The Comparative Assessments of Parliaments (CAP Note) series brings SUNY/CID's extensive experience in working with parliaments internationally to important issues in parliamentary development and strengthening. It weds the university's academic expertise with SUNY/CID's extensive, practical experience in working with legislatures internationally over the past two decades.
The ability of legislators to question members of the executive is an important feature of many democratic legislatures. This paper provides an account of the procedures and practices of parliamentary questions across a variety of countries. The roles and functions of questions on the floor of the legislative chamber and in written form are explored. Parliamentary questions help elected politicians accomplish their representative roles while also providing the legislature with a tool to monitor and hold accountable the executive. Drawbacks to aspects of parliamentary questioning are discussed and measures to maximize the value of questions are suggested.
This paper argues that the analysis of democratic national assemblies is not only impossible without discussing political parties, but also incomprehensible without recognizing parties as the most significant organizations within them. Parties have structured political groupings and demands on government even before assemblies were democratically elected. And although parties may be in decline as institutions mediating between society and government in the current era, they remain significant as organizing forces within government. The paper first explains the origins of party organizations within parliaments by exploring why individual members and the assemblies taken as a whole need parties: what are their costs and benefits? It then describes the manner in which party organizations operate in different national assembly chambers. The third section analyses types and sources of party influence, including the role played by party leaders in manipulating legislative agendas, structuring Members’ policy choices and shaping policy outcomes. The final section reviews how political scientists have sought to explain intra-party cohesion and discipline across different national assemblies.
Chen Friedberg of Israel Democracy Institute
Reuven Y. Hazan of Hebrew University of Jerusalem
This CAP Note focuses on the role of legislative oversight from various perspectives – historical, theoretical, conceptual and comparative. It opens with a discussion of the origin of the concept and its classical definition as interpreted by early philosophers such as Montesquieu and Mill. It then presents the more modern definitions and delineates between “strong” political versus “weak” administrative oversight. It then presents the different motivations and incentives for legislators to engage i n oversight activities. It expands on the core question of oversight in a parliamentary democracy
– where oversight is thought to be institutionally weaker than in a separation of powers presidential regime – elaborating the mechanisms by which parliamentary oversight is conducted and their efficacy. The bulk of the CAP Note presents a comparative survey of the major mechanisms for parliamentary oversight, followed by an assessment of the effectiveness of these tools, alongside a series of recommendations for improving legislative oversight and the practicality of implementing these oversight recommendations. It ends with an argument countering the common assumption that if we place democracies on an oversight continuum, we will see that on the weak side we find mainly parliamentary democracies while on the strong side are mostly presidential regimes – parliamentary democracies are not all clustered at the weak end but are spread out along nearly the whole scale, with a few even overlapping with some of the presidential democracies in the extent of legislative oversight.
Dr. John Rohrbaugh, full professor, Department of Public Administration and Policy
at the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy at the University at Albany.
Four phases of program evaluation are identified that include implementation, developmental, process, and impact assessments. Due to the increasingly challenging requirements for designing and conducting sequential phases, not all forms of program evaluation may be feasible under certain country conditions and for some forms of international development, especially democracy and governance programs. This paper suggests a preliminary, data-based framework to match evaluation phases to country conditions and proposes that implementation evaluations and developmental evaluations be adopted as the preliminary, if not primary, methods for assessing the accomplishments of international development programs.
Dr. Michael L. Mezey, DePaul University and SUNY/CID Senior Fellow
We explore the complex relationship between representatives and their constituents from normative, empirical, and cross-national perspectives. Among the issues considered are the extent to which representatives are obligated to take into consideration the opinions of their constituents as they make public policy decisions, and the potential tension between the representative’s obligations to constituency interests and to the national interest.
Jeffrey D. Straussman, Dean, Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy
Ari Renoni, Research Fellow, SUNY Center for International Development
A parliamentary budget office is central both in the development of an annual government budget and in oversight of a government's financial accountability. To assess the role of parliamentary budget offices in the practice of legislative strengthening, Straussman and Renoni examine USAID-funded projects in Afghanistan, Kenya, Jordan and Morocco.
Stanley Bach, Senior Specialist in the Legislative Process, Congressional Research Service (retired)
The rules of procedure of a national assembly are as important to the assembly as the constitution is to the nation. The rules establish a framework for governance for the assembly just as the constitution does for the nation. Bach focuses on the nature and sources of rules of procedure for democratic national assemblies, and how those rules relate to the larger framework of governance. He then discusses some key issues that rules of procedure often address, especially the procedures for engaging in deliberation and decision-making and for debating subjects of national importance.