Rules of the Game – discussing democratic institutions
By Stephan Kyburz
What does it take to make democracy work? The Rules of the Game podcast discusses and compares democratic institutions from around the world. Institutions are the rules of the game of our societies that direct our everyday lives in fundamental ways. They determine whether we live in a free or repressed society – whether we can make our voices heard. Researchers, grass-roots political activists and politicians will join me on this journey of dissecting the struggle for fair representation in parliament, accountable executive governments, impartial justice, and direct democratic participation.
Patterns of Democracy with Arend Lijphart
With Arend Lijphart I discuss some of the fundamental questions regarding democratic institutions based on his seminal book “Patterns of Democracy: Government Forms and Performance in Thirty-Six Countries”, that he first published in 1999 and then updated in 2012. The book contrasts majoritarian and consensus models of democracy. It teaches a lot about democratic institutions and it greatly increased my own knowledge when I first read it during my studies. While the book has, of course, received some criticism, it remains a benchmark study of democracy. We talk about the stability and functioning of different systems of government and proportional representation in divided societies. I also wanted to know from him whether his conclusions had changed since the first publication of the book in 1999, and we also touch upon recent political events that make consensus models of democracy appear to be the far better choice. Arend Lijphart is Professor Emeritus at the Political Science Department of UC San Diego. He received his PhD from Yale University in 1963. Arend's research focuses on comparative politics, elections and voting systems, institutions, ethnicity and politics, and he is a leading authority on consociationalism. He is the author and editor of more than a dozen books. He was elected to serve as president of the American Political Science Association in 1995-96. He has received numerous awards throughout his career, including the Johan Skytte Prize in Political Science, the Aaron Wildavsky Book Award, and three honorary doctorates. Show notes with a full transcript and links to all material discussed: https://rulesofthegame.blog/patterns-of-democracy/ Schedule: 00:00 Introduction / 03:35 Personal questions / 05:44 Main discussion / 42:30 Recommendations by Arend Lijphart. Check out Arend Lijphart's research on his website: https://polisci.ucsd.edu/people/faculty/faculty-directory/emeriti-faculty/lijphart-profile.html Find the book "Patterns of Democracy: Government Forms and Performance in Thirty-Six Countries" here: https://yalebooks.yale.edu/book/9780300172027/patterns-of-democracy/ Please send feedback to email@example.com. If you find my discussions interesting and you’d like to support my work, consider buying me a coffee at https://www.buymeacoffee.com/rulesofthegame Many thanks to Ana Margarida Santos who edited the episode. Please enjoy this wide ranging conversation with Arend Lijphart.
December 06, 2022
The State of Democracy in West Africa with Idayat Hassan
With Idayat Hassan I discuss the state of democracies in West Africa. She is the Director of the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), an organization that is advocating for democratic reforms across the West African Region, and based in Abuja, Nigeria. The organization was founded in 1997 in London by Nigerians in Exile when Nigeria was still under military rule. But it relocated to Lagos when Nigeria made the important transition to a democratic regime in 1999. It has remained a bridge building institution between policymakers, civil society activists, and academics in West Africa ever since. If Idayat Hassan could change one institution in her home country Nigeria, it would be to strengthen the whole system of Federalism, to give local governments more autonomy, and more decision making power. What currently worries her is the reemergence of coups d’etat across Western Africa that make politics less predictable, and destroy democratic principles. She elaborates how the situation has been developing in recent times. An institution that the CDD is advocating for is the proportional representation electoral system that would get rid of the zero-sum politics, and allow emerging political parties to gain fair representation in parliament. Yet, proportional representation has received very little attention in the region so far. Idayat Hassan is a lawyer and has held fellowships in universities across Europe and the United States. Idayat received her bachelor’s degree in law from the Lagos State University, and she holds an LL.M. in legal theory from the European Academy of Legal Theory, based in Brussels. Her interests span democracy, peace and security, transitional justice, and information and communications technology for development in West Africa. Idayat frequently appears in international and local media as an expert on the region and is regularly quoted in the BBC, Washington Post, The Economist, Radio France Internationale,, Deutsche Welle and many more. Show notes with a full transcript and links to all material discussed: https://rulesofthegame.blog/the-state-of-democracy-in-west-africa/ Schedule: 00:00 Introduction / 04:10 Personal questions / 07:06 Main discussion / 36:50 Recommendations by Idayat Hassan. Follow Idayat on Twitter (https://twitter.com/HassanIdayat) and LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/hassan-idayat-60939824/). Check out the website of Centre for Democracy and Development: https://cddwestafrica.org/ Please send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you find my discussions interesting and you’d like to support my work, consider buying me a coffee at https://www.buymeacoffee.com/rulesofthegame Many thanks to Ana Margarida Santos who edited the episode. Please enjoy this wide ranging conversation with Idayat Hassan.
November 12, 2022
Digital Open Local Democracy with Wietse Van Ransbeeck
With Wietse Van Ransbeeck I discuss citizen participation at the local government level. Wietse was discouraged by the existing possibilities to participate in local political processes in his home town in Belgium, and he didn’t want to become a politician. So he founded CitizenLab that provides digital tools and services for local governments that want to integrate the citizens’ opinions and knowledge in local policies. Digitalization is substantially lowering the costs for citizens to have their voices heard. There is great potential in digital tools and we discuss the opportunities they offer, but also some of the risks. Wietse Van Ransbeeck is the Co-Founder and CEO of CitizenLab, a company that provides a community engagement platform made for local governments that makes it easy to engage their residents, manage inputs, and make informed decisions. He is an impact entrepreneur and determined to rebuild our democracies from the bottom-up. He was recognized as Forbes 30 Under 30 Europe leader, and was a Young Transatlantic Innovator Leadership Initiative Fellow in 2018. He graduated with a Master’s Degree in Business Engineering Solvay Brussels School of Economics and Management. Show notes with a full transcript and links to all material discussed: https://rulesofthegame.blog/digital-open-local-democracy/ Schedule: 00:00 Introduction / 03:37 Personal questions / 05:07 Main discussion / 39:02 Recommendations by Wietse Van Ransbeeck Follow Wietse on Twitter (https://twitter.com/WietseVR) and LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/wietsevanransbeeck/). Check out the website of CitizenLab: https://www.citizenlab.co/ Please send feedback to email@example.com. If you find my discussions interesting and you’d like to support my work, consider buying me a coffee at https://www.buymeacoffee.com/rulesofthegame Many thanks to Ana Margarida Santos who edited the episode and compiled the transcript. Please enjoy this wide ranging conversation with Wietse Van Ransbeeck.
