on account of instability and uncertainty of the political process. His silence and inaction was only broken when his party was about to suffer a number of humiliating defeats in the House (rejection of government, recall of the Speaker).

Lu Olo’s recent (in)actions were clearly in tune with the options of his own party  (favouring early elections) and in this way he broke with the traditional position of presidents in the Timorese system, who are not supposed to interfere in the party political arena. The future of his presidency hinges, thus, on the results of the legislative elections. Should Fretilin win, or at least be in a position to lead the future government, he will have a peaceful presidency, and his behaviour in the last months will be vindicated; should, however, the fate of Fretilin be different, he will have to face a period of true cohabitation with a group of parties and personalities whose rhetoric against the way he has behaved is quite aggressive – and he may feel the loneliness of the Presidential Palace.

Let’s just hope that elections will be free, fair, and peaceful.

New publications

Robert Elgie, Political Leadership: A Pragmatic Institutionalist Approach, Palgrave Macmillan, 2018.

Robert Elgie, ‘The election of Emmanuel Macron and the new French party system: a return to the éternel marais?’, Modern & Contemporary France, pp. 1-15, http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09639489.2017.1408062.

Tapio Raunio and Thomas Sedelius, ‘Shifting Power-Centres of Semi-Presidentialism: Exploring Executive Coordination in Lithuania’, Government and Opposition, pp. 1-24, 2017 doi:10.1017/gov.2017.31.

António Costa Pinto and Paulo José Canelas Rapaz (eds.), Presidentes e (Semi)Presidencialismo nas Democracias Contemporâneas, Lisbon, ICS, 2017.

Rui Graça Feijó, ‘Perilous semi-presidentialism? On the democratic performance of Timor-Leste government system’, Contemporary Politics, Online first, available at: http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/Ah3Y2e6RJFCwnbA4BRze/full

Special issue on Perilous Presidentialism in Southeast Asia; Guest Editors: Mark Thompson and Marco Bünte. Contemporary Politics, Papers available Online first at: http://www.tandfonline.com/action/showAxaArticles?journalCode=ccpo20.

Jung-Hsiang Tsai, ‘The Triangular Relationship between the President, Prime Minister, and Parliament in Semi-presidentialism: Analyzing Taiwan and Poland’, Soochow Journal of Political Science, Vol. 35, Iss. 2, (2017): 1-71.

Nicholas Allen, ‘Great Expectations: The Job at the Top and the People who do it’, The Political Quarterly. doi:10.1111/1467-923X.12447.

Farida Jalalzai, ‘Women Heads of State and Government’, in Amy C. Alexander, Catherine Bolzendahl and Farida Jalalzai (eds.), Measuring Women’s Political Empowerment Across the Globe, Palgrave Macmillan, 2018.

Aidan Smith, Gender, Heteronormativity, and the American Presidency’, London: Routledge, 2018.

Special issue on Protest and Legitimacy: Emerging Dilemmas in Putin’s Third Term, Demokratizatsiya: The Journal of Post-Soviet Democratization, Volume 25, Number 3, Summer 2017.

Marcelo Camerlo and Cecilia Martínez-Gallardo (eds.), Government Formation and Minister Turnover in Presidential Cabinets: Comparative Analysis in the Americas, Routledge, 2018.

Michael Gallagher, ‘The Oireachtas: President and Parliament’, Politics in the Republic of Ireland, 6th Edition, Routledge, 2018.

João Carvalho, ‘Mainstream Party Strategies Towards Extreme Right Parties: The French 2007 and 2012 Presidential Elections’, Government and Opposition, pp. 1-22, 2017, doi:10.1017/gov.2017.25

Sidney M. Milkis and John Warren York, ‘Barack Obama, Organizing for Action, and Executive-Centered Partisanship’, Studies in American Political Development, 31(1), 1-23. doi:10.1017/S0898588X17000037.

