DRAFT OF A CITIZENS´ CONSTITUTION OF THE CZECH REPUBLIC
The reasons why we present for discussion a Draft of a Citizens´ Constitution
First of all, let´s ask the question: What is a Democratic Constitution?
Answer: A Democratic Constitution is a document setting the framework for the institutions and procedures to which all people living in the country have to conform so as to enable, as far as possible, all citizens to really participate in the management of their own affairs with the view of achieving the highest possible living standards, maintainig law and order, assuring personal safety and peace, and sustainig life preserving environment.
Isn´t it necessary that any Constitution be formulated or revised by lawyers?
The participation of lawyers in the formulation of a Constitution is useful, but not imperative. Their participation becomes only necessary for writing the laws based on the Constitution and presented for voting. The formulation of a Constitution does not require any special qualification, except average level of education, general political insight and the will to work for the good of society as a whole. A Constitution does not express any eternal truth, but only its creators´ conviction and interests. On the basis of these interests, they delegate power to those groups of people who are closest to them, most often those to whom they belong. Therefore, it is the citizens themselves who must enforce their own right to adopt a Constitution.
Who exactly is entitled and qualified to compile and adopt a Constitution by voting?
Answer: Only the citizens themselves are entitled and qualified to do this.
On lower level of social development, the citizens were unable to avail themselves of this right directly. For practical reasons, they were forced to entrust elected representatives to compile and vote for a Constitution. Experience has shown, however, that if this right is delegated to representatives in Parliament or Senate, they invariably write and adopt a Constitution assuring unjust privileges for the MPs, Senators and members of Government to the detriment of grassroot citizens. This has been the case in all times and in all countries. It is still the case at present.
In Europe, the classical DD country is Switzerland, but the strongest and best organized movement is active in Germany (Mehr Demokratie e.V.). In Europe, deliberation is not yet systematically integrated in the I&R process. DD organizations now exist in almost all European countries and they form a loose network called NDDIE (Network of Direct Democracy Initiatives in Europe), inspired by the Pribram Conference of 1998. Members of this network, speaking about Direct Democracy, mean almost only the process of Citizen Initiative and Referendum. So far, Structured Deliberation has been neglected. However, a deliberation procedure ideally suited for European conditions has been developed by the German sociologist Prof. Peter C. Dienel (Bürgergutachten or Planungszelle /Planning Cell/). The institution of Citizen Commissions we propose in this Citizens´ Constitution is in fact Prof. Dienel´s Planungszellen renamed by a word more understandable for the Czechs.
This deliberation model has been used with great success in Germany for more than 30 years. It has also been practised in Spain. It is a well known concept in international sociological literature, even in countries like Japan, Italy, South Korea and Turkey. How does it work in practice?
Citizen Commissions (model Planungszelle)
When it becomes necessary to deal with a certain issue, 25 citizens are randomly selected, half men, half women. There are no requirements concerning education or social standing. This means that a commission can consist of teachers, nurses, students, janitors, doctors, brick-layers - anybody. They all gather together to discuss the issue in question. The session takes one week (five days). For this period of time, the participants are excused from their jobs with full salaries. The session is moderated by two persons, one man and one woman. During the first 3 - 4 days, the participants receive a maximum of relevant information from unbiased and independent experts who also answer questions. On the fourth or fifth day, they form five circles of five persons who discuss and try to find the best solution. An important rule is to always organize 10 parallel commissions dealing with the same issue. (In small towns and communities, it will be necessary to reduce the number of commissions in proportion to the respective number of inhabitants.) The random selection and simultaneous treatment of the same issue by ten commission is a guarantee of incorruptibility by special interests and perfect representativity. Nobody is allowed to sit on a commission more than once in a lifetime. Everybody is, of course, free to refuse participation. In this case, a substitute takes his/her place.
Experiences: The evaluation of the results of dozens of such sessions arrives always at the same conclusion:
A permanent integration of Citizen Commissions into the respective political system will bring about a much deeper transformation of the system than the mere enactment of the right to I&R. So far, such a demand has never been put forward for discussion and voting anywhere.
Our Citizens´ Constitution is the first one sui generis in history.
We adhere to the best American and European traditions constituted in the Enlightment period.
- Having received sufficient and understandable information, the participants, regardless of their qualification, are able to penetrate the problem as thoroughly as experts and to form a well founded opinion. Their assessment is always much more qualified than any assessment made by Parliament because the MPs are forced to judge dozens of issues during a very short period of time. In spite of mostly good intentions, they have no chance of getting acquainted with the problems involved as well as the members of a Planning Cell / Citizen Commission. When voting, for lack of time, the MPs are mostly forced to follow the recommendations of their respective party leaderships. This means that, in practice, power is concentrated in the hands of a few party bosses. This power concentration is further increased in European countries after accession to the EU. Studies of parliamentary decision-making show that bills coming from Brussels pass through national parliaments almost without debate and are being approved more or less automatically. The Citizen Commissions provided by our draft involve thousands of citizens in the deliberative phase of the legislative process, thus becoming a controlling and correcting mechanism of the whole system.
- Time and again, experience also shows that the awareness of social responsibility, engendered by participation in Planning Cells, creates the ability to disregard one´s own personal interests one might otherwise have when dealing with a certain issue. The conclusions arrived at are therefore drawn so as to benefit society as a whole. In this respect, too, the Planning Cells perform better than Parliament. It is common knowledge that the MPs are often corrupted by vested interests that lobby in favor of small groups and organizations to the detriment of the citizenry. Besides, the parliaments have their own vested interest in preserving their own power monopoly as ruling elites. In the Planning Cells / Citizen Commissions, such corrupting influence is excluded by their very nature.
SELECTED PARTS OF THE DRAFT OF THE CITIZENS´ CONSTITUTION
(The draft is a comprehensive amendment to the Constitution adopted by Czech Parliament in 1993. In our draft, the original text is printed in ordinary letters. Our amendments are printed in fat letters, while the formulations we propose to abolish are put into brackets.)
Legislative power belongs to Parliament, the institution of popular initiative and referendum, as well as - in a precisely defined area - to the institution of Citizen Commissions. The organization of these two last mentioned institutions belongs to the independent Referendum and Citizen Commissions Authority.
|Czech Republic fulfills the obligations imposed by international law in so far as they are not contrary to the principles expressed in this Citizens´ Constitution. In controversial cases, the citizens have the right to demand that the proposed obligations be assessed by Parliament and Citizen Commissions. The final decision can be made by national referendum.
|The people is the source of all state power; it exerts it by the intermediary of legislative, executive and judicial power or directly, by the plebiscite, popular initiative and referendum, and, in a precisely defined area also by Citizen Commissions.
|(A constitutional law can determine the cases when the people exerts state power directly.)
The Citizens´ Constitution guarantees that the people can exert state power directly, if this is demanded in a petition supported by at least 1 % of citizens of Czech Republic within six months. The petition has to be organized without financial support by the authorities and big private or state enterprises. The details will be determined by law.
There are two kinds of referenda:
In both cases, to pass the proposal, a majority of the referendum participants is sufficient.
Referenda can be organized on the national, regional or local level. Referenda can be obligatory (in some explicitly defined cases), or ad hoc.
- Plebiscite, i.e. referendum proclaimed by the Government, Parliament, or a local council.
- Popular referendum, proclaimed on the basis of successful iