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Executive Prime Minister instead of Executive President?

24 November 2015 06:34 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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A Cabinet decision has apparently been made to abolish the Executive Presidency to be effective after the term of President Sirisena comes to an end in 2020; so announced Minister Mangala Samaraweera; on the same day we have the former President Mahinda Rajapakse stating that this government will never scrap the Executive Presidency.

 If the government really means what they say, the necessary amendment to the Constitution should be tabled in the near future even before the much-talked-about New Constitution, which they say is being prepared, is placed before the people as it should be, in a Referendum. Considering the experience we have gained, having had both the Westminster form of government and the Executive Presidential form, I presume our Constitution drafters would also examine other Constitutions to ensure stability, real Democracy along with the Rule of Law along with the separation of powers. Israel experimented with the Executive Prime Ministerial system but failed. The head of government was the President (a ceremonial position) and the Prime Minister was the Chief Executive. 

The PM was chosen by the Parliament or the Knesset. Before that the PM was the  leader of the Party that won the Elections to the Knesset. David Ben Gurion was Israel’s first elected Prime Minister, the next was Golda Meir, their first woman PM.  After that followed Yitzak Rabin, Menchem Begin and Shamir. In the 1990s it was decided to hold a separate ballot for the post of Prime Minister and that created the Executive Prime Minister and Netanyahu became the first Executive PM; though he won the elections in the Knesset, his party lost the general election and he did not control Knesset and in 2001 it was decided to scrap the system and revert to the Westminster model. 

The Presidential system which we adopted in 1978 did not have the checks and balances as found in the US Constitution, neither did it have the separation of powers as was enshrined in the US Constitution. The British and the American political systems have of  course existed for centuries. 

The other system which we may consider would be the French model which was created in 1958. The French system centralized substantial power in the President. In the French system the ‘relationship’ between the President and the PM is critical. When they come from different political parties, as was the case in France in 1986, 1993 and 1997, the President and the PM  need to practise Cohabitation and that does not subscribe towards good governance, but the French President is in a powerful position under the Constitution as he heads the Armed Forces, appoints the Prime Minister and has the power to dismiss the Assembly; he Chairs the Council of Ministers; he appoints the members of the highest courts and the Constitutional Court and many other such important powers, but matters relating to domestic affairs need to be approved by the Prime Minister. Despite the power of the President, the PM is considered the head of government.

The American, French and even the British systems of government may be suitable for them and would meet their needs, the adoption of any of them without giving consideration to our national interests and particular our situation would not be helpful; whilst we should sanctify certain values such as those which we share with the international community such as Democracy,  The Rule of Law the separation of powers and other such values, let us also not forget that hadn’t we had a strong Presidency, we would never have been able to defeat the LTTE and end the war, so let us not throw the baby out with the bathwater, but let us effect changes to the system; the President should be the Chief Executive, but MUST be answerable to Parliament; Legislative power should be with Parliament and let us have a House of Representatives and a Senate as we had before. Having an Executive PM who is also the head of the Legislative branch of government may not be in our national interest. The other Most important change which we must effect is that we MUST change the Electoral System to ensure that elections reflect the will of the people, the present PR system should be revised and improved; we could learn from PR systems in countries such as Sweden.

 The next most important matter is the need to have independent national institutions such as the Judicial Service Commission, the Elections Commission, the Bribery Commission, the Police Commission and the Public Service Commission; the Public Service must be independent and professionalized but not politicized; we must also have transparency and accountability, this is central to Good Governance. 

A President should be allowed to serve only two terms, as in the US and many other democratic countries, and not be able legally to contest any other elections after serving two terms as President.  These must be entrenched clauses in the Constitution which cannot be changed under any circumstances. One other matter of importance, (a reminder, as I have written about this before);  should  we not consider seriously ending confrontational politics at local government level and have, not political parties, but individuals contesting in their personal capacities at all local government elections.  Yes, let us by all means, give ourselves a new Constitution but as I have stated before let us not throw the baby out with the bath water!
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