October 27, 2022
Let the people rule with John Matsusaka
With John Matsusaka I discuss direct democracy, based on his latest book “Let the People Rule: How Direct Democracy Can Meet the Populist Challenge”, that he published with the Princeton University Press in 2020. Many people feel disconnected from politics. Direct democracy is a powerful democratic institution that can reconnect people with political processes and give them actual political power. Together we discuss the possibilities and pitfalls of direct democracy, and – based on his extensive research – John provides insights and opinions on direct democracy in the US and in general. The book indeed provides not only a great overview of the historic origins of direct democracy in the US, but also suggestions to implement direct democracy at the federal level. Direct democracy is definitely here to stay. The question is how to use it in the best possible way rather than to cancel it as populist. Technology will bring another boost to direct democracy, carrying with it a lot of risks but also great opportunities. So the earlier we get to grips with this institution, the better for our societies. John Matsusaka is Charles F. Sexton Chair in American Enterprise, Professor of Finance and Business Economics, and Executive Director of Initiative and Referendum Institute. An economist by training, he works on topics related to political economy, direct democracy, corporate finance, and corporate governance. His article "Ballot Order Effects in Direct Democracy Elections" received the Duncan Black Prize for best paper in Public Choice. He provides commentary for media outlets including ABC News, CNN, Fox News, NPR, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Washington Post. Show notes with a full transcript and links to all material discussed: https://rulesofthegame.blog/let-the-people-rule/ Schedule: 00:00 Introduction / 03:47 Personal questions / 06:04 Main discussion / 41:54 Recommendations by John Matsusaka Find more of John Matsusaka's research on his website. Please send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you find my discussions interesting and you’d like to support my work, consider buying me a coffee at https://www.buymeacoffee.com/rulesofthegame Please enjoy this wide ranging conversation with John Matsusaka.
October 18, 2022
New Zealand's electoral reform with Jack Nagel
New Zealand’s electoral reform of 1996 is an important case to know and understand for anyone interested in institutional change. With Jack Nagel I discuss how New Zealand moved from a Westminster type first-past-the-post system to a mixed-member proportional representation (MMP) system, that we find in Germany for instance. The reform changed not only the character of its parliament but also of its governments. The reform has allowed smaller parties to be better represented and it also improved the overall balance of political power. Prior to the reform the Labour Party and the National party controlled the political regime, while now they mostly have to cooperate with smaller parties. Together we talk about the major political events and developments prior to the reform and how many factors contributed to the reform movement and dynamics. In particular, direct democracy played an important role in pushing the political system forward in major steps. But also an educational campaign explaining the various suggested electoral systems gave the people the necessary knowledge to make a solid decision. Jack Nagel is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Arts and Sciences, where he studies democratic theory, voting systems, social choice, and political participation. He is the author of three books on representation, participation and the descriptive analysis of political power and many papers, including articles published in the American Political Science Review, British Journal of Political Science, Journal of Politics, and World Politics. Show notes with a full transcript and links to all material discussed: https://rulesofthegame.blog/new-zealands-electoral-reform/ Schedule: 00:00 Introduction / 03:35 Personal questions / 06:21 Main discussion / 49:12 Recommendations by Jack Nagel Find more of Jack Nagel's research on his website. Please send feedback to email@example.com. If you find my discussions interesting and you’d like to support my work, consider buying me a coffee at https://www.buymeacoffee.com/rulesofthegame Please enjoy this wide ranging conversation with Jack Nagel.
September 29, 2022
Moderated parliamentarism with Tarunabh Khaitan
With Tarunabh Khaitan I discuss “Moderated Parliamentarism”, a concept of a system of government that he describes in great detail in a paper titled “Balancing Accountability and Effectiveness: A Case for Moderated Parliamentarism”. It seeks to combine the most attractive elements of different regime types and electoral systems – checks and balances from presidentialism, continuous confidence of the political executive from parliamentarism, preventing factions through majoritarian electoral systems, and political plurality via proportional representation systems. Moderated parliamentarism is a version of semi-parliamentarism, with two symmetric but incongruent chambers that perform different functions. It is a form of government that I have discussed with Steffen Ganghof in a previous episode. So this insightful discussion with Tarunabh Khaitan is an excellent follow-up to get into some further details and variations of a semi-parliamentary system. While Tarun says that he doesn’t actually see a country adopting his exact version of Moderated Parliamentarism, the paper presents an inspiring case of design thinking with respect to democratic institutions. Tarunabh Khaitan is Professor of Public Law and Legal Theory, and Head of Research in the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights. He specializes in legal theory, constitutional studies, and discrimination law. He is the founding General Editor of the Indian Law Review and founder & advisor of the Junior Faculty Forum for Indian Law Teachers. He completed his undergraduate studies at the National Law School of Bangalore in 2004 and then came to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar and completed his postgraduate studies, including his Doctor of Philosophy at Exeter College. Tarunabh Khaitan was awarded the 2018 Letten Prize, an award given every years to a young researcher under the age of 45 conducting research of great social relevance. Show notes with a full transcript and links to all material discussed: https://rulesofthegame.blog/moderated-parliamentarism/ Schedule: 00:00 Introduction / 03:43 Personal questions / 05:59 Main discussion / 58:45 Recommendations by Tarunabh Khaitan Find more of Tarun's research on his website and please follow Tarun on Twitter. Please send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you find my discussions interesting and you’d like to support my work, consider buying me a coffee at https://www.buymeacoffee.com/rulesofthegame Please enjoy this wide ranging conversation with Tarunabh Khaitan.
September 16, 2022
Women's representation in U.S. politics with Cynthia Richie Terrell
Women occupy only 24% of seats in the U.S. Senate, and 28% of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Only 18% of governors are women, and there has never been a female US president as we all know. With Cynthia Richie Terrell I discuss the representation of women in politics. She is the Executive Director and Founder of RepresentWomen, an organization that pushes for parity of women in U.S. politics. The organization started as Representation2020, a program of the non-partisan reform group FairVote, that worked to build a solid intellectual foundation from which future work on representation of women could grow. The discussion touches on many different aspects of electoral systems, women in politics and society, and the strategies that RepresentWomen adopted to push to improve women's political power in America. Cynthia Richie Terrell is a founding member of the ReflectUs coalition, and an outspoken advocate for institutional reforms to advance women’s representation and leadership. Cynthia and her husband Rob Richie helped to found FairVote - a nonpartisan champion of electoral reforms that give voters greater choice, a stronger voice, and more representative democracy. In 2020 Cynthia was named a Brewer Fellow and she has been published in numerous print journals including the Washington Post, The New York Times. She graduated with a B.A. in political science from Swarthmore College in 1986. Show notes with a full transcript and links to all material discussed: https://rulesofthegame.blog/womens-representation-in-us-politics/ Schedule: 0:00 Introduction / 3:32 Personal questions / 6:00 main discussion / 44:24 Recommendations by Cynthia Richie Terrell Find more information about Cynthia Richie Terrell: https://www.representwomen.org/cynthia-richie-terrell Follow Cynthia on Twitter: https://twitter.com/CynthiaRTerrell Please send feedback to email@example.com. Please enjoy this wide ranging conversation with Cynthia Richie Terrell.
September 02, 2022
Venezuela's democratic erosion with Maryhen Jiménez
Since Hugo Chávez came to power in the presidential election in 1998, Venezuela has experienced a staggering democratic erosion, with increasing levels of repression. As soon as Chávez assumed office, he initiated the writing of a new constitution through a controversial process that was approved by citizens in two referendums, yet with very low turnout. With Maryhen Jiménez I discuss how Venezuela transitioned from a weak democratic system in the 1990s to an authoritarian regime. She walks us not only through major political developments prior to the 1999 constitution, but provides fascinating insights into how Chávez was able to capture and concentrate power while the opposition tried to use institutional and extra-institutional means to regain control of the political process. In particular she shares the findings of her research on the attempts of the opposition to coordinate and join forces to challenge the power of Chávez and later Maduro. Maryhen Jiménez is a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow at the Latin American Centre, and holds a PhD from the Department of Politics and International Relations, both at Oxford University. She was also a visiting researcher at Princeton University, and the Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas (CIDE) in Mexico. Show notes with a full transcript and links to all material discussed: https://rulesofthegame.blog/venezuelas-democratic-erosion/ Schedule: 0:00 Introduction / 4:25 Personal questions / 10:56 main discussion / 59:55 Recommendations by Maryhen Jiménez Find more information about Maryhen Jiménez research: https://www.maryhenjimenez.com/ Follow Maryhen on Twitter: https://twitter.com/MaryhenJimenez, and Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/maryhenjimenez/ Please send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please enjoy this wide ranging conversation with Maryhen Jiménez.
July 21, 2022
Turkey's democratic backsliding with Esra İşsever-Ekinci
Turkey has experienced a severe erosion of democratic principles. Democratic institutions have been changed, the media heavily influenced and controlled by government forces, and opposition politicians are intimidated and persecuted. With Esra İşsever-Ekinci I discuss Turkey's democratic backsliding. She explains what steps the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) took to secure their power grab. Changing the democratic institutions was an essential part of preserving power, so that now it looks unlikely that the opposition forces are able to seriously challenge this power in the upcoming elections in the 2023 general elections. To name just two setbacks, a presidential system was introduced in 2017, that concentrates more power in the executive, and the media have become heavily controlled by the government so that the opposition has mostly lost its voice. Esra İşsever-Ekinci is a postdoctoral researcher at Koç University in Istanbul. She got her PhD in Political Science and Government from the Maxwell School at Syracuse University in the U.S. in 2019. Her research is in Comparative Politics, Comparative Political Institutions and Electoral Systems, focusing especially on issues of electoral reform and gender. CORRIGENDUM: 8:33 Democrat Party instead of Democratic Party; 13:20 1970s instead of 1960s; 19:47 15 million votes, it may sound like 50 million. Show notes with a full transcript and links to all material discussed: https://rulesofthegame.blog/turkeys-democratic-backsliding/ Schedule: 0:00 Introduction / 3:07 Personal questions / 5:34 main discussion / 40:29 Recommendations by Esra İşsever-Ekinci Find more information about Esra İşsever-Ekinci's research: https://gsssh.ku.edu.tr/en/departments/international-relations-and-political-science/faculty/show/esraekinci/ Follow Esra on Twitter: https://twitter.com/es_ekinci Please send feedback to email@example.com. Please enjoy this wide ranging conversation with Esra İşsever-Ekinci.
July 02, 2022
Brazil's principal democratic institutions with José Antonio Cheibub
Brazil’s democratic journey has been one of great hopes and progress, yet also one of disappointments and distrust in democratic institutions. Brazil is a vast country of 214 million people, organized in a federation of 26 states and the Federal District of Brasilia. Using a bicameral system, the Chamber of Deputies represents the people, while the Senate represents the states. The president is elected in a two-round electoral system. With José Antonio Cheibub I discuss some of the principal democratic institutions of Brazil. He shares with us his insights based on 30 years of research. We talk about how the presidency is checked by the two chambers, and that he thinks that the institutions during the Bolsonaro presidency actually worked as they are supposed to work. Many feared Bolsonaro would disassemble the democratic institutions, yet he has been mostly held in check, and he will possibly lose power in the next general election in October. José Antonio Cheibub also mentions that the party fragmentation has become a problem since voters cannot distinguish among the many party labels. Yet, a peculiar coalition rule, that was the main cause of the fragmentation, has recently been removed, which already led to reshuffles in the party landscape. José Antonio Cheibub is Mary Thomas Marshall Professor of Liberal Arts at the Texas A&M University. He has made seminal contributions to political science research and published four books, including Presidentialism, Parliamentarism, and Democracy. Show notes with a full transcript and links to all material discussed: https://rulesofthegame.blog/brazils-principal-democratic-institutions/ Schedule: 0:00 Introduction / 3:16 Personal questions / 4:39 main discussion / 43:42 Recommendations by José Antonio Cheibub Find more information about José Antonio Cheibub's research: https://sites.google.com/site/joseantoniocheibub/ Follow José Antonio Cheibub on Twitter: https://twitter.com/CheibubJose Please send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please enjoy this wide ranging conversation with José Antonio Cheibub.
June 18, 2022
France's electoral systems with Emiliano Grossman
The two-round presidential elections in France back in April created lots of discussions in the media and widespread concerns that a right-wing candidate, Marine Le Pen, would rise to power. Yet, Emmanuel Macron prevailed in the second round with 58% of the vote. Very soon, on June 12th and 19th, voters in France are going to the polls to elect the 577 members of the National Assembly. With Emiliano Grossman I discuss the electoral systems used in the French democracy, both for the presidential and legislative elections. We dive into the historical roots of the Fifth Republic that introduced many of these institutions in 1958 and how they evolved over time. Emiliano explains how they affect representation, the political party landscape and parties’ strategies to win votes. It was an instructive and insightful conversation in which Emiliano shares his opinions based on 20 years of political research. Emiliano Grossman is an Associate Professor at Centre d’études européennes et de politique comparée at Sciences Po, in Paris since 2012. He got his PhD from Sciences Po, and completed his habilitation from Sciences Po Grenoble in 2014. He has published numerous articles in top academic journals on comparative political institutions and agenda-setting processes. His latest book is titled “Do Elections (Still) Matter? Mandates, Institutions, and Policies in Western Europe” (Oxford University Press). Show notes with a full transcript and links to all material discussed: https://rulesofthegame.blog/frances-electoral-systems/ Schedule: 0:00 Introduction / 3:07 Personal questions / 4:12 main discussion / 47:13 Recommendations by Emiliano Grossman Find more information about Emiliano Grossman research: https://www.emilianogrossman.eu/ Follow Emiliano Grossman on Twitter: https://twitter.com/e_grossman_fr Please send feedback to email@example.com. Please enjoy this wide ranging conversation with Emiliano Grossman.