Pål Kolstø and Helge Blakkisrud, ‘Regime Development and Patron–Client Relations: The 2016 Transnistrian Presidential Elections and the “Russia Factor”’, Demokratizatsiya: The Journal of Post-Soviet Democratization, Volume 25, Number 4, Fall 2017, pp. 503-528.

Constitutional Reforms in East Asia, Part III: Progress and Possibility in South Korea

Talks of constitutional reforms are sweeping across the presidential and semi-presidential systems in East Asia: the Philippines, South Korea, and Taiwan. Constitutions capture the principles – some say, the most sacred principles – around which institutions, legislation, rules, and processes of a country are built.[1] Constitutional reforms, then, are generally significant and painstaking undertakings, often requiring supermajorities in the legislature or the electorate or both to ratify. And, this may be rightfully so: if they are to amend or revise principles that underpin the political, economic, and social structures of a country, the process should not be based on changeable and changing attitudes. Given the significance, the concomitant grip of constitutional reforms across several of the East Asian with a president as head or co-head of government is interesting, if not curious. What level of public support is there for these reforms? And, how likely are these reforms to pass?

In previous instalments, I discussed the level of public support in the Philippines and Taiwan for constitutional reform.[2] In this article, I examine the level of public support for reforms in South Korea. Article 130 of the Constitution of the Republic of Korea, enacted in the 1987 Constitution, which is sometimes referred to as the 1987 constitutional amendments, stipulates that constitutional revisions require two-thirds support of the total members of the National Assembly; once approved, the revisions must be submitted to the Korean electorate for approval in a referendum within 30 days. Constitutional revisions are passed if approved by a majority of more than 50 percent of eligible voters.

Calls for Constitutional revisions have ebbed and flowed in the country since the 1987 Constitution was adopted. This partly reflects the dissatisfaction among the leading political candidates and parties at the outcome of a single term, five-year non-reelectable presidential system with legislators elected every four years: although the Constitution was passed by an overwhelming 93.3 percent of the turnout, the constitutional committee constituted in 1986 to recommend changes ended in deadlock and the discussion was suspended before resuming again in July 1987 to create a document within an accelerated time frame. The frequent revival of the possibility of constitutional revisions also reflects dissatisfaction with the effect of the term-limited president and unmatched terms on executive-legislature relations and policymaking in the medium- and long-term.

Former President Park Geun-hye’s tenure illustrates these policy effects and executive-legislature tensions in practice. For instance, prior to the 2016 general elections, the executive-leader – in the tradition of presidentialized parties in South Korea – refused to cede the nomination process to the party in order to maintain her personal agenda rather than shift focus away to the party’s agenda.[3] It may be probably surprising to learn that she – together with the other presidential candidates – made a multiparty pledge during the 2012 campaign to reform the nomination process. She also stonewalled her party on the issue of constitutional reforms, which she had also pledged to change on the campaign trail, citing the need to tackle urgent or pressing tasks such as economic recovery for the country over longer-term considerations such as constitutional reforms. These tensions and conflicts between the executive and her party in the legislature that were often resolved in favour of the executive served to undermine party-development and institutionalization.

President Park’s impeachment has flung open the door for constitutional changes: immediately following the Constitutional Court’s ruling in support of her  impeachment, three parties in the legislature tried to bring constitutional reforms for the presidential election in May. The tight timeline doomed that discussion, but current President Moon Jae-in has maintained a commitment to actualize reforms: the President has set a timeline for constitutional reforms to be brought up for referendum by the next local elections in June 2018. The good news is that public surveys and polls of the legislature report high support for constitutional revisions: almost 69 percent of the public and 94 percent of the legislature are in favour of changes. Less clear is what reforms will be adopted. Nevertheless, given the commitment of the president, support from the legislature, and public support, there is reason to believe that constitutional changes will be adopted in Korea before the next presidential election.

____________________

[1] Strauss, David. 2010. The Living Constitution. New York: Oxford University Press

[2] Yap, O. Fiona. 2017. “Constitutional Reforms in East Asia, Part I: Progress and Possibility in the Philippines.”  “Constitutional Reforms in East Asia, Part 2: Progress and Possibility in Taiwan.

