Government Part 4
Unlike the United States many other countries in the world have embraced the so-called “Parliamentary” form of government, which is the oldest form.
The two most widely know about in common circles are in England and Israel. We hear about these two governments in the news all the time with resignations of ministers, calls for votes of no confidence and formation of coalition governments.
While the United States plays politics this same type of way, it’s done on an issue by issue basis and only for moments, hours or a few days. In countries like Israel it’s done on a regular basis for months or years.
In Parliamentary governments people vote in a slate of representatives based on party lines and unlike the U.S. there are generally more than two parties found in most Parliamentary governments. As a result of having four or more parties with substantial votes it is not always possible for one party to control government, as we currently have in the United States.
Right now in the U.S. we have a majority of conservatives (Republicans) in both houses of government as well as a conservative President. This means a somewhat conservative agenda can be passed into law for at least a temporary basis. The conservatives are very religious (and would like to get prayer into U.S. public schools and make abortions hard to get or illegal), they are economically driven (mostly towards major business interests that can drive an economy) and don’t like a lot of regulations (especially towards business). The conservative majority can affect the country for many, many years by voting in conservative judges who keep their jobs for life. For the liberals (Democrats) to block some of this agenda calls for them to get some “liberal” Republicans on their side, plain and simple. There aren’t enough votes in other parties to really help in most instances.
Neither the liberals nor the conservatives would boldly tackle a pending issues such as global warming. Conservatives would keep things as they are, while a more liberal government would scale things down over a short period of time, such as 20 or 30 years.
Now, this is where Parliamentary government can get interesting. If there is a “greenpeace” type party with enough members to help override the minority opposition, then the majority party might align themselves with these radicals and give them a department to run, such as the interior, which isn’t a super major department, but one they are vitally interested in running. So if the liberals in England barely have enough votes to conduct business or are missing a few votes, they form a coalition government with the environmentalists, give them some concessions in an effort to pass more and better laws through the opposition of the conservative party which has only a vote or two less than the liberals, but sufficient enough to stall or block programs.
In Israel the Orthodox Jewish party, which only has a few votes in Parliament, once became part of a coalition government supporting a more liberal view. To get this support that more liberal party (and even the conservatives in Israel are more liberal than the Orthodox Jewish sect) passed a law forbidding El Al (the national airline of Israel) to operate during the Sabbath (Friday night through Saturday night). That’s about all they could get in the form of a concession and to keep it they had to vote regularly with the other coalition parties on other issues.
Parliamentary governments are made up of department heads called Ministers, with one given the job of heading government as the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister has a large say in the formation of the government and, in conjunction with their party elders, they decide what to offer in the form of concessions to other parties in an effort to get a slate of regular votes to make laws.
The U.S. differs vastly. Our departments “ministers” are actually hand picked by the president and then confirmed by Congress (the law making government). They report to the President and Congress has little say other than calling them in for hearings if something serious occurs in the country.
Our Congress also has something like departments. These are called committees and they are made up of members of Congress. The party with the majority (currently the conservative Republicans) generally gets to assign the heads of these committees (and they will assign the minority liberals or Democrats some lesser committees to run) and the members of these committees (and the minority membership gets some seats on each committee). These committees consider the laws or bills and can sit on them, modify them or pass them as is to the whole Congress for a vote. The President has no say in this process, other than consultation with his party elders. The President has no control over these committees or their members, other than playing politics by trading bills and other tangible things for votes.
In the United States the Presidentially appointed department heads (we call them “Secretaries” and they guide the Interior, Health and Welfare, Treasury and other departments) from outside of government. In the Parliamentary form of government the Ministers are actual members of the elected government.
In-fighting is a way of life in English Parliament. Mild mud-slinging, name calling and references to other politicians is considered good government and good entertainment in Parliament. In the United States this is considered not politically correct. Everyone shows respect on the floor for everyone else.
In the United States some representatives are elected every two years. Some only stay in office for two years. Some stay for six years. Then they face re-election. Some people get re-elected indefinitely, so some major figure in either party might deal with three or more Presidents over their lifetime in government.
In Parliament if the coalition of party governments doesn’t like the way things are going under the current Prime Minister they can literally break up the government. They do what is called a “vote of no confidence” and then it is up to the Prime Minister to either save their government (as is currently being done in Israel over the hot issue of the Gaza Strip) or must call for new elections which will result in a shift of party members and make for totally new government with virtually a new set of ministers and a new Prime Minister. Sometimes ministers resign their posts and this can also cause a crisis in government.
This would never happen in the United States. The government stays in places and goes on and on. If one party picks up votes the government swings liberal or conservative, depending on those votes. Rarely does a member of government resign. Almost never does a committee member resign (they simply get replaced when the majority swings another way). Presidential Cabinet members (Secretaries) do resign, but this is not considered anything major to the operations of government. The President simply looks for a new person to nominate for the job and tries to get Congress to approve the selection.
Parliamentary forms of government are very volatile and argumentative. The U.S. Government is well regulated, peaceful and filled with long drawn out speeches (a Senator can keep the floor for as long as like and can yield it to a fellow member, making it possible to talk for a year or more if they want to block a bill). The Prime Minister puts forth a proposal or plan and then tries to get it through the government, even if they have to re-organize the coalition! In the United States the President “asks” for legislation, such as a tax cut. Suggest an amount. Then it gets committed to death, re-written, condensed, modified and presents to the members for a vote. The President either lives with the re-working of their ideas or rejects them.
In the U.S. form of government compromise is on a case by case matter, while it would seem that in the Parliamentary government compromise starts at the formation of government and continues until factions can’t deal with the proposals made and flee their traditional voting stance, which then signals a possible end for that current government.