LOCAL GOVERNANCE: THE REPRESENTATION OF PEOPLE ACT 1981 (The III Schedule of the Constitution)
-Varuna Mandal, Visiting Lecturer, École nationale d'administration, Heleventia
Recognizing the ‘right to self determination’, this act was constituted to ‘enhance local participation’ allowing for a ‘greater degree of representation right down to the individual level’. The act envisaged a ‘bottom down’ approach to local democracy resonating with HRH’s view that ‘democracy must begin at the individual level’. In her speech HRH emphasized “Justice, Liberty, Freedom, Equality to all has been and will always be the motive of the Mizia Government”.
This act forms the basis of political division of Mizialand. It divided the entire nation to 14 provinces and further into Municipalities, Communes and Wards.
Out of these divisions the most important divisions are the ‘Communes’ and the ‘Wards’
Communes and Wards
These form the basic unit of organization at the local level. The size of the commune varies depending upon the geography and the population density. The largest commune by area is Euskania and the largest commune by population is Zoutenberg. Communes can cover a number of rural farmsteads, a small town, some villages, or a neighbourhood of a city. However, the Act provides that the size of a commune should be’10,000’. This is not a hard and fast number. Communes varies in population. Zoutenberg has a population of 12,433 while the smallest commune Guten Kerk has a population of 9,540.
Communes are further divided into wards. Communes (and in turn wards) are governed by Communal Council whose members are chosen from ward members. The Act stipulates that each ward shall consist of a population of 70. However, the actual number varies depending upon the size of the commune. Thus, each commune has around 150 wards and each ward sends one member to the Council. Though the Act provides for each Communal Council to have 150 members, the actual number varies depending upon the size of the commune but is kept as close to 150 as possible. According to Mizialand Anthropology Society, and other anthropologists from around the world, this is the maximum number of individual that can ‘collaborate with consent and consensus’. Any greater number will have problems of ‘time budgeting’ and ‘consensus building’ as feelings of ‘belonging and community’ start to erode.
Principle of subsidiarity is followed while allocating powers to the communes. Parliament makes laws only on those subjects where the communes are unable to make laws or where uniformity is required. Residuary powers are left with the communes
Under the principle of subsidiarity, nothing that can be done at a lower political level should be done at a higher level. If, for example, a commune is unable to deal with a certain task, the next higher political entity, i.e. the province, has a duty to provide support.
Under the Constitution, all the communes have equal status and rights, namely in the area of budget, political system, and taxation (since they can levy taxes).
The communal governments are elected by the people, in most cases under a first-past-the-post system. 7 communes in the Euskania province decided to introduce Liquid Democracy in early 2020. The Governor General of Euskania took the matter to the Supreme Court citing security and voter fraud issues, especially in the view that this system has not been adequately tested anywhere before.
However the communes do not have their own flag, their own constitution, their own citizenship, the right to succeed, and Parliamentary law trumps Communal law when the two come in conflict. Hence Mizialand is not 'federal' in the sense of the term. Further more, a unified judiciary, a single police services, and a single civil service for the entire country further consolidate the 'quasi federal' or the 'federal with unitary characteristics' of the Constitution.
Provinces and Municipalities
The Act does not refer to provinces and municipalities as ‘units of administration’ but as ‘units of bureaucracy’. It defines a municipality as ‘interlinked communes which share common identity’ and provinces in turn are defined as ‘interlinked municipalities which share a common identity’.
A ‘Municipality’ consists of ‘experts’ in ‘matter of public life’ who advise and assist the member of commune but as such do not take any part in day to day activities of the commune. For example, the decision of building of a new school is decided by the commune but the technical expertise such as engineers is provided by the municipality. The Act does not specify how many communes constitute a municipality. The municipality members are appointed recruited locally, with membership being open to only those who are born or permanent resident of the municipality. Assisting these locally recruited 'experts' is the unified civil service, which are recruited and trained by Her Majesty's Government.
A ‘Province’ is defined as ‘Her Majesty’s Representation to the Municipalities’. The Provincial Governors acts as Her Majesty’s Representation and represents the monarchy in the province.The Reorganization of Provinces Act 1948 divided the Kingdom into 12 provinces on linguistic basis. The Provincial Governors have limited administrative or legislative authority; they are representative of Her Majesty to the ‘people of Mizialand’ who are ‘the real legislators’ and the ‘determinant of their own will’.