[3] Elgie, Robert. 2011. “Presidentialism, Parliamentarism, and Semi-Presidentialism: Bringing Parties Back In.” Government and Opposition vol 46 no 2: 392-408; D. J. Samuels and M. S. Shugart. 2010. Presidents, Parties, Prime Ministers: How the Separation of Powers Affects Party Organization and Behavior. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Rui Graça Feijó – Timor-Leste: is Díli on (Political) Fire Again?

This is a guest post by Rui Graça Feijó of CES/UCoimbra and IHC/UNLisboa

Almost nine months after the election of the fourth President of the Republic, the first to be won by a President affiliated to a political party (FRETILIN) and to benefit from a pre-first round major party coalition, and four and a half months after FRETILIN narrowly won the legislative elections (by a mere thousand votes over Xanana Gusmão’s CNRT, both winning just under 30% of the vote), Timor-Leste does not yet have a fully invested government and political tensions are running higher than at any point since the crisis of 2006.

The coalition between FRETILIN and CNRT to elect Lu Olo on the first round of the presidential election was unprecedented in a country that was more used to seeing first ballots contested by partisan and “independent” candidates alike and to seeing informal agreements being made for the run-off poll. However, the coalition was a natural consequence of political developments that marked the previous electoral cycle.

Having won a plurality in 2012, Xanana returned as PM supported by his allies who had won seats in parliament. Immediately he started working towards a new political solution that would encompass the historical party FRETILIN, around which a “cordon sanitaire” had been erected after the 2006 crisis. The state budgets for 2013 and 2014 were approved unanimously and FRETILIN’s leader was offered a significant position as head of a Special Region. Allegedly supported by President Taur Matan Ruak (aka TMR), the converging paths of the parliamentary parties were hailed by a senior minister as the “replacement of belligerent democracy by consensus democracy” (Agio Pereira). In early 2015 Xanana stepped aside for the formation of a “Government of National Inclusion”. This was headed by Rui Maria de Araújo, a former “independent” minister and member of the Council of State, who had since joined the ranks of FRETILIN, a party that was “offered” several other key ministers in the government “in their individual and technical capacities”, without formally signing an agreement (instead, it maintained the status of “opposition” party without giving this any substantial meaning).[i]

The policies of the “Government of National Inclusion”, however, came under severe criticism from President TMR, who declined to seek a second term in office, created his own political party (PLP – Partido da Libertação do Povo), and fought the legislative elections, obtaining about 12% of the vote and 8 seats in parliament. The four parties that had supported the government ran campaigns that failed to criticise ongoing strategic decisions and it was expected that the basic the government formula would be maintained after the polls. In the end, one of those parties failed to pass the 4% threshold and won no seats, while PLP and another young party – KHUNTO – secured their presence in parliament.

Immediately after the results were announced, FRETILIN leader Mari Alkatiri claimed the premiership for his party (and actually, for himself), thus substantially altering the conditions under which the previous government had been negotiated. Both TMR and Xanana said that they would serve in the opposition and that neither would take their seats in parliament. They also pledged, rather vaguely, to follow a “constructive opposition” and “not to obstruct” the functioning of government.

As he summoned the three leaders to a joint meeting, President Lu Olo must have felt rather insecure, given that the consultations that he was constitutionally obliged to make had been attended by second-line figures from the parties. He failed to convince TMR and Xanana to accept Alkatiri’s terms – or to convince Alkatiri to accept theirs. But a door was open for Alkatiri: to secure an agreement with a junior party in the previous government (PD, 7 seats) and the newcomer KHUNTO (5 seats).

President Lu Olo appointed Alkatiri as prime minister, that is, designated him as a formateur. Early conversations suggested Alkatiri would be successful – and in this context, the three parties joined forces to elect the Speaker of the House. But KHUNTO did not accept the deal it was being proposed and withdrew from the negotiations. Alkatiri could only present President Lu Olo with a minority government formed by FRETILIN and PD.

