There are parliamentary elections ahead. Already, prospective candidates are filing forms, campaigning and trying to increase their support through various means. In such a situation, it is important to think deeply about the role of parliament and its members in order to make good and strong decisions in the elections.
The primary role of parliament is to make laws. Article 70(h) of the Constitution states that “All legislative powers in Maldives shall be vested in the Parliament.” The chapter of the Constitution comprising the provisions relating to the Parliament is similarly titled “Legislative Power.” Article 70(g)(1) and (2) of the Constitution states that the legislative powers of the parliament include the power to amend the Constitution and to legislate on any matter as long as it is not inconsistent with the principles of Islamic Shariah.
Legislation and Being a Lawyer
One of the most frequently discussed issues is the need to elect lawyers to the legislature. Former Indiana Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard’s paper “Making Good Law Requires More Lawyers,” repeated this argument, that the involvement of lawyers in the legislative increases the quality of laws that are made and there are fewer contradictions in them.
In his article, Randall made two main points as reasons for increased participation in law making by lawyers. The first point is that it is the job of lawyers to find solutions to various problems people face through laws. When a law is designed in a complex way, it is easier for lawyers than others to understand the difficulties and challenges when dealing with the law. Secondly, Randall points out that lawyers often put public interests ahead of their own personal interests. He believes that the involvement of more lawyers in the legislative process is a reason for the improvement of the laws and the emphasis on achieving the greatest good for the public’s interest.
In his 1989 paper, “Should Practicing Lawyers be Legislators,” in the Hastings Law Journal, George F. Carpinello noted that not all lawyers would put the public interest first. Sometimes the responsibility to their clients conflicts with their interest as a legislator to protect and ensure public good. He notes that in some instances, lawyers may put the interests of their clients ahead of the public interest.
One of the accompanying points made in the paper is the variable degree of conflict that exists no matter who the law maker represents if they are elected to a law making position. If the individual is a farmer, they have a personal interest in securing special privileges for farmers. Therefore, there will always be a conflict of personal interest and public interest in the formulation of laws relating to any constituency.
However, what distinguishes lawyers from others is that the conflict of interest of lawyers arises because of third party interests through the special relationship between lawyers and their clients, which permeates the legislative process.
The bottom line is that the involvement of lawyers in the drafting of the law makes the laws better. It also increases the opportunity to think about laws from the perspective of difficulties encountered in applying and dealing with laws. However, one risk of lawyers participating in the legislation is the possibility of putting the interests of lawyers’ clients above the interests of the public. This is especially true of lawyers representing large businesses and companies.
The Importance of the diversity of Thought and Knowledge in Legislation
Political scientists emphasize the need for the involvement of lawyers in legislation, as well as the involvement of many people with different backgrounds and educations. A 2012 paper in the Australian Parliamentary Review, “The Functions of Parliament: Reality Challenges Tradition,” describes the legislative process as multi-stakeholder process in a democratic system where people from different backgrounds, experiences and academic standings come together to do the work.
The interests and benefits behind large scale parliamentary legislation with majority participation have long been a key issue for political philosophers and theorists. Accordingly, the Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote in his 3rd book, Politics, that when individuals who are not considered serious individuals come together and work together, the results produced are better than those produced by working separately or in small groups. As an example of this, Aristotle gave the example of a meal prepared by many people together is better than a meal prepared by one person alone .
In his paper, “Representative Lawmaking,” New York University School of Law alumnus Jeremy Waldron argues that diversity is very important in legislation. He noted that when an issue is discussed, each member brings his own views. Thus, in a multi-stakeholder assembly. More insights, ideas, and information are gathered for the consultation process. It allows lawmakers to think deeply about the consequences of the laws that are being made.
The effect of laws is not limited to the courts and lawyers. It affects many different aspects of the economy, industries, businesses, and the daily lives of the general public’s activities and social relationships. Ultimately, the moral fabric of a country. Therefore, the involvement of people in the legislative process who are capable of reflecting on the laws from each of these perspectives and their impacts in depth will enrich the discussion in the legislative process.