Her Majesty’s Subjects
While the communes have wide range of powers, there are certain subjects on which only La Frachiere can enact legislation. These are called Her Majesty’s Subjects and the communes are bound to accept these legislations. These subjects are: atomic energy, railways, inter provincial roadways, immigration, telecommunication, and foreign affairs. Furthermore, the capital region of Heleventia is governed directly by Her Majesty’s Government.
Limitations of the Act
The Act provides for the following limitations:
1. Communes may not make any legislation that is against the ‘spirit of the constitution’. The Act does not define this phrase leaving it open to the interpretation of the Supreme Court. In 1998 the Supreme Court ruled that certain features such as secularism, inalienable rights, equality, sovereignty of Her Majesty, democracy constituted the ‘spirit’. For example, no Communal Council may provide financial assistance to Catholic Schools as this is against the spirit of secularism. Another example is that commune cannot limit their membership to a certain community such as the White race nor make any laws discriminating against any community.
2. Communes must confer to the broad ‘policy framework of Her Majesty’s Government’. This has limited the powers of the Communal Councils but has also lead to a uniformity in sectors such as health, education, environment, taxation across the country.
3. It does not take into account the diversity in resources across communes. The Southern and Western regions of Mizialand have been traditionally and are currently richer than the Eastern Alpine parts of the country. Communes have high degree of financial independence and as such many Southern and Eastern communes are comparatively more developed than Eastern Communes.
4. The Act is not applicable in some areas (see SEZ below).
Consequences and Implications of the Act
Geert van Buren, Professor at Mauknea University comments,” all people of Mizialand, especially marginalized indigenous communities are granted representation.” Dr. Fariah Fatima comments,” this Act is the pivotal point in Mizialand’s transformation into a true, functioning democracy.” The entire population of Mizialand is free to pursue the social, economic and political direction their commune is supposed to take. The people, especially the indigenous people have been granted a way to participate in the policy making of their community and protect their traditional ways of living while having an option to allow what and how much the central government will implicate their livelihood. HRH Sophie Vincent hailed it as the harbinger of devolution of power. Mizialand continues to score above the Astyrian average on Political Freedoms, Civil Rights, Inclusiveness, Human Development, Education and Health. The Act has encouraged local participation into the economy. Mitos, Coop, Miza Kafe Coffee are some of the largest worker cooperative whose establishment has been encouraged by Her Majesty’s Government. Despite initial speculations of an economic downturn following this act due to flight of foreign capital, the Kingdom’s economy has continued to grow. In fact, the Mizia economy continues to be one of the largest in Astyria by GDP (nominal).
The Act however, has its share of criticism. While envisaged as way to reduce inequality, the 1998 Census reveals that the Eastern German speaking provinces which are predominately rural are ‘significantly poorer’ than Southern and Western French and Dutch Provinces. The principles of ‘consensus and consent of all involved’ has led to complicated, long drawn decision making process which discourage investment in the local economy. The manufacturing sector has shown a slow but steady decline in its contribution to the GDP of the country. Critics such as Thomas Vaningnaud have attributed this decline to a ‘typical not in my backyard mentality’. The Act relies heavily on citizen participation. According to PED Research in a St. Etienne Commune, 63% of the participants were “tired of forced participation”. The communal councils and the linguistic organization of provinces has contributed to a ‘sense of communalization’. In June 2018, all German speaking communes sent their 'inquiry' to the Parliament asking ‘if any commune can secede from Mizialand’. La Frachiere declared it unconstitutional. The Supreme Court ruled that no commune can secede from the Kingdom because the communes never acceded in the first place.
Arguably with this act Mizialand has become one of the most decentralized countries in Astyria. The 2019 Diebold Election Inking Scale gives Mizialand a score of 71.52 and a rank of 8th in Astyria. Political apathy has increased in the recent year with the country receiving a score of 56.96 and being the 5th most apathetic in Astryria. The World Assembly classifies the political freedoms and civil rights in the country as 'Excellent' and 'Very Good' respectively.
An Exception to the Representation of People Act – The Special Economic Zones
In 1985 by Royal Decree Number 48 of 1985 legislative and executive powers pertaining to 'Economic Affairs' and 'Financial Independence' were removed from 45 communes, effectively ending the Representation of People Act in these areas. The following initial two and later one more area were constituted to what is known as the 'Special Economic Zones':
Euskania-Bonn SEZ, later merged with federally governed Heleventia to form Heleventia-Euskaia-Bonn (HEB) SEZ
St. Louis SEZ
Dakota SEZ (added in 1992)
A more comprehensive account of the SEZs is here available.