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Sep 04

The Explainer: Sources on public opinion vs. party opinion in parliametary government

Our show last week was on public opinion and the parliamentary system. Our apologies for the delay in posting the sources for the show, but other works (and blog entries) kept putting this on the back-burner.

How the Malaysian Supreme Court was stripped of its powers is described in “Malaysian Politics Under Mahathir (Politics in Asia Series)” (R. S. Milne) pp. 46-49.

The question of party corruption, and allegations including flying voters and so forth, are detailed in Where to, Malaysia? A future with Anwar’s Reformasi or back to Mahathirism? (Kim Quek) See p.110 on Perwaja Steel; also, how Halim Saad took over the National Steel Corp. in the Philippines using his lawyer, Abudl Rashid Manaff, using National Steel Corp. shares as collateral for a 3 billion Ringgit loan -to buy National Steel Corp! p.165; the Time dotCom of the UEM/Renong Group, IPO bailout scandal, where government-controlled funds were used for the bailout, p.186; constitutional amendments to “legalize phantom voters,” pp. 213-216; Halim’ Saad’s removal as window-dressing, pp. 220; officials promoted for doing government bidding, pp. 226-230.

See also MGG Pillai’s Corruption makes Malaysia go around.

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The Politics of Democracy in Malaysia, by Rainer Heufers. He examines questions familiar to Filipinos: weak democratic institutions and electoral systems, and relevant issues such as the interplay between parliament, the courts, and media in Malaysia.

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I mentioned anti-sedition laws in Singapore and Malaysia. Here’s a pretty comprehensive report on Malaysia’s sedition law, its effects and implementation.

My description of the last Singaporean election, and the question of government’s handling of information, comes from The Financial Times.

Even Singapore has its allegations of corruption. See Harchand Singh and Corruption, Singapore-style. See also Singapore Election Watch.

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On the other hand, here’s a paper by Chua Cher Yak, director of Singapore’s Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau, on their efforts to fight corruption. He describes a three-prong strategy.

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Muhammed Ali, Acting Assistant Director of the same agency, also has a paper.

I also made reference to this book: “The Best Democracy Money Can Buy” (Greg Palast) p. 273 onwards, concerning allegations of Labor Party corruption in the UK. These New York Times articles summarizes the corruption issues that haunted German Chancellor Helmut Kohl.

Much mention was made in the program of allegations of corruption, because sometimes admirers of neighboring parliamentary systems fail to take into account the corruption that’s not reported because of the controlled press in those countries.

This isn’t to say that corruption in the Philippines is less, or that corruption is greater there; but certainly, looking deeper into the corruption that takes place in neighboring countries helps identify what we’re doing right, or doing wrong, or what is helpful to look at and what doesn’t make for a valid comparison.

Anti-corruption resources for Vietnam has comprehensive links. See also the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs (embassy in Hanoi) report on anti-corruption efforts in Vietnam.

Here are some more recommended readings on our neighbors and questions raised in the program.

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Corruption in Vietnam by Yoshiharu Tsuboi of Waseda University.

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The ‘Misery’ of Implementation: Governance, Institutions, and Anti-Corruption in Vietnam, by Scott Fritzen.

The Asian Journal of Public Administration has some particularly interesting articles.

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Levels of Corruption in Malaysia: A Comment on Bumiputra Malaysia Finance, by R.S. Milne.

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Corruption in Asia with Special Reference to Singapore: Patterns and Consequences, by Jon S.T. Quah.

And some readings from a broader perspective:

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Minority Parties in Plurality Electoral Systems, by John Gerring in the Party Politics Journal.

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Some Complex Answers to the Question, ‘Do Institutions Matter?’ Policy Choice and Policy Change in the Presidential and Parliamentary Systems, by Thomas H. Hammong and Christopher K. Butler in the Journal of Theoretical Politics.

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Why Should Ministers Do What They Say? ‘Full’ and ‘Partial’ Cabinet Decision-making Structures in Government, by Jean Blondel and Nick Manning in the Asian Review of Public Administration. This is particularly useful in looking into not only how the cabinet systems under the presidential and parliamentary systems differ, but how actual decision-making takes place.