President Lu Olo took the bold initiative of accepting Alkatiri’s proposal, and formalized the appointment of the very first minority government in Timor-Leste’s history (16 September). Alkatiri tried to minimize the risks for his government by inviting respected “independent” figures (such as former PM and President, Ramos-Horta) and prominent members of the opposition parties (such as Xanana’s right hand man, Agio Pereira) to be “State Ministers”.

The Timorese Constitution facilitates the possibility of minority governments. It stipulates that within a month of being sworn in, the government must present its program to the House – which it did on 16 October. Then the House has three days for debate, at the end of which the government will be invested unless the opposition tables a rejection motion or it feels the political (not constitutional) need to present a confidence motion. If the confidence motion fails, the government falls immediately. If the rejection motion is passed (as it actually was on October 19 by 35 votes to 30), then the government must present a second program.

At this stage we enter a realm of indefiniteness. There is no explicit mention in the constitution, but it is assumed in other countries with similar mechanisms that a government only assumes full and not merely caretaker functions once it has been invested in the House. Also, the Timorese Constitution does not clearly provide a deadline for the second program to be presented – but it is implicit that it should not be longer than the first one.

By December 7, a month and a half have elapsed without the government submitting the second program to the House – and Alkatiri has repeated that he does not feel obliged to do so before the end of the year, or even in the new year. Instead, he has acted as if invested with full powers, submitting to the House a proposal to “rectify” the current budget – something that clearly goes beyond the powers of a caretaker government. All those attitudes have infuriated the opposition.

The opposition has moved closer together, and have signed a formal alliance in order to replace the current government. As Xanana has been involved in overseas activities (officially related to the negotiations with Australia, but actually going far beyond those) and has not set foot in Dili for three months, the agreement was signed in Singapore. Following the acceptance of the budget correction bill for debate by the Speaker, the opposition tabled a motion that the Speaker refuses to put to a plenary vote. The opposition has since been boycotting the parliamentary committee on budget and finances, meaning that it cannot function for lack of a quorum. The opposition parties also tabled another motion to reject the government, which – if approved – would bring it down at once. The Speaker has so far refused to put this item on the agenda. Eve before the Speaker took these decisions, the three parties filed for his destitution – and again the Speaker has not yet set a date to discuss and vote on this proposal.

Meanwhile, the political rhetoric has grown increasingly inflammatory. FRETILIN accuses the opposition of staging a coup (even though they are only using the constitutional and parliamentary powers at their disposal), and Alkatiri fumed that “if they dance in the House, we shall dance on the streets”. The current minister for defence and security (who controls both the army and the police) said that: “If disturbances break out on the streets of Dili, the MPs from the opposition benches must take care of the issue”. On the opposition side, the rhetoric has matched the government’s, with accusations of “unconstitutionality” (namely in the delays regarding the submission of the second draft of the government’s program) and unlawful usurpation of power (both against the government and the speaker).

Sooner or later, either the government’s program or the opposition’s motion of rejection will be brought before MPs. As the situation stands today, it is likely that Alkatiri’s executive will not survive, even with the support and complacency of President Lu Olo. If so, then the president has a few alternatives.

First, he will have to decide whether or not to dissolve parliament – a move which he can only make after January 22 due to constitutional restrictions that protect a parliament from being dissolved in the first six months following an election. FRETILIN and its junior party clearly prefer this solution, hoping they will increase their share of the vote. Elections would be held in late March, and a new government installed not before late April. No state budget would be approved in the meantime – a serious issue in a fragile country. However, a new and little credited development has emerged: a number of small parties that all fell below the 4% threshold have made an alliance which, on the evidence of the last elections, would give them 6 or more seats – mainly at the expense of the larger parties, making it even more difficult for a FRETILIN-led government to emerge. The opposition, for its part, would prefer President Lu Olo to respect the current parliament and find a solution. For many, the obvious one would be for him to nominate some figures from the ranks of those parties in order to form a majority government backed by CNRT, PLP and KHUNTO.