June 01, 2022
Chile's new constitution with Gabriel Negretto
The draft of the new constitution of Chile is now published. The constitutional convention met for the first time on 4 July 2021 and has now completed a draft constitution that the people of Chile will vote on in September 2022. It has been a process of inspiration and hope, but also of controversies, and especially of hard constitutional work. With Gabriel Negretto I discuss the main political institutions of the new constitution. He describes the ups and downs, and the milestones that were reached by the convention. He has been following the process up close. Almost exactly a year ago, I talked to Claudia Heiss in Episode 8 about the incredible journey that Chile has taken from the overwhelming street protests that caused the popular votes on a constitutional convention to drafting a brand new constitution. Gabriel Negretto now comments on the continuation of this extraordinary journey. Gabriel Negretto is a Full Professor of Political Science at the Institute of Political Science of the Catholic University of Santiago de Chile. His research focuses on comparative constitutional politics, electoral and constitutional change, and democratization, and he has also been a consultant to international organizations, such as the United Nations, and the Inter-American Development Bank, among others. His most recent book is titled Redrafting Constitutions in Democratic Regimes: Theoretical and Comparative Perspectives (Cambridge University Press, 2020), and he also published countless articles in top academic journals including the American Political Science Review. Show notes with a full transcript and links to all material discussed: https://rulesofthegame.blog/chiles-new-constitution/ Schedule: 0:00 Introduction / 3:07 Personal questions / 4:54 Milestones during the process / 22:16 democratic institutions / 50:46 Recommendations by Gabriel Negretto Find more information about Gabriel Negretto research here: https://gabrielnegretto.com/ Follow Gabriel Negretto on Twitter: https://twitter.com/NewBehemot Please send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please enjoy this wide ranging conversation with Gabriel Negretto.
May 19, 2022
Deliberative democracy and citizens' assemblies with Ian O'Flynn
What most people think of when they hear deliberative democracy probably are citizens’ assemblies. Deliberation is the process of thoughtfully discussing a specific topic, weighing different options, and using logic and reason to form opinions within a group, that then may lead to a decision or consensus. With Ian O’Flynn, I discuss various forms of deliberative democracy, from parliaments, to deliberative polls, to citizens’ juries, and the most well-known the citizens’ assemblies. Modern concepts of deliberative democracy have been developed by political scientists, best summarized as mini-publics. The most common characteristic of mini-publics is that participants are selected based on sortition, that is a random selection of people from the entire population. The randomly selected people then come together to deliberate and possibly make recommendations to the government. Ian has conducted extensive research both on deliberative and participatory democracy. He explains the various challenges and opportunities of mini-publics and how they can fit in the wider context of democracy. Mini-publics may likely further develop as an institution of modern democracies, complementing representative and direct democracy. Ian O’Flynn is Senior Lecturer in Political Theory at Newcastle University. He holds a PhD from Queen's University in Belfast. His main research interests are in deliberative democracy, but he also works on compromise, power sharing and referendums. He has written several books, the most recent ones titled Deliberative Democracy and Deliberative Peace Referendums. I link to his website and to his Twitter account in the show notes. Schedule: 0:00 Introduction / 3:25 Personal questions / 8:50 Main discussion of deliberative democracy and citizens' assemblies / 54:42 Ian O'Flynn's recommendations of resources on deliberative democracy Show notes with a full transcript and links to all material discussed: https://rulesofthegame.blog/deliberative-democracy-and-citizens-assemblies/ Find more information about Ian O'Flynn's research here: https://www.ncl.ac.uk/gps/staff/profile/ianoflynn.html Follow Ian O'Flynn on Twitter: https://twitter.com/DelibNet Please enjoy this wider ranging conversation with Ian O'Flynn.
May 05, 2022
Federalism – empowering communities
Federalism is power-sharing among regions and the central government of a country. It is the vertical division of power. It’s a joint agreement of regions, of states, of communities, that leaves the subnational governments the choice and possibility to find their own appropriate, tailor-made governance solutions for its communities. Federalism can only work with strong democratic institutions. It is crucial that institutions represent and balance the people’s interests well, and that put executive constraints on local leaders, and that do not concentrate power in local elites. Federalism cherishes differences rather than uniformity. It cherishes different cultures, different languages and different communities. In this episode, I provide a preview of some of the issues I want to discuss with regard to federalism and decentralization, which will be a significant topic on the show. Find the show notes with a full transcript and links to all material discussed here: https://rulesofthegame.blog/federalism-empowering-communities/ I am curious to hear your opinion on this episode, so please send me an email to email@example.com.
April 22, 2022
The evolution of women's political power in Switzerland with Marlène Gerber
Women in Switzerland lacked direct political power until 1971. Up until then, women didn’t have the right to vote and the right to be elected – at least the national level –, despite efforts to introduce women’s suffrage that had started already a hundred years earlier. Yet, once full political rights were obtained, women used the available political instruments and power with strategy and determination. With Marlène Gerber, I discuss the evolution of women’s political power in Switzerland. She outlines the milestones on this long journey to political equality. One central question is why it took Switzerland so long to introduce women’s suffrage compared to many other countries. We discuss this and many other developments around women’s participation in Swiss politics. Marlène Gerber is Deputy Director of the Année Politique Suisse, the Yearbook of Swiss Politics, at the Institute of Political Science of the University of Bern. She finished her PhD thesis on the potential for deliberation among EU citizens in 2013, based on a project funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation. Find the show notes with a full transcript and links to all material discussed here: https://rulesofthegame.blog/the-evolution-of-womens-political-power-in-switzerland/ Find more information about Marlène Gerber's research here: https://www.ipw.unibe.ch/about_us/people/dr_gerber_marlne/index_eng.html Follow Marlène Gerber on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Gerber3Mara Please enjoy this wider ranging conversation with Marlène Gerber.
April 08, 2022
Kenya's devolution of government with Brenda Ogembo
Kenya’s 2010 constitution introduced substantial changes to the vertical allocation of political power that has been exercised at two tiers of government since then: the central government and the 47 counties. Despite the devolution of many of Kenya's government functions, the country is organized as a unitary state, and hence county governments are not as independent as in a truly federal structure. Yet, devolution is giving the subnational governments significant political decision making power by defining the functions that the lower tiers of government can exercise. With Brenda Ogembo I discuss the many different facets of Kenya’s devolution since 2010. She explains the historic background of the struggle for political power between the center and the various regions and tribes of Kenya. Brenda is convinced that the Kenyan people are generally satisfied with having more political responsibilities and power at the county level, while the implementation is of course challenging. I also ask her about the electoral systems used for county government elections, and the role of international development partners in citizen participation. We really do tap into a great variety of topics around devolution in Kenya. Brenda Ogembo is a democracy and governance expert and works as a Principal Clerk Assistant for the Senate Legislative and Procedural Services at the Parliament of Kenya. She holds a PhD in Political Science and Governance from the University of Birmingham. What makes this conversation so fascinating is that Brenda not only has done extensive research on Kenya’s devolution, but that she has many years of experience working for the parliament in Kenya implementing such processes and thus providing first-hand experiences. Find the show notes with links to all material discussed here: https://rulesofthegame.blog/kenyas-devolution-of-government/ Find out more about Brenda's research here. Follow Brenda on Twitter or LinkedIn. Now please enjoy this wide ranging conversation with Brenda Ogembo.
March 31, 2022
The Swiss Federal Council: shared executive power with Nenad Stojanović
The Swiss Federal Council is a 7-member council that constitutes the executive branch of government. Instead of concentrating power in one person only, as in a presidential system, power is shared among 7 people, the members of the council who are also ministers of the government departments. The 7 Federal Councillors are elected by the joint-session of the two chambers of parliament for a fixed term of four years. Decisions are taken by majority vote in the council, nonetheless the council tries to find solutions by collegial deliberation. The Swiss Federal Council exhibits a stronger separation of powers than a parliamentary system, while avoiding executive personalism. With Nenad Stojanović I discuss the historic origins and the functions of the Swiss Federal Council. He explains why a one-person presidency would unlikely be accepted by the Swiss people, because of its diverse regions, languages, and cultures. He also describes how the institution of direct democracy put pressure on the governing party to include opposition parties in the Federal Council, and how proportional representation elections for the National council, the lower chamber, built the fundament for a balanced representation of the four largest parties in the executive government. This form of executive council government has successfully managed Switzerland ever since its first modern constitution in 1848, and was a central institution in its development to become one of the most stable and prosperous democracies in the world. Nenad Stojanović is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Geneva, funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation. He holds a Doctorate degree in political science from the University of Zurich. He has published extensively on democratic institutions, especially with regard to multi-ethnic and multilingual societies. He has quite recently published another book titled: Multilingual Democracy. Switzerland and Beyond. Find the show notes with links to all material discussed here: https://rulesofthegame.blog/the-swiss-federal-council-shared-executive-power/ Find more information about Nenad's research here: https://nenadstojanovic.ch/ Follow Nenad on Twitter: https://twitter.com/StojanovicNenad Now please enjoy this wide ranging conversation with Nenad Stojanović!
March 23, 2022
A short history of political institutions
What are political institutions and how did they evolve over time? In this episode I tell the story of how small, local societies based on kin were integrated into monarchies, and then finally made the transition to democracy. First though, I comment on the devastating, barbaric attack by Putin on Ukraine. This is not only an insane assault on the Ukrainian people, but also on freedom, democracy and our rules based peace. In this episode I explain what formal and informal institutions are, and how they function in our societies. I describe the transition from what Thomas Hobbes called a "state of nature", to more integrated sophisticated monarchies with developing yet non-elected parliamentary institutions. And finally how the struggle between the elites and the common people, between rich and poor, through many uprisings led to the extension of the franchise to all citizens, and to more inclusive, democratic institutions. This simplified, and I hope useful account of the evolution of political and democratic institutions is mostly based on the books "Prosperity and Violence" by Robert H. Bates (2001, 2010), and "The Economic Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy" by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson (2005). I highly recommend the former, while the latter is a very technical political-economic, though highly insightful book. Find a full transcript and the show notes here: https://rulesofthegame.blog/a-short-history-of-political-institutions/ Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/skyburz Please enjoy this episode!
March 01, 2022
Beyond presidentialism and parliamentarism with Steffen Ganghof
Presidentialism and parliamentarism are the two main forms of government used around the world. Yet, what are the characteristics and problems with these systems and may there exist other forms of government that combine the benefits of both systems – ensuring the separation of powers and avoiding executive personalism? One answer is semi-parliamentarism. With Steffen Ganghof I discuss his recent book “Beyond Presidentialism and Parliamentarism: Democratic Design and the Separation of Powers” in which he studies and examines semi-parliamentarism at length. Steffen Ganghof shares with us what motivated him to write the book and why he thinks political scientists should spend more time on design thinking – exploring alternatives to current democratic systems in use. He elaborates on how semi-parliamentarism assigns the two parliamentary chambers specific functions, making the first chamber to hold government to account, while enabling the second chamber to solve complex legislative questions. This government design really has some intriguing qualities. Steffen Ganghof is Professor of Comparative Politics at the University of Potsdam in Germany. He completed his doctoral thesis at the University Bremen and his habilitation at the University Cologne. He has published in many leading journals such as Comparative Political Studies and the Journal of European Public Policy, among many others, and written two books prior to Beyond Presidentialism and Parliamentarism. Find the show notes with links to all material discussed here: https://rulesofthegame.blog/beyond-presidentialism-and-parliamentarism/ OPEN ACCESS: the book is available for free as a PDF at https://global.oup.com/academic/product/beyond-presidentialism-and-parliamentarism-9780192897145?cc=ro&lang=en& Find out more about Steffen Ganghof's work and publications at https://www.uni-potsdam.de/en/vergleichende-politikwissenschaft/team/prof-dr-steffen-ganghof Follow Steffen Ganghof on Twitter: https://twitter.com/SteffenGanghof Please enjoy this wide ranging conversation with Steffen Ganghof.
February 10, 2022
Taiwan's Direct Democracy with Yen-Tu Su
Taiwan’s democratic and economic development have been truly remarkable. In the process its direct democratic institutions have become a pivotal political tool for the citizen to guide major political decisions. With Yen-Tu Su I discuss the astounding development of Taiwan’s direct democracy since its early days, and its crucial revisions and improvements in its usability since 2003. The now ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) made putting direct democratic institutions into practice one main campaign promise, and once in power revised the referendum law to give citizens more decision making power. The initiative, referendum and recall are now used on a regular basis, which also led to controversial discussions about the right balance of representative and direct democracy. The founder of the Republic of China, Sun Yat-Sen, already in 1924 praised direct democratic institutions saying that referendums and recall are “the solutions to transforming China into the world's most advanced country”. The ideas of direct democracy were subsequently already enshrined into Taiwan’s first constitution of 1947. Once the country country made a consequential democratic turn in the 1990s, the people of Taiwan took the political leadership at their word and embraced direct democratic power as an opportunity to safeguard the country’s political destiny. Yen-Tu Su is an Associate Research Professor at the Institutum Iurisprudentiae at the Academia Sinica. He got his bachelor and master in law from the National Taiwan University, and an LL.M and Doctor of Juridical Science (S.J.D.) from Harvard Law School, which is Harvard’s most advanced law degree. He has written and published numerous articles and book chapters on Taiwan’s democratic institutions. Internationally he is an important voice for Taiwan’s democratic development, for instance contributing an op-ed for the Washington Post titled ”Taiwan is revolutionizing democracy”. Find the show notes with links to all material discussed here: https://rulesofthegame.blog/taiwans-direct-democracy/ Find more information about Yen-Tu Su's research and publications at https://www.iias.sinica.edu.tw/en/member_post/14?class=12. Please enjoy this wide ranging conversation with Yen-Tu Su.
