In the various debates on the media, on twitter and on blogs like this there has been much call for specifics, for real practical suggestions on reforms that could be implemented without the need for full scale referendum debates over constitutional reform. To that end, those of us involved in making regular contributions to this blog are trying to raise the resources to arrange some events (probably starting in the autumn) to help stimulate further debate, and we will ensure to give as much notice as possible as these unfold.
In the meantime, perhaps we might start the process of stimulating ideas on areas for reform. Let us imagine a world in which we have a benign leadership in this country (bear with me!), one that is prepared to put people before power, one that is prepared to give serious thought to how we might improve ‘Governance Ireland plc’ — what sort of wish list would we give them?
Let us suppose that our benign Taoiseach has asked for proposals that meet two objectives: first, for specific areas of reform that could be implemented pretty much with immediate effect (no need for long debate and referendum), and second, that would really make a difference in areas that matter.
Any thoughts on what these might be? Don’t even try to rank order your priorities, let’s just pick one area and elaborate. (Perhaps later we could try and produce a priority list.)
In that spirit… one obvious initiative that has been much mentioned for the past number of years (five?) is to establish an Electoral Commission. The Programme for Government has promised this (twice); the opposition parties are in favour. Perhaps it might come soon….
What’s the point? Why do we need this?
1.) Well, there is a big point, and that is that they bring the electoral process up to the date, if given sufficient powers providing an important independent voice to the government of the day.
2.) Electoral Commissions are de rigeur. In a recent survey of the world’s democracies, about two-thirds of them use Electoral Commissions to organize (and scrutinize) their elections.
3.) An Electoral Commission, with appropriate powers, can start to elbow in a role for itself in cleaning up features of how the electoral process works. The British Electoral Commission is a good example, as shown by the role it’s played in helping to clean up party finance in the UK.
4.) An Electoral Commission can help to promote best practice in the process of democratic election overseas. The Australian Electoral Commission is a wonderful exemplar here.
There is more to say about the advantages of Electoral Commissions (and so I may want to edit this in the future), but these are some initial pointers.