But President Lu Olo could choose otherwise – and he might have a chance of success. He has the option of asking Alkatiri to re-initiate negotiations with the opposition (a highly unlikely solution given that tensions are running very high at the moment and the prime minister has shown his weakness as a negotiator by claiming the premiership for himself even before conversations had started). Alternatively, he could appoint a formateur tasked with finding a mutually agreeable solution for the outgoing government and the opposition. Someone such as Rui Maria de Araujo, the prime minister for the last two and a half years, Ramos-Horta, who still commands some respect, or even TMR – a move that could perhaps be coupled with the replacement of the Speaker of the House so that all key positions were not in the hands of a single party – could try to reshape a “Government of National Inclusion”. What seems quite clear is that Timor-Leste is not ready for a minority government, even if it is backed by a partisan president.

Previously in the history of independent Timor-Leste, tensions have run high. That was the case in 2006 during the crisis that led to the resignation of the prime minister, in 2007 after the legislative elections, and again in 2008 after the attempted murder of President Ramos-Horta. The existence of non-partisan presidents has been one important element in fostering détente and promoting dialogue, not least because – as the present crisis amply reveals – most political parties are fragile extensions of people with strong personal ambitions. Figures with individual prestige – a feature that in Timor-Leste is still associated with the role performed during the Resistance to Indonesian occupation, as shown by an opinion poll taken before the presidential election – rather than partisan leaders (as party competition still evokes the civil war of 1975), have ample room for intervention in the political arena.

Timor-Leste decided that the time was ripe for a new kind of presidency. However President Lu Olo seems to have been overtaken by the mounting tension, unable to distance himself and the presidency from siding with one faction. He is a player in the most severe political crisis in the country since 2006 – not the moderator or referee who might be able to foster dialogue. His reading of the situation indicates that he supports FRETILIN’s stance, and he rejects the claims of any “irregular functioning of the political institutions”. However, he risks ending up as a “lame duck”. The miracle that could save him in the short term would be the establishment of a new “Government of National Inclusion”. It is up to him to decide.

Alkatiri once told me in an interview that “political exclusion generates conflicts”[ii]. One wonders whether he recalls what he said in the light of FRETILIN’s decision to occupy the three most senior positions of the Timorese state under his leadership, a state that is built on principles of power sharing.

Notes

[i] On the formation of this government, see my “The Long and Winding Road: a brief history of the idea of ‘Government of National Inclusion’ and its current implications”, ANU SSGM Discussion Paper 2016/3

[ii] Mari Alkatiri, “A exclusão política gera conflitos” in R.G.Feijó (ed) O Semi-presidencialismo Timorense. Coimbra, CES/Almedina, 2014

The Philippines – The president-led peace process and institutional veto players in the Mindanao conflict

This is guest post by Aya Watanabe, a PhD candidate in the Graduate School of Political Science, Waseda University. It is based on the paper in the Asian Journal of Comparative Politics.

The Philippines is the longest-lived presidential country in Asia. At the same time, it has experienced a protracted civil war with Muslim rebels since the 1970s. The conflict dynamics were related to the political struggles that unfolded within the Philippine government. Nevertheless, much of the existing literature on civil war termination tends to regard civil war as a two-party phenomenon, fought between a government and a rebel group. Although a growing literature exists on how multiple rebel actors affect the outcome or duration of civil wars, only a few studies have examined the impact of dynamics or interactions within government actors on civil war termination.

I examine how relationships between various government actors influence peace processes, using the Mindanao conflict as a case study and drawing on the ‘veto player’ framework presented by Tsebelis (2002) and Cunningham (2011). The Mindanao peace process provides an excellent case study as it involves active political struggles with changes both in government and among the three governmental branches —the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary. Both the Gloria Macagapal-Arroyo (2001-10) and Benigno Aquino III (2010-16) administrations were engaged in a peace process with the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) to achieve a political settlement of the Mindanao conflict. The Aquino administration reached a comprehensive peace agreement, but the peace negotiations fell through under Arroyo. What caused the differing outcomes under these two administrations? What effect did political struggles within the government have on the peace process? To answer these questions, I will provide an overview the political system and identify institutional and partisan veto players in the Philippine political setting.