January 27, 2022
Single transferable vote for the Swiss Council of States
In this episode I propose to change the Swiss constitution to implement a single transferable vote electoral system to elect the members of the Council of States (called Ständerat in German). The Council of States is the Senate of Switzerland, the upper of two co-equal chambers, representing the 26 Cantons (states) in the federal government structure. The electoral reform would mean to use ranked choice ballots in two-seat electoral districts. Currently the Cantons are responsible for conducting the State Council elections. Most cantons use a two-round majority-plurality electoral system. In the first round candidates with an absolute majority are elected, while in the second round a plurality of votes is required. While the current system seems to enjoy wide support and is rarely questioned, it leaves voters no option to state their true ranked preferences of candidates, it leads to strategic voting, and favors the larger, predominant parties. The introduction of a single transferable vote law with a ranked ballot for the Swiss Council of States in all cantons would make elections fairer across all cantons, more representative and also cheaper. Since all the preferences of voters would be recorded on the ballots in just one round, the election administration becomes also simpler since the second round is obsolete. This episode wants to achieve two goals. First, to propose and present single transferable voting as an improvement of Swiss State Council elections. And Second, proposing a strategy via a popular initiative how it could be achieved. I am curious about your thoughts on this proposal. Please do get in touch and provide feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org. Find the show notes with links to all material discussed here: https://rulesofthegame.blog/single-transferable-vote-for-the-swiss-council-of-states/
January 17, 2022
Directer Democracy with Roslyn Fuller
Can there be too much democracy? What are anti-democrats and how do they undermine democracy? How can direct democratic instruments give people more decision making power? Are citizen assemblies a way to strengthen democracy? I discuss these and many more questions with Roslyn Fuller who has written extensively on defending democracy. Democracy needs to be defended not only against autocrats and authoritarian forces, but also against so-called anti-democrats that think the political and intellectual elites know better and should decide in lieu of the rest of society. Democracy needs to be defended against those who want to restrict the right to participate and the right to decide. Direct democracy offers a powerful option to give people more decision making power and hence more control of the political process, but it has to be applied and used with caution and we seek to correct some of the misunderstandings around this powerful political tool. Roslyn also shares her experiences with citizen assemblies that are currently organized all over, and explains why she does not support them as a tool to strengthen democracy. Finally, we also discuss the risks and opportunities of digital technologies for democratic institutions. Dr. Roslyn Fuller has written several books on democracy, the latest titled “In Defence of Democracy”. She was educated in Germany and Ireland with a PhD in International Law from Trinity College, in Dublin. Roslyn’s experience as a lecturer, author, and political consultant has given her unique insights into structures of public governance and, above all, the mechanics of political power. Her relentless defence of people power has seen her articles and interviews published in countless newspapers and magazines. Find the show notes with links to all material discussed here: https://rulesofthegame.blog/directer-democracy/ Follow Roslyn Fuller's research on her website: https://www.roslynfuller.com/ and on Twitter: https://twitter.com/roslynfuller Please enjoy this wide ranging conversation with Roslyn Fuller.
December 17, 2021
Proportional representation in America? with Jack Santucci
Reforms of US electoral systems both at the local and national level would fundamentally change US politics. The two parties, that are a consequence of the single-seat plurality voting, fully control all democratic institutions. Only by making the electoral systems more proportional could outsider parties compete fairly against the Republican and Democratic party. With Jack Santucci I discuss how electoral reform to introduce proportional representation (PR), for instance through open-list PR in multi-seat districts, could be an essential solution to the US political gridlock, making congressional elections more dynamic and leading to better representation. Jack has conducted some of the most comprehensive research on the history of US electoral reform, which is going to be published in his forthcoming book “More Parties or No Parties: The Politics of Electoral Reform in America” (Oxford University Press). The book lays out a 'shifting coalitions' theory of electoral reform, and analyzes a wave of ranked-ballot reforms in American cities during the Progressive Era and the New Deal. Jack explains how the Democratic party could insulate itself against losing power through electoral reform. The window of opportunity may be short though. As the Republican party is increasingly controlled by politicians that disregard democratic principles, the perils of hardly contestable political offices become more real by the day. Also concerning is that many reform proposals would just not make congressional elections proportional enough to disrupt the two-party impasse. Jack Santucci is an Assistant Teaching Professor of Politics at Drexel University. He got his PhD in Political Science from Georgetown University. During the academic year 2017-8, he was a Research Fellow at the Democracy Fund. Before graduate school, he worked at the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), the Campaign Finance Institute, FairVote, Café Bonaparte, and a congressional district office. Find the show notes with links to all material discussed here: https://rulesofthegame.blog/proportional-representation-in-america/ Follow Jack Santucci's research on his website: https://www.jacksantucci.com and on Twitter: https://twitter.com/jacksantucci Please enjoy this wide ranging conversation with Jack Santucci.
December 06, 2021
Parliamentarism vs. presidentialism with Tiago Santos
There are broadly speaking two forms of government: Parliamentarism and presidentialism. The main difference is that in a parliamentary system the government is subordinated to the parliament and accountable to that parliament. While a president in a presidential system is elected by the people for a fixed term and does not depend on parliament, but is accountable to the people. Examples of parliamentary systems are the United Kingdom, Germany, or South Africa. Examples for presidential systems are the USA, Brazil, Chile or Nigeria. My guest in this episode, Tiago Santos, has written a book on this topic titled “Why Not Parliamentarism?”. Together we discuss what are the important differences between the two systems, what are possible advantages and disadvantages, and about his opinion on whether the electoral law, for instance proportional representation, matters for the well-functioning of the government system. We strongly agreed on the point that the discussion of this subject matter should be way more public and prominent across the globe, and that this question is particularly absent in current development economics' research. Tiago Santos has been a Brazilian career diplomat since 2007 and has worked at the World Bank until quite recently. He has a law degree from Pontifícia Universidade Católica in Rio de Janeiro, a professional degree from Instituto Rio Branco (Brazil’s national diplomatic academy), and a master’s degree from the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy. None of the opinions here or in the book reflect the views of any institution he has been associated with. Find the show notes with links to all material discussed here: https://rulesofthegame.blog/parliamentarism-versus-presidentialism/ Follow Tiago Santos on Twitter https://twitter.com/tribsantos. Please enjoy this wide ranging conversation with Tiago Santos.