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Making Judges Independent: Some Proposals Regarding the Judiciary, presented by Lars P. Feld and Stefan Voigt at a CESIFO conference.

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Political Institutions and Fiscal Policy, by Guido Tabellini, summary paper presented in 2003, which argues:

With respect to how constitutional rules generate different responses to key economic and political events, they discovered that the cyclical adjustment of spending and taxes depends quite strongly on the form of government and electoral rule.

Majoritarian governments are more likely to cut taxes in cyclical downturns. Governments elected under proportional rule (and parliamentary regimes), on the other hand, tend to let spending rise in a recession without scaling it down during booms, so that spending as a share of GDP displays a ratchet effect.

The effect of electoral cycles on spending is highly dependent on the type of constitution. Presidential regimes tend to postpone fiscal contractions until after elections. This makes sense as spending in presidential regimes tends to be more narrowly focused on powerful minorities, the support of whom could provide a necessary boost at the polls.

In terms of electoral systems, one surprising finding was that majoritarian countries alone cut not only taxes, but also spending, ahead of the elections. Perhaps incumbent governments want to appear more frugal in the eyes of voters. In democracies with proportional elections, on the other hand, state welfare programs are expanded as elections approach, perhaps to seek re-election support from broad coalitions of voters.

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Presidentialism And, Or, and Versus Parliamentarism: The State of the Literature and an Agenda for Future Research, by David Samuels and Kent Eato, also presented at a conference in 2002.

This was my closing statement:

Local contests may be easier to grasp for the electorate, they’re also easier to keep hold of for those used to holding office. I remember an otherwise distinguished former Speaker thunder that he would let someone else hold his seat over his dead body. He made his daughter run for his old congressional seat. But was it his seat, or the people’s? And by making his daughter run, was he behaving democratically or not? I once heard another congressman proudly say, by next year his family would have continuously represented his province for a hundred years. And a colleague said, “that’s a century too long.”

I think it’s fair to say that if any proposed change to our form of government, included a provision to replace all our current officials and replace them with new ones, who haven’t had the chance to either inherit or learn old bad habits, we’d have a unanimous agreement to try the new in order to bury the old. But let me ask you: are the same officials in a new political system simply not a case of old wine in new bottles?

The following books, among many, can provide thought-provoking reading :

“The Modern Principalia: The Historical Evolution of the Philippine Ruling Oligarchy” (Dante C. Simbulan) was written forty years ago, but published only recently. It makes a good, basic reading before tackling the next titles.
“An Anarchy of Families: State Family in the Philippines (Wisconsin Monograph 10)” (Univ of Wisconsin Center for). This book takes a look at how families maintain, and lose power, on the local level.

“Kinship politics in postwar Philippines: The Lopez family, 1946-2000” (Mina Roces). Roces has an interesting take on the importance of appearing “malakas,” or influential with the powers-that-be.

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23 comments

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  1. bogchimash

    anything on the supposedly strict anti-money laundering laws of the e.u.? are the banks there allowed to give out certifications that may be truthful in every word, but done, nonetheless, knowing that improriety exists thereby aiding corruption?

  2. Jojo

    Mina Roces’ book — thought-provoking? I thought it was a subtle revision showing the Lopezes were good oligarchs with the interest of the nation, not their family in mind. The political practice, of course, shattered that illusion.

  3. mlq3

    Jojo, it seemed to me her book was a pretty good approximation of how families really think -or at least, the perspective from which they operate. Her explanation of “malakas” i thought was quite helpful.

  4. Jojo

    But that was precisely the problem of Roces’ book Manolo: it could not decide whether the concept “malakas” applied to Nanding and his brothers, and if so whether it is a concept that one can (re)define to mean that an oligarch can also love “the nation.” Her bases for such a claim are the speeches of the Lopezes and the interviews she had with them. Problem with public speeches is that most of the time they’re just to cover misdeeds and project someone as a statesman when he is not. In a lot of cases interviews are also fibs, and one needs to read through the lines and watch the body language to figure out the truth. Roces looks at the discourse of elite politics but stops short of critically looking at what they really say.

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