The Philippine political system and veto players

The Philippines has a presidential system with the bicameral legislature composed of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The judiciary is active toward the government against the backdrop of the authoritarianism of the Marcos regime. Therefore, there are four institutional veto players in the Philippines: the president, the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the judiciary.

Partisan veto players have little influence over government decision-making since party discipline is so weak that many legislators shift their alliances to a strong candidate’s camp in every presidential election. (Kasuya 2008). Having identified the four institutional veto players, I will examine what defines the preferences of each veto player on the peace process.

The preference of the institutional veto players on the peace process

The president

Elected through a nationwide constituency, the president is responsible for pursuing the interests and welfare of the nation. This responsibility includes the resolution of civil war as well. If the president resolves a civil war that has hindered economic development and created national security threats, the accomplishment would be remarkable.

The House of Representatives

80% of house members are elected through single-member districts (SMD). Various scholars have pointed out that SMDs tend to cultivate personal votes (Cain et al., 1987;). To cultivate personal votes, candidates tend to rely on providing private or public local goods and services to constituencies. This tendency enables presidents to hold a grip on the House since the president controls the financial authority necessary for pork-barrel distributions. In fact, the Arroyo camp held more than two-thirds of the seats throughout her tenure, although her net satisfaction rates dropped to around -40% after 2005. Aquino also won stable support from the House, maintaining more than 80% of the seat shares during his tenure. Both presidents’ stable grip on the House indicates that the House is more likely to be supportive of the president’s policy agenda, and rarely functions as a veto player.

The Senate

The Senate is more independent than the House due to the plurality-at-large voting system and Senators’ career aspiration for the presidency or vice-presidency. Their personal attributes in gaining votes and their career aspiration provides senators with few incentives to cooperate with a president who does not have stable support from the people. Thus, senators are less likely to be responsive to the president than the House, and could be a veto player on the president’s policies including the peace process. Upon deciding their attitude towards the president’s policies, what matters is which presidents they are dealing with and whether they are popularly supported or not.

The judiciary

There exist two conditions for the judiciary to be counted as a veto player: judicial independence from political maneuvering, and the power to influence government and legislative activities (Cox and McCubbins, 2001: 32–33). The Philippine judiciary fulfills these two conditions through the expansion of its authority in the 1987 Constitution.

As for its response toward the peace process, the judiciary sees the public’s response as a central factor in ruling a decision even if it goes against government policy (Helmke 2010; Tate 1994).

Having defined the preferences of each veto player, I will provide an overview of how the peace negotiations proceeded under the Arroyo and Aquino administrations.

The peace process under Arroyo (2001-10)

The government and the MILF forged an agreement on security and development issues at a relatively early stage of the Arroyo administration, but it took time to reach an agreement on the political issue. The negotiation resumed in 2005, and the negotiating parties managed to reach the peace agreement on this issue in July 2008. At the negotiating table, the MILF demanded that local elections be postponed in the Muslim-dominated areas.

Arroyo responded quickly to this demand by making a statement calling for prompt action on the issue by Congress. Although the House passed the postponement bill, this met stiff opposition and did not go through the Senate.

The domestic situations became bitter as the content of peace negotiations became public. Opposition movements were initially led by local officials, but allies and opponents of the President expressed skeptical views on the issue in the Senate as opposition movements gained momentum. Against this backdrop, local officials and several senators filed petitions to halt the signing of the peace agreement.

The Supreme Court (SC) responded quickly by issuing the Terms of Reference a day before the signing was scheduled. After that, the SC began oral arguments to examine the constitutionality of the peace agreement. The SC reached its decision in October 2008, emphasizing the enormous consequences of the peace agreement on the public interest. This decision indicates that the SC sees public opinion as a critical factor affecting its decision.

The peace process under Arroyo fell through due to the difficulties President Arroyo faced in gaining support from the Senate and the judiciary.