November 19, 2021
Nigeria's voice: pressuring government for change with Greg Anyaegbudike
Nigeria’s youth is creative, vibrant and energetic. Nigeria’s youth has tremendous potential and wants to thrive. My guest Greg Anyaegbudike shares how Nigerians strive and struggle to make their voices heard, and to keep governments at all levels accountable. With Greg I discuss how Nigeria’s grass-roots political movements and NGOs try to build pressure on political institutions and how the local government level could be key for a more inclusive development. Greg is convinced that there is great hope in Nigeria, yet it is crucial that political movements are successful in pushing for more transparency and the necessary electoral reforms. Greg Anyaegbudike is a Citizen Engagement Consultant at the World Bank, and was previously an Advisor and Team Leader at the Partnership to Engage, Reform & Learn for Engaged Citizens (PERL) funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO) of the UK government. Prior to that he was a State Team Leader of the State Accountability and Voice Initiative in Anambra State. Greg holds a Master’s in Information Science of the University of Nigeria in Nsukka. Find the show notes with links to all material discussed here: https://rulesofthegame.blog/nigerias-voice/ Follow Greg Anyaegbudike on Twitter: https://twitter.com/GregAnyegbudike and on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/greg-anyaegbudike-956aab29/ Please enjoy this wide ranging conversation with Greg Anyaegbudike.
November 03, 2021
Not a democracy
What makes a political system a democracy? Should we be surprised when people lose faith in a system called democracy that is not democratic? What makes a political system more balanced and robust to extremist views? In this episode I want to take a step back and present some of my thoughts about the state of democracy around the world. I try to answer these questions and share my personal opinion of what democratic institutions make a system more democratic. Based on a comparison of countries, I claim that many countries are not really democratic – that people do not have real power. The way forward to make countries more democratic is to improve representation in parliaments at all government levels, to include people's veto powers, and to strengthen participation at the local level. What political institutions a country has is paramount importance for people's satisfaction with a system called democracy. Find the show notes with links to all material discussed here: https://rulesofthegame.blog/not-a-democracy/
October 22, 2021
Chile – from street protest to a new constitution with Claudia Heiss
Chile is in the process of drafting a brand new constitution. The current constitution is rooted in the dictatorship of Pinochet and does not serve modern Chile. My guest, Claudia Heiss, recounts the fear and tension during her childhood in the years of repression, and how that shaped her motivation to become a researcher of democracy. She shares with us how public pressure on the streets of Chile has built up over years, and how people were injured and even killed while protesting for basic rights and better representation. In 2019, the protests became so massive and fierce that the parliament was compelled to propose two popular votes: the first asking the people if they wanted a new constitution, and the second whether a constitutional convention should be elected to draft it. The people approved both proposals in October 2020, and elected a new constitutional convention on 15/16 May 2021. An important step in the process was the electoral reform in 2015 that changed the parliamentary elections from using a binomial system with two-seat electoral districts to an open-list proportional system. That reform allowed for a more diverse and representative parliament to be elected in 2017. That same proportional electoral system was now used to elect the constitutional convention, including a gender quota and reserved seats for the indigenous people of Chile. Dr. Claudia Heiss is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the Instituto de Asuntos Publicos at the University of Chile. She has written and published extensively on the constitutional reform process. Find the show notes with links to all material discussed here: https://rulesofthegame.blog/chile-from-street-protest-to-a-new-constitution/ Find Claudia Heiss' publications at: http://www.inap.uchile.cl/instituto/cuerpo-academico/103619/claudia-heiss-bendersky Follow Claudia Heiss on Twitter: https://twitter.com/claudiaheiss Please enjoy this wide ranging conversation with Claudia Heiss.
May 28, 2021
Nigeria – a federation mediating its democracy with Myani Bukar
Nigeria has had varied journey of democratic accountability and federal governance since its transition to a civilian rule in 1999. Most political attention is centered around the presidency and the powerful state governors, while the country's oil wealth generating immense tax revenues make holding political office a lucrative venture. As the Nigerian constitution has been inspired by the US political institutions, comparable issues arise in the two democracies. The single-seat plurality elections favor powerful incumbent parties and facilitates for financial donors to exert influence, while numerous minor parties are barely getting a seat in the National Assembly. At the same time, a new generation of ambitious Nigerians in the federal administration have brought a new dynamic into governance, eager to improve the social contract and make the federation deliver the dividends of democracy. One of them is Myani Bukar, who shares his personal experiences and assessments of political developments in Nigeria, and we discuss how local government politics could be centered around issues, rather than ethnicity or religion and whether a more proportional electoral system could be a solution to improve representation. Myani Bukar is a Lawyer, Development Economist and Policy Researcher with extensive experience in legal research, institutional capacity building and policy analysis. He is a National Program Director of the UK funded PERL-LEAP programme, to promote public sector accountability and previously served as a Special Assistant to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on Legal Matters. He is also an Associate Researcher of the Overseas Development Institute, and a Member of the Advisory Board at Policy Vault. Find the show notes with links to all material discussed here: https://rulesofthegame.blog/nigeria-a-federation-mediating-its-democracy/ Follow Myani Bukar on Twitter: https://twitter.com/MallamMB or on Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/myani-bukar-4a344b/ Please enjoy this wide ranging conversation with Myani Bukar.
May 12, 2021
Power-sharing institutions in multicultural societies – the case of Switzerland with Sean Müller
How can political power be shared in a multicultural society? And what institutions can make multicultural societies more inclusive, balanced, and give people more control over political decisions and local public goods? Together with Sean Müller, I discuss power-sharing institutions as a crucial element of the success of Swiss democracy. The development of inclusive institutions was a long and troublesome process that started out with lots of social cleavages. Not only had two conflicting religious groups, the Catholics and the Protestants, to be integrated into democratic agreements, also four languages are spoken in the different regions, and 26 cantons (states) have different cultures and traditions, and each wants to have a say. Switzerland thus was an unlikely case to become a consociational democracy. We discuss milestones in the development of the Swiss constitution and its democratic institutions. Important power-sharing institutional pillars are federalism, a proportional representation electoral system, a federal council as executive government, and direct democracy. Dr. Sean Müller is an Assistant Professor at the University of Lausanne, specializing in Swiss and comparative federalism, territorial politics and direct democracy. Our discussion is based on a recently revised edition of the book “Swiss Democracy. Possible Solutions to Conflict in Multicultural Societies”, written by Wolf Linder and Sean Müller. Find the show notes with links to all material discussed here: https://rulesofthegame.blog/power-sharing-institutions-switzerland/ Find Sean Müller's research on his website: https://people.unil.ch/seanmuller/ Follow Sean Müller on Twitter: https://twitter.com/seanstmllr Please enjoy this wide ranging conversation with Sean Müller.
