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Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Clearing the constitutional mud...

This IRIN article is doing the rounds among Zambian websites for its comment that the poor health of Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa is generating fears of political turmoil in his ruling party. Unfortunately the article seems to confuse things, especially this quote:

According to the Zambian constitution, which is being reviewed, should a serving president die in office or become incapacitated, the vice-president would immediately assume the presidency for the remainder of the five-year electoral term.

This statement is wrong. Article 38 of the Zambian Constitution clearly states :

Vacancy in Office of President

  1. If the office of the President becomes vacant by reason of his death or resignation or by reason of his ceasing to hold office by virtue of Article 36, 37, or 88, an election to the office of President shall be held in accordance with Article 34 within ninety days from the date of the office becoming vacant.
  2. Whenever the office of President becomes vacant, the Vice-President or, in the absence of the Vice-President or if the Vice-President is unable, by reason of physical or mental infirmity, to discharge the functions of his office, a member of the Cabinet elected by the Cabinet shall perform the functions of the office of President until a person elected as President in accordance with Article 34 assumes office.
  3. The Vice-President or, the member of the Cabinet as the case may be, performing the functions of the office of the President under clause (2) shall not dissolve the National Assembly nor, except on the advice of the Cabinet, revoke any appointment made by the President.

The Zambian constitution forbids a presidential running mate. So the current Vice President is not really a Vice President with any mandate. The current constitution (Article 38) would require the country to go to polls within 90 days of the President's resignation or death. To make it worse, the MMD has no party vice president. Mwanawasa abolished the position. So there's no automatic choice on who would take over from Mwanawasa as leader of the party. In the event of forced transition to elections, its questionable whether they would be able to hold party elections quickly enough to have a running candidate against the opposition. The other point of course is that political uncertainty is bad for FDI. Not to mention that any national election, if it came to that, would involve significant cost to the tax payer, especially coming so soon after later 2006.



Read this document on Scribd: Constitution of Zambia, 1991(Amended to 1996)

8 comments:

  1. The other point of course is that political uncertainty is bad for FDI.

    Which is why they like oligarchic dictatorships so much (Chile, Argentina, Cuba under sergeant Batista, Zaire under Mobutu, etc.)

    Lots of certainty when the president is president for life.

    The Chicago Boys made their bones in Chile under Pinochet.

    Anyway, I hope President Mwanawasa is well and will make a speedy recovery.

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  2. Yes, this is why most analysis do not find any relationship between democracy and development!

    Its because some dictatorship generate significant stability that is attractive for investment!

    What also matter is the source of the certainty. I think you can have rapidly changing governments like in Israel, and still have FDI flowing in. In Israel's case the source of institutional and economic certainty is derived from its laws, the large diaspora that provides a sort of "guarantee" and the American political backing.

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  3. Which is why they like oligarchic dictatorships so much (Chile, Argentina, Cuba under sergeant Batista, Zaire under Mobutu, etc.)

    Actually neither Argentina under the last dictatroship or Zaire really belong on that list (if we're talking about private investment of course). Neither witnesses the kind of boom of FDI that Batista's Cuba and Pinochet's Chile received.

    And that's why it's really about basic economic incentives: taxes and stuff.

    Lots of certainty when the president is president for life.

    Not if it's Mobutu, Mugabe or any other guy capable of fast changes of policy.

    What also matter is the source of the certainty. I think you can have rapidly changing governments like in Israel, and still have FDI flowing in. In Israel's case the source of institutional and economic certainty is derived from its laws, the large diaspora that provides a sort of "guarantee" and the American political backing.

    Changes of governments don't matter, the changes of policy do. And Israel, like any parliamentary regime using PR, has a lot of changes of cabinet but most of them are rearrangements of coalitions with an impact of policy only at the margin (since the minor parties who make and break coalition do so at the margin anyway).

    Yes, this is why most analysis do not find any relationship between democracy and development!

Its because some dictatorship generate significant stability that is attractive for investment!

    There is an argument against that.
    Few dictatorships generate long-term stability. They shield against uncertainity by either repressing dissent or building strong support behind an individual (or both). What happens when the dictator dies or gets removed or if repression looses its efficiency ? Lots and lots of uncertainity.
    Democracies manage those changes of course much better and in a much more predictable way.

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  4. “oligarchic dictatorships”

    Its an interesting phrase!
    Is that like rich dictatorships? Lol! I have the modern Russian oligarchs created by the IMF in mind here.
    Or simply dictatorships that are for life?

    ”Changes of governments don't matter, the changes of policy do. And Israel, like any parliamentary regime using PR, has a lot of changes of cabinet but most of them are rearrangements of coalitions with an impact of policy only at the margin (since the minor parties who make and break coalition do so at the margin anyway).”