The peace process under Aquino (2010-16)

Though Benigno Aquino III adopted a positive stance towards resolving the Mindanao conflict through peaceful means, the negotiations only started moving forward a year after Aquino assumed the presidency. Once the peace negotiations had resumed, the Aquino administration forged several critical political agreements with the MILF in three years. The negotiating parties reached the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro in March 2014.

The Senate responded favorably to the peace process. After the negotiating parties agreed on the Framework Agreement in October 2012, President Aquino issued Executive Order 120 to establish the Bangsamoro Transitional Agency. The Senate adopted a resolution two days later, enabling the negotiating parties to proceed with the negotiations in a timely manner. Also, the Aquino administration sought the postponement of local elections in Muslim dominated-areas as Arroyo did. The Senate President at that time expressed full support for the postponement, although he had strongly criticized the Arroyo administration on the same issue.

The Aquino administration was careful not to make the judiciary a veto player since there was no direct judicial response on the peace process as there was under Arroyo. This can be seen in the removal of Chief Justice Corona, who was appointed by Arroyo on the eve of her stepping down from the presidency. Aquino criticised Corona on several occasions for being biased towards Arroyo. Against this backdrop, the House took action to impeach the Chief Justice over alleged graft and removed Corona. Although the presidential office emphasized that the House acted independently, one of the Liberal Party’s leaders revealed that ‘he [the President] felt Corona was the last stumbling block to his core reform agenda and that he did not want to spend the next five years clashing with the Supreme Court’ (Philippine Daily Inquirer, 2011). This statement indicates that Aquino clearly viewed the Chief Justice as a veto player over his policy agenda, and that his removal got rid of one of the hurdles that he was likely to face in pursuit of his policy goals.

Second, new Chief Justice Sereno issued a call for a peaceful solution to the conflict after the Mamasapano clash which resulted in 44 deaths on the government side. Against the backdrop of mounting opposition to the peace process, the Chief Justice made a rare public statement, urging the public to stay calm and avoid leaning toward war in resolving the conflict. This indicates that the Chief Justice not only supported a peaceful resolution to the Mindanao conflict, but also that she did not see any legal problems with the peace process.

The Senate and the judiciary supported the peace negotiations under Aquino, enabling the negotiating parties to conclude several political peace agreements in a timely manner.

Conclusion

The Mindanao peace process has provided rich insights into how government dynamics can influence the peace process between government and a rebel group. On the one hand, President Arroyo faced a tough Senate which had little incentive to support the president’s peace policy due to her deteriorating popularity after 2005. Also, the judiciary saw the public’s perception of the issue as one of the important factors when it handled the case, the social situation not being conducive for the eight-year peace-making efforts to bear fruit.

On the other hand, the stable satisfaction rate and congressional situation of the Aquino government made the Senate supportive of the peace process, which was represented by the different Senate responses to the local elections postponement under Arroyo and Aquino. As for the SC, the removal of Corona and the support from Sereno helped the Aquino administration to proceed the peace negotiations.

The differing responses from the Senate and the judiciary show that government dynamics have an impact on negotiated civil war settlements in addition to the rebel group variations as pointed out by Cunningham (2011).

References

Cain B, Ferejohn J and Fiorina M (1987) The Personal Vote: Constituency Service and Electoral Independence. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Cox GW and McCubbins MD (2001) The institutional determinants of economic policy outcomes: Presidents, parliaments, and policy. In: Haggard S and McCubbins MD (eds) Presidents, Parliaments, and Policy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 21–63.

Cunningham DE (2011) Barriers to Peace in Civil War. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Helmke G (2010) Public support and judicial crises in Latin America. Paper prepared for the University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law 2010 Symposium: The Judiciary and the Popular Will, 29–30 January.

Kasuya Y (2008) Presidential Bandwagon: Parties and Party Systems in the Philippines. Tokyo: Keio University Press Inc.

Tate NC (1994) The judicialization of politics in the Philippines and Southeast Asia. International Political Science Review 15(2): 187–197.

