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The awful new Oireachtas web site July 13, 2018

Posted by Tomboktu in Complete nonsense, Crazed nonsense..., Democracy, Luddite protest, Uncategorized.
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Who the f*** in their right f***ing mind f***ing would ever the-f*** think the f***ing useless new f***ing design of the f***ing g*d f***ing awful f***ing Oireachtas f***ing website was a good idea?

A basic starting point they missed: most of it is essentially a reference library of texts: dull, boring but important speeches, parliamentary questions, bills, amendments and other procedural documents which nerds, activists, scholars, civil servants, and (some) journalists and (some) politicians need to look up. The main content of parliamentary proceedings is not graphic-led — it is driven by the spoken and written word — and the removal of documents like the sedate boring PDFs of the debates in favour of the large chunky font size hip-to-the-groove ‘infographic’ that might fit well on a news magazine’s web site (albeit a decade ago) is just not suitable for presenting sober, technical, official records to the public.

Form won over function there.

Stormont and parity of esteem… Worth keeping in mind. October 8, 2007

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Democracy, Ireland, Northern Ireland, The North.
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Just to quickly note this, and thanks to Ciarán of Crá Croí Cois Cuain for bringing it to our attention…

The spirit and the letter of democracy. Putin’s Russia… October 2, 2007

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Democracy, Russia.
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I’m enormously admiring of Vladmir Putin’s latest idea. As reported in the Guardian he has suggested that since he is debarred by the Russian Constitution from serving another term as President he might become Prime Minister instead. The funny thing is that a couple of weeks back I was thinking about him on foot of an interesting discussion on Splintered Sunrise on democracy and the thought struck me, ‘what if he simply switched over to Prime Minister’. Needless to say I dismissed it almost immediately. Which tells you, perhaps, why I am an anonymous blogger and he is President of all the Russians.

But even so, I have to admire the simplicity with which he puts forward his message. The same report noted that:

…Putin yesterday gave the strongest hint yet that he will remain at the centre of power in Russia for the forseeable future, saying the possibility of him becoming prime minister after the presidential election in March was “entirely realistic”.

I like that ‘entirely realistic’. It is the understatement that is so telling. There he is, weighing up his future and that of millions of Russians. Should he take up golf like Clinton? Middle East peace making like Blair? No, presumably those would not be ‘entirely realistic’ options.

It gets better. When asked about the nature of any such Premiership he noted that:

“Heading the government is a realistic idea,” Mr Putin told the party’s congress when asked about his plans. He added that it was “early” to be discussing himself as a candidate, but he would be prepared to take the prime minister’s post on two conditions: that United Russia won the parliamentary poll and that a “decent, competent and effective person with whom I could work” was elected as president in spring 2008.

Again, got to love the ‘decent, competent…etc, etc’. I imagine that if he becomes Prime Minister it will be very much in the nature of an executive premiership. The levers of power will slip over to same in the next year or so. But in a way such bluntness is heartening. There is little beating around the bush with Putin. One gets exactly what one sees. And, naturally, he has an eye on the Presidency in the long term. He can run again after the next President. Presumably we might see a switch back to a more ‘Presidential’ model at that point. Or as was reported:

Mr Mukhin said that if Mr Putin became prime minister it was “entirely possible” that with support from United Russia in the parliament he would change the law to increase the powers of the premiership vis-à-vis the president. “Putin promised not to change the constitution before he leaves the presidency, but he doesn’t have any obligations beyond that,” he noted.

So, we have Putin in near perpetuity. And all of it done in such a way that the letter of democracy is entirely intact. One might even argue that the spirit, although slightly ruffled around the edges remains there or thereabouts, particularly if Putin doesn’t change the constitution.

I’m reminded, for some reason, of what Australian cultural commentator Donald Horne wrote in his book “The Public Culture” about ‘myth’s’ (in the semiotic sense) of democracy.

“The very way in which the ‘myth’ of representative democracy ‘legitimates’ state power int he name of the people can distract citizens from the realities of political power. It can suggest that since they all have the vote and use their votes with relatively equal weights, there must be in their society an equality in the distribution of power. This illusion is strengthened by beliefs in the centrality of government – as if ‘power’ is uniquely resident within the government, which is represented as having an independent (sometimes arbitrating) existence and of representing an agreed common good… the setpiece battles of presidential systems that can begin the day after a president is sworn in (and that in the US take over the last year of a presidential term) can weaken faith in government but not by puttign politics out among citizens. In watching the sentsations of party politics citizens are encouraged to believe that political discussion is being carried out for them…the electoralisation of politics can suggest that a citizen’s only task is to vote; it can even suggest that there is something undemocratic in protest by citizens against the government, because the government is the repository of the people’s will…’

I think Horne is onto something here and it has particular applicability to both the Russian, and the US, systems of government. The executive Presidency engenders precisely this sense that protest is illegitimate because state and President become enmeshed in a web of significations which feed off and support each other. The problem is arguably worse in Russia due to the centralising tendencies of the Putin years (although that tendency is understandable as a reaction to the near chaos of the previous decade) than it is in the US. Having said that to criticise Russia after fifteen years of a more pluralist polity in comparison to the US seems churlish in the extreme.

But the larger lesson is the implicit problematic aspects of executive Presidency, and we may be moving into a situation where counter-intuitively Russia then pulls towards an executive Prime Ministership. To be honest Prime Minister Putin strikes me as a much more satisfactory state of affairs, even in the context of successive stints in the position. But that leads to other interesting questions. How different would the structure of Russian democracy be, if at all, in such a context. The Presidential model tends towards weaker political parties (something that is evident in both the US and Russian systems). But there is no reason per se why an executive Prime Minister would lead to stronger parties.

It is, however, worth noting that he points to a ‘legitimation’ by United Russia winning the parliamentary poll. I think that this indicates that Putin still looks for some degree of ‘democratic’ legitimation. Sure, like Horne, we can see this as something of a fig leaf, but representation demands popular support. And it is unquestionable that Putin is genuinely very very popular indeed (as Wednesday pointed out on Splintered Sunrise). I’ve noted that his ability to stabilise what was a dismal situation is one part of that, but others are the way in which he and his pulled back key elements of the Russian economy by re-nationalisation. These are innately popular moves. We’ve seen some of the recent international shadowboxing, most entertainingly for those of us of a certain age in the renewed flights of Soviet era bombers (incidentally on KCRW it was pointed out that it was a remarkable achievement in itself to get the TU-95 Bears into the air, since they date back to 1952).

And one can’t help but feel that Putin might understand, or even agree with, Donald Horne when he writes that:

We can avoid being deluded by the magic of democratic ‘myths’: but we can also recognise that legitimating governments is the best we can do. Everything else is worse.

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