quarta-feira, outubro 17, 2007

Ainda sobre a "nova Constituição" (2)

Subscrevendo isto, um ponto adicional. Há qualquer coisa de errado - não sei se comigo se com a agenda política portuguesa - quando os assuntos do dia se podem comentar todos com auto-citações de coisas antigas. Aqui vai mais uma, pedindo as vossas desculpas:

"Questions of institutional design have the extraordinary benefit — from the point of view of political elites — of dramatically increasing the asymmetry of information between voters and elites. They involve highly complex technical issues, thus reducing the size of the audience capable of understanding the implications of extant rules and proposed changes. The vagaries of the German and other mixed electoral systems, the implications of comparative semipresidentialism, the internal organization of parliament, the judiciary or the public prosecution, the modalities of judicial review of legislation – all these are all highly complex technical matters that promptly produce an irresistible urge on the part of common citizens to change to a different TV channel or — for those very few who do read political news in newspapers— skip to a different newspaper article. On the other hand, changing any of these institutional features requires the agreement of, at least, the two main political parties in parliament, since most of these rules are protected by supermajority procedures. This allows parties to easily shift blame for the inability to produce the proposed institutional reforms, pointing out the opponent’s devious (but publicly unverifiable) purposes behind advancing or refusing changes whose implications are understood, in reality, by virtually nobody.

Thus, by framing the (in)ability to achieve substantive political outcomes in terms of the (in)ability to change institutional variables, parties are able to reap important electoral advantages: citizens’ doubly lack the necessary knowledge to hold parties accountable, both because the fail to understand the implications of extant rules and their proposed changes and because they have enormous difficulties in assigning responsibility for those changes or the lack of them. All this, in my view, endangers neither the stability of democracy in Portugal nor its fundamental public legitimacy. However, it allows parties and governments to deviate attention from their policy failures, shifting it to domains where electoral accountability is made more difficult for citizens. It creates false and recurrently frustrated public expectations about the power of institutional changes to produce substantive political outcomes. And it contributes to reinforce the already large divide between the political agenda and the actual concerns of common citizens in Portugal. In other words, the permanent contestation around most aspects of the institutional framework of Portuguese democracy may constitute a threat to the quality of democratic rule. "


In: "The institutional framework of the transition to democracy in Portugal", in Marietta Minotos (org.), The transition to democracy in Spain, Portugal and Greece, thirty years after. Athens: Karamanlis Foundation, 2006.
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