March 24, 2021
Basic principles of direct democracy with Stefan Schlegel
Direct democracy is a powerful political institution. It is the people's veto power in government. Used in the right way, it is an important check on representative democracy and a way to break politicians and parties’ coalitions directed against the common interest of the voters, thus a way to hedge against excessive politics by elected representatives. Together with Stefan Schlegel, I discuss basic principles of direct democracy that make its use less controversial, less risky, more cohesive, and, not least, more democratic. Based on the examples of the Brexit referendum and the recent Swiss popular initiative to ban face veils (burqa ban), we debate some of the biggest problems and possible solutions when employing direct democracy as a political decision making tool. Dr. Stefan Schlegel is a Postdoctoral Researcher and Lecturer at the law faculty of the University of Bern, Switzerland. He holds a PhD in Law, and specializes in studies of refugee and immigration law. He is an Ambizione Fellow of the Swiss National Science Foundation. Previously, Stefan Schlegel was a Senior Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the study of ethnic and religious diversity. Besides his academic career, he is a member of the board at Operation Libero, an influential liberal transpartisan political movement that running campaigns regarding popular votes in Switzerland. Please enjoy this wide ranging conversation with Stefan Schlegel. This episode is partly based on the blog post "8 Principles of Direct Democracy", published on the Center for Global Development blog. Find out more about Stefan Schlegel's work and political activities on his personal website (in German). Connect with Stefan Schlegel on Twitter or LinkedIn. Find the show notes and full transcript of the episode here: https://rulesofthegame.blog/basic-principles-of-direct-democracy/
March 18, 2021
Zimbabwe's struggle for democracy with McDonald Lewanika
Political institutions and power have been changing in Zimbabwe since Robert Mugabe took power as a liberator from colonial oppression in the year 1980. The image of the liberator Robert Mugabe speaking to the public in 1987 is also one of McDonald Lewanika's early childhood memories of politics. While the electoral institutions were more proportional and inclusive in the early 1980s, the dominant ruling party ZANU-PF changed the rules of the game over time to tighten its grip on power. McDonald Lewanika explains why and where political power is concentrated in today’s Zimbabwe and how ZANU-PF was able to consolidate political power at the expense of the opposing political parties and the citizens of Zimbabwe. Dr. McDonald Lewanika is a politics and development researcher with over 17 years of experience as a human rights defender, democracy and governance practitioner and civil society leader in Zimbabwe and southern Africa. He holds a PhD from the London School of Economics and Political Science. Please enjoy this wide ranging conversation with McDonald Lewanika. Find out more about his work on https://mlewanika.academia.edu/ Find him on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Makil Find the show notes and full transcript of the episode here: https://rulesofthegame.blog/zimbabwes-struggle-for-democracy/
February 24, 2021
Direct democracy since 1387 with Pascal Vuichard
Cantonal assemblies ("Landsgemeinde" in German) in the town of Glarus have been held on the main public square every year since 1387. In this episode, I welcome my first guest, Pascal Vuichard, on the podcast, and discuss with him one of the oldest, if not the oldest democratic institution in the world. Pascal Vuichard has taken part in the assembly as a voter, a speaker, and a member of parliament, and he is thus best placed to share stories and achievements of the institution based on his first hand experience. The Cantonal Assembly of Glarus is a direct democratic, deliberative, and highly representative government institution. It complements the cantonal parliament of Glarus as a check on representative democracy. Citizens of the canton gather every year in the first week of May under the open sky, to enact amendments to the constitution, to deliberate and vote up or down new legislation, to elect judges, and the president and vice-president of the cantonal executive government, and to approve the public budget. It is a very traditional and robust democratic institution that has been serving the people of Glarus over many centuries. Despite its ancient and unchanged character, the people are proud and supportive of the institution. Please enjoy this wide ranging conversation with Pascal Vuichard. Find some references and a transcript at https://rulesofthegame.blog/direct-democracy-since-1387/ A short documentary about the cantonal assembly (Youtube): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4JdrDuCY5Qs&t=14s&ab_channel=KantonGlarus Follow Pascal Vuichard on Twitter: https://twitter.com/PVuichard Learn more about Pascal Vuichard's projects: https://pascalvuichard.ch/
February 17, 2021
4 institutions that break elite political power
How can we divide and decentralize elite political power? How can we prevent power grabs and reduce the influence of lobbyists? In this episode I briefly discuss four institutions that are capable of diffusing political power and give citizens more control over the political process. I nickname and debate the following four institutions: First, the “constitutional” democratic institution, that is the electoral law, and specifically proportional representation. How do we select people to represent us in the most important political body in our countries, our parliaments? Second, the “sovereign” democratic institution, that is direct democracy. Do the people have veto power over laws and constitutions, and are they hence truly sovereign? Third, the “localized” democratic institution, that is federalism. Is political power separated also vertically and across different territories in a country? And finally, the “ignored” democratic institution, that is executive councils or committees. Why don't we use councils as executive governments to have more balanced decision making? I tell you how these four types of democratic institutions give the people more authority over political power, how they can balance and complement each other, and how each of them can be a check on the other. Corrigenda: (1) The popular vote that introduced proportional representation in Switzerland in 1918 was approved by the male citizens, as women did not have the right to vote at that time. (2) I mention the French constitution of 1793, but said 1893 by mistake. Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/skyburz Find some references and a full transcript at https://rulesofthegame.blog/4-institutions-that-break-elite-political-power/
February 08, 2021
The dream of a truly American democracy
Can the American democracy be as colorful, as diverse, as productive, and as creative as the American people? Democrats and Republicans dominate the political agenda and are the gatekeepers of democratic reform. Only a change of the electoral system to make the House of Representatives more representative of the American people can change the US political landscape and make it truly American: competitive, diverse, and inclusive. This would be the "Political American Dream". I compare the US and Swiss democratic institutions, and tell the story of how Switzerland went from a divided society with deep religious and social cleavages to a vibrant working democracy through the introduction of an open list proportional representation electoral law. The framers of the US constitution were afraid of strong political factions, hence they built the institutions to divide power and include checks. They could not anticipate, however, that the first-past-the-post electoral system would lead to the two incredibly dominant factions we have in the US today. An electoral reform would make it more balanced and representative, and would heal the wounds in the American society. Find the show notes at https://rulesofthegame.blog/the-dream-of-a-truly-american-democracy/
January 20, 2021
Get to know the Rules of the Game Podcast – discussing democratic institutions
This introductory episode presents the brand new podcast: Rules of the Game – discussing democratic institutions. The episode briefly introduces the host, Stephan Kyburz, and provides an overview of the manifold questions that the podcast will pose, discuss and answer. It provides a first glimpse into the interesting journey ahead of debating how institutions determine the way political power is divided and shared among people in democratic societies. This ultimately leads to the question: how can we create rules that allow everyone to thrive?
January 12, 2021