    Minimal policy shifts fundamentally emanate from competitive distribution of power within the system rather than the “leadership model” explanations. But you are right, it is the same bunch of people switching sides.


    ”There is an argument against that.
    Few dictatorships generate long-term stability. They shield against uncertainity by either repressing dissent or building strong support behind an individual (or both). What happens when the dictator dies or gets removed or if repression looses its efficiency ? Lots and lots of uncertainity.
    Democracies manage those changes of course much better and in a much more predictable way.”


    Actually my initial statement was too simplistic! I mean the fact that there’s no association between democracy and development does not necessarily mean that dictatorship has one! Of course it doesn’t. It there are many reasons why democratic institutions institutions don’t necessarily deliver development. In any case these institutions are diverse and econometric evidence seems to find that challenging. Similar issue arise with dictarship….there are many types….

    What I should have said was that its not so much the name of the institution or the written rules that govern that society that matter, I think it’s the underlying seat of power. You can have a highly democratic society where people vote the same people into power, because someone is able to buy the votes or that those elected many not seek redistribution of wealth for the power because they fear losing the grip.

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  5. Its an interesting phrase!
Is that like rich dictatorships? Lol! I have the modern Russian oligarchs created by the IMF in mind here. 
Or simply dictatorships that are for life?

    No it's dictatorships who either represent the interests of a pre-existing oligarchy or create an oligarchy. It's mostly the first case as the second case is quite hard to define (in practise every dictatorship except for hyper-revolutionary ones creates an oligarchy).

    Basically think about military take-overs in Latin America every time a government was drifting to the left.

    What I should have said was that its not so much the name of the institution or the written rules that govern that society that matter, I think it’s the underlying seat of power. You can have a highly democratic society where people vote the same people into power, because someone is able to buy the votes or that those elected many not seek redistribution of wealth for the power because they fear losing the grip.

    I agree on the underlying rules being more important than the nominal status but I don't think the part crucial for growth is the election process. To me it's more about how decisions are made, policies debated and the amount of input diverse interests have. So dictatorships (Singapore, may be China) do that better than some democracies.

    Yet, remember, democracies don't experience famines.

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  6. Cho,

    Or simply dictatorships that are for life?

    Using the term 'oligarchic dictatorshops', I was just excluding communist dictatorships, which are not popular with 'foreign investment'.

    However, Pinochet, Batista, all the South American padrinos, all the kleptocratic rulers in Africa like Amin and Mobutu, or Saddam during most of his rule, they are very popular with western corporations, because they take care of their interests, and will kill any of their rivals. Many of which are just looking to take their place and do the same thing for themselves.

    Its an interesting phrase! Is that like rich dictatorships? Lol! I have the modern Russian oligarchs created by the IMF in mind here. Or simply dictatorships that are for life?

    It isn't just that they provide stability, it is that they specifically will put the interests of western corporations above their own people's interests.

    So the whole idea of dictatorship versus democracy is moot, if the leadership still puts the interest of foreign corporations and their own interests above the common good.

    Zambia has a democracy, but what real choice do the people have? There isn't a single non-neoliberal party out there that has any chance of winning. UNIP is in a shambles and has no leadership, it has become a family franchise. Other than that, PF, UPND, MMD, they are all the same ideologically.

    We need a party that is aggressive about taxing the mines, AND aggressive about spending every cent in a thrifty manner and create infrastructure projects, so the country can truly develop and unemployment is reduced.

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  7. they are very popular with western corporations, because they take care of their interests, and will kill any of their rivals.

    So when did Mobutu take care of the interests of western corporations ?

    Was it when he nationalized Union Minière du Haut Katanga ? Was it during Zaïrianisation ?

    It's funny that the other kleptocrat you mention enacted a redistribution directed against "foreigners" too..

    It's quite weird that you keep insisiting on those two being as tied with capitalist interest as a Pinochet or a Batista have been.. Is it the usual confusion between US support during the Cold War and pro-capitalist policies ? Because Mobutu is definetly the big case that disproves that the two were tied. Houphouet-Boigny, Bongo, Banda or Kagame are far better examples of that.

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  8. Random,

    "I agree on the underlying rules being more important than the nominal status but I don't think the part crucial for growth is the election process. To me it's more about how decisions are made, policies debated and the amount of input diverse interests have. So dictatorships (Singapore, may be China) do that better than some democracies.

    And the function of how decisions are reached in part depends on the distribution of resources. Again pointing to "de-facto" power as more important in determing outcomes than "de-jure".

    ReplyDelete

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