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Issue 4, 1980 Expand all abstracts

Access_open La réforme régionale italienne

Un bilan à l'occasion des élections régionales des 8 et 9 juin 1980

Authors Catherine Guillermet and Johan Ryngaert

    Ten years after they were set up, the Italian regions have fallen into general discredit. They are discredited by the central government who regards them as a source of support for the opposing Communist Party and has sought to undermine this reform by depriving the regions of all true autonomy. The regions are discredited by the public opinion by not fulfilling the expectations placed in them. Such an assessment does not stand up to a close examination of regional practices: some geographical differences rapidly become obvious, but especially evident are the political differences. In fact, the regions are the product of an apparent agreement between the political parties and have always suffered from political bargaining which explains the national scale of the issues raised at the last elections. Strengthened by the favorable results obtained in certain regions, the Communist Party was quick to turn this statement of the electoral opinion into a « referendum » about the newly formed Cossiga government.

Catherine Guillermet

Johan Ryngaert

    The lists of candidates, proposed by the parties for the Belgian general elections, is quite determinative. Due to electoral code arrangements, and, notwithstanding the growing proportion of preference votes, only thosecandidates who are placed within the «necessary sequence» of the lists (i.e. the number of seats a party gains in a definite arrondissement) get actually elected. Consequently, the Belgian voter does not appointthe mandataries, hut only the number of mandates due to the several parties. The statutes of the three major Belgian parties (christian democrats, socialists and liberals) , provide large participative opportunities for their members, through the so-called general member polls. In this kind ofprimary system, all party members are franchised to elect the candidates for their party-lists. The elections of the past twenty years show a growing tendency to deviate from these statutary guaranteed participation. In 1958, 89 % of all representatives were placed on their party-lists by general member polls; in 1978, only 10 %. Thus, the conclusive phase of the composition of the partylists has become, since 1958, increasingly a matter where only the national or federal party executives and councils decide upon.

Lieven De Winter

    Some French infiuences have to be found to explain how the two functions (legislative and control over the Cabinet) of the Standing Committees of the Belgian House of Representatives have evolved. In 1920, when the first Standing Committees system was introduced in the Belgian House of Representatives, a direct French contribution can already be noticed. As a matter of fact, the Speaker of the Committee of Parliamentary Procedures derives his report directly from one made a few months earlier by Joseph Barthélémy for the French House of Representatives. Again in 1935, the first total revision of the entire rules of procedure of the House of Representatives shows the ideal of some French statemen (Poincaré, Tardieu, Blum) to struggle against the assembly system withthe result of a limitation in the functions of the Standing Committees down to its legislative part. These functions were not altered during the second revision in 1962, but some sort of diffused control over theCabinet was still exerted. In 1979, this control was finally formalised.

Claude Courtoy

    The conference committee is one of the most important joint committees in het American Congress, appointed to reconcile differences between bills adopted in the two houses of Congress in different forms. Each house is authorized to call for a conference. Usually, only the most important bills are submitted to a conference committee, and minor bills wilt be adopted by concessions of one of the houses. Each house commits his conferees, and can give them instructions on how to vote. These instructions however are not imperative. The number of conferees in each delegation is not necessarily equal, but each delegation votes as a unit and in the way determined by the majority in the delegation. The committee only is allowed to examine the matters in disagreement and cannot add any new provisions to the bills. When an agreement is reached a conference report is written and signed by the majority of the conferees in each delegation, after which it is sent back to the houses for approval. The bill as modified by the conference committee can be adopted or rejected, in which case a second conference can be asked for. No amendments are allowed. The conference committee, sometimes called the «Third House of Congress» not only has become a very powerful institution but also a necessary one. It is responsible for about one third of the legislation including the most important bills. Its necessity is confirmed by its two century-existence, and the fact that it has been copied in other federal states such as the Federal Republic of Germany and Switzerland.

Guy Tillekaerts

Access_open US "Human Rights" Policy

an appraisal

Authors Koenraad Lenaerts

    In the wake of the 1980 CSCE follow-up meeting US human rights objectives should be defined contextually so as to include besides the traditional human rights ingredients, i.e. the right to personal integrity, civil and political liberties, such values as peace, national security, nuclear non-proliferation, economie growth and redistribution. To this effect, the US should stress more a proper «world order» as its ultimate policy goal. Doing so would provide it at once with the flexibility needed in the international forum and with the credibility needed on the domestic scene, in order to achieve some visible results. A high-pitched declaratory policy in favor of human rights leads to ineffectiveness with Communist nations and to arbitrary pressures on authoritarian countries which somehow rely on US assistance. Thus, the US should proceed contextually on the basis of a more balanced «human rights» concept.

Koenraad Lenaerts

Access_open Politieke beroepsethiek en politieke corruptie

Authors Bertrand J. De Clercq

    «Without a theory of corruption there cannot be a remedy for corruption unless by happy accident» (J.Q. Wilson). There are empirical theories, such as the functional approach of the political process, but how useful they may be, they essentially fall short. One needs a normative, i.e. an ethical theory of political action. After having evaluated the idea, that politicians and rulers have the right to make use of violence, lies and ruses in order to combat violence and ruse within the community, the article draws some important conclusions from the general democratic principle «no power without control and possibility of sanction by those being subject to that power». Applied to the problem of corruption, this principle can be used as a guideline for a systematic exploration of the structural sources of corruption, defined in a general way as abuse of power («détournement de pouvoir»). The main thesis reads as follows. The sources of corruption are to be found in those «deficiencies of the system» that create chances for a particular pressure of power to exert an overweight - without possibilities of control and sanction - in the processes of actual definition of the «public interest» or the «common good». An elaboration of the thesis is made by means of an analysis of this kind of «deficiencies» in the Belgian political-administrative system, most of them however not specific for the Belgian situation in particular. Finally, some suggestions for «remedies » against corruption are made, especially in the field of legislative measures.

Bertrand J. De Clercq

Editor Res Publica