Therefore, it is wrong to see legislation as exclusive to scholars in a particular field or to a particular class of people. Involving as many people as possible with diverse experiences, knowledge, and skills in the various fields affected by the laws will enrich the process and improve the outcome.
The Spirit of Working Beyond Party Lines
One of the most commonly used terms in American politics is bi-partisan legislation. It is a culture of legislation in which members of different political parties work together to achieve common interests at a collective level, putting aside hostility in political rivalry. So far, Maldivian legislature has not seen this culture.
The United States is one of the best examples of working with members of other parties across party lines. The Northwestern Institute for PolicyResearch published in 2017, “Are Bipartisan Lawmakers More Effective?” In this paper, its authors noted that while political rivalry and ideological differences between U.S. parties are wider than ever, members of the U.S. Congress who served between 1973 and 2016 were very successful at drafting legislation across party lines.
The authors further stated that the greatest benefits of having members of more than one party participate in the legislative process are found in the legislative process itself. They note that members of two different parties, with different ideologies, working together encourages different opinions on an issue and laws are designed to provide the solutions truly needed. Furthermore, the authors state that the data they collected showed that the likelihood of a legislator’s proposals being enacted was increased by working with members of different parties in the legislative process.
Thus, working with members of other parties during the legislative process helps legislation achieve its intended goals, while increasing the likelihood of a bill proposed by a member becoming law.
Reviewing and Evaluating Bills
Although individual MPs have the discretion to introduce legislation in the legislative assembly, the Parliament of the Republic of Maldives sees more bills sponsored by members on behalf of the government than individual MPs. According to the 2021 report, which is available on the parliament’s website, 32 bills were pending when parliament went into recess that year. Of those, 29 were introduced by the government.
Members of Parliament do not introduce bills themselves, but it is their responsibility to examine them and learn about the implications for the people and the state once they become law.
In, “Don’t Be Silly: Lawmakers “Rarely” Read Legislation,” University of Liverpool Professor Brian Christopher Jones wrote that not all members have the energy and ability to study legislative bills on various topics and understand the complex issues involved. For this reason, members of the legislatures of developed countries employ researchers at their own expense. He includes newly recruited university graduates in the t eam of legislators through whom parliamentarians examine key parts of the laws to formulate his own opinions on the laws.
In some countries, the political parties to which members belong are responsible for providing the Human Resources needed to enhance their participation in the legislative process. It conducts research on the laws at the parties’ own expense and makes arrangements for members to revive the necessary information.
These are new concepts to the political parties and members of parliament in Maldives. However, it is important for Maldives to have such systems to ensure that members of parliament properly discharge their legislative responsibilities.
The Legislator and His Party’s Ideology Play a Big Role
The decisions made by members in the legislative process depend on their views on the subject matter of the laws. In addition to the political ideology represented by the parties, each member has his own views and opinions as individuals. Therefore, their ideas play an important role in the legislative process.
In, “The Impact of Ideology on Legislative Behavior and Public Policy in the States,” in the 1983 issue of The Journal of Politics, published by the University of Chicago Press, Duke University professor Robert M. Entman explained the data he used in his research. There was a clear correlation between the decisions of lawmakers and their personal thoughts and opinions. He noted that the data also shows that members’ attitudes towards individual policies are particularly influential in legislation.
However, the data shows that members’ behavior in legislation is often shaped by the political party to which they belong. This means that the role of the party to which MPs belong is greater than their own ideas. Therefore, the philosophies, policies and views of the parties on various issues are important factors to consider when electing members.
Since legislation is the main responsibility of the Parliament, it is important for the people to understand how the elected members of Parliament will act in the various stages of legislation. Legislation is not only done by lawyers, and they are not the only ones involved. A separate group in parliament that includes people from different walks of life will improve the laws.
Having members of parliament who can and will work with members of other parties across party lines in legislation will increase the productivity of members and parliament and facilitate the achievement of the goals the laws seek to achieve. It is also important that the arrangements are in place for members to receive the necessary assistance in studying bills. The ideology of the legislator and the party to which he belongs are two key indicators of his behavior in the legislative process, so it is useful for voters to be clear about these things.