PS: Constitutional Reform & Double Deel

By Julian Dierkes

Constitutional revision remains under consideration in Mongolia. If the MPP wins the presidential election in June 2017, there may be less pressure toward a revision of the relative power of president and parliament (most recent discussions in Mongolia would assign more power to parliament, but somehow I don’t think that M Enkhbold would be so excited about that should he win the presidential election).

One of the issues that keeps coming up over and over is the “double deel” (давхар дээл), i.e. concern about members of parliament also serving as members of cabinet.

Previously, I have used examples from Canadian and German state/provincial parliaments to argue that other parliaments of comparable size have not been concerned about this challenge.

As it turns out and as I have learned in the context of debates of constitutional reform in Berlin, I was at least partly wrong about that.

The Green Party of Germany, for example, has long argued for a separation between a seat in parliament and an office (Trennung von Amt und Mandat), though this has been focused primarily on party offices.

In Spring 2017, the Berlin parliament (Abgeordnetenhaus) is debating a proposed constitutional amendment to prevent the double deel. I hesitate to offer this link, in part because it leads to the proposal by the Alternative für Deutschland, a rightist-populist party. However, as the example of rules against the party double deel in the Green Party show, this is a debate that other parties are open to.

The case in the Berlin discussions includes the following elements:

  • separation of power: the German constitution does not adopt this as a principle, instead preferring interlocking powers (Gewaltenverschränkung)
  • weakening of parliament: this is in part a numbers argument (i.e. every member that joins the cabinet no longer operates as a member of parliament, but also an argument about the role of parliament as endorsing and controlling the government
  • salary: the Berlin parliament is defined as a half-time job (surely not realistically so), members of cabinet (Senatoren in the case of Berlin) thus draw salaries as such AND as members of parliament
  • examples: the two other German city states, Hamburg and Bremen, both have separated membership from parliament from membership in cabinet

While the Greens have practiced this separation for some time, it has also been advocated for by parts of the Social Democrats.

Given similarities in the issues and challenges identified, perhaps there are opportunities for an exchange between Berlin and Mongolia around this topic.

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4 Responses to PS: Constitutional Reform & Double Deel

  1. Dan says:

    Double Deel has been a huge problem in the last parliament because of the relatively small majority by the ruling coalition of Dem Party (DP) and the Justice coalition and also the relatively large cabinet due to the need to appease many fractions within the DP and the Justice coalition. The ruling coalition had about 45 seats of which 19 were members of PM Altanhuyag’s cabinet which dominated the parliament at the time. The cabinet members also had seats (sometimes double/triple) in the standing committees and they were able to push thru pretty much any policies in the parliament. Most of the time, parliament sessions had average attendance of 40-50 members due to the balance of power and having 19 members with double deel afforded the cabinet enough advantage to pass the bills they introduced. However, in the current parliament with significant majority of 65 seats, double deel issue poses no constitutional crisis of the cabinet being on top of parliament.

    • Just to continue my earlier comparison, the Berlin parliament has 160 seats. The current Social Democrat – Left – Green coalition holds 92 seats, i.e. 57.5%. The DP coalition held 45 of 76 seats as you point out, i.e. 59%. Comparable.
      Berlin’s Senate (i.e. government) has 11 members, several of whom are not members of the Abgeordnetenhaus, but several are.
      That does suggest a significantly higher proportion of members of the government who were also members of the UIX under the DP coalition.
      Of course, attendance at parliamentary sessions is a challenge that seems to plague many parliaments and that is often difficult to understand for voters.

      • Dan says:

        So the newly formed Constitutional Reform Advisory Committee (a public committee of 8 members) is holding 2 stage national polls starting today 5pm local time. 3000 thousand randomly chosen individuals will be asked on 6 main issues. Results will be passed onto the parliament and the appropriate standing committee.

        1. Stability of the cabinet structure and makeup
        2. Relations between parliament and the president, the president vs the cabinet
        3. Independent status for government service entities and public service council
        4. Enhancing the administrative and territorial units
        5. Amending the constitution on gov’t accountability, responsibility and fair play
        6. Switching from the parliamentary system of gov’t

        The source: http://www.ikon.mn/n/zfc

  2. Dan says:

    Personally, I feel like it’s such a black and white issue if there is any language regarding “independence” and “the separation of power” in the constitution. If there is any clause like that then The Supreme Court or The constitutional court should take up the matter without a constitutional reform. Btw, I agree with you that any reform won’t be likely until after the presidential election due June 26th, 2017. Of course, realistically that means sometime in fall maybe October 2017.

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