Philippine Daily Inquirer (2011) House majority gets over 140 signatures to impeach Chief Justice Corona. 12 December. Available at: https://www.dowjones.com/products/factiva/ (accessed 26 May 2017).

Tsebelis G (2002) Veto Players: How Political Institutions Work. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Constitutional Reforms in East Asia, Part II: Progress and Possibility in Taiwan

Talks of constitutional reforms are sweeping across the presidential and semi-presidential systems in East Asia: the Philippines, South Korea, and Taiwan. Constitutions capture the principles – some say, the most sacred principles – around which institutions, legislation, rules, and processes of a country are built.[1] Constitutional reforms, then, are generally significant and painstaking undertakings, often requiring supermajorities in the legislature or the electorate or both to ratify. And, this may be rightfully so: if they are to amend or revise principles that underpin the political, economic, and social structures of a country, the process should not be based on changeable and changing attitudes. Given the significance, the concomitant grip of constitutional reforms across several of the East Asian with a president as head or co-head of government is interesting, if not curious. What level of public support is there for these reforms? And, how likely are these reforms to pass?

In a previous instalment, I discussed the level of public support in the Philippines for constitutional reform.[2] In this article, I examine the level of public support for reforms in Taiwan. Article 12 of the Additional Articles of the Constitution, i.e., the amendments to the Constitution, stipulates that amendments may be initiated by one-fourth of the total members of the legislature, currently set at 113 seats by Article 4 of the constitutional amendments. A quorum of three-fourths of the legislature is required, and revisions are passed if at least three-fourths of all present approve the revisions. The amendments must be ratified by more than 50 percent of all eligible voters at a referendum held in six months from the public announcement of the revisions.

There is significant domestic and international interest in the constitutional reforms proposed and considered in Taiwan. President Tsai Ing-wen swept into office on January 16, 2017, with an absolute majority of 56.1% of the 66.3 percent turnout; her party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), also achieved a first with an absolute majority in the legislature. As the first woman elected to the presidency of Taiwan with majority legislative support of a party that has variously been in favour of independence from China, there is considerable interest in how the president and her government would navigate the political path between independence and the “one China” consensus. Constitutional revisions provide important signals.

Domestically, calls for constitutional reforms follow from efforts to improve governance or representation. Thus, at the most recent 2017 DPP national congress, President Tsai noted in her address as chair of the party on the need to contemplate constitutional revisions to heed public demands for a “more efficient government.” Internationally, focus on the constitutional reforms in Taiwan takes into account that such revisions may pave a path for the nation to declaring independence from China. In particular, the current Constitution defines the Republic of China according to “existing national boundaries” with a “free area” and a “mainland area.” A constitutional revision that changes the existing definitions of territory, then, would be considered an assertion of independence.

What amendments have been proposed? In Taiwan, talks of constitutional reform turned concrete when 41 legislators from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) sent a proposal on September 27, 2017, for amendments that include the following:

The proposal follows President Tsai’s address to the DPP’s national congress in September 2017. However, the President herself is considered to be steadfast on maintaining the status quo. And, although the 41 DPP legislators exceed the minimum of 29 needed to initiate a constitutional revision, it does not capture uniform support for the revisions within the party: although a core bloc favours independence, moderates in the DPP support the status quo.
Meanwhile, the legislature made short shrift of the proposal, with the speaker rejecting the motion on October 5, 2017, following objections from the People First Party caucus. The Kuomintang separately reiterated its opposition to any revisions that would change the nation’s territory. Indeed, President Tsai asserted that constitutional revisions must come from the people, a “bottom-up” effort and not one initiated by the DPP without public participation. For the moment, then, constitutional reforms have returned to the backburner.

Notes

[1] Strauss, David. 2010. The Living Constitution. New York: Oxford University Press

[2] Yap, O. Fiona. 2017. “Constitutional Reforms in East Asia, Part I: Progress and Possibility in the Philippines.” https://presidential-power.com/?p=7050 <accessed November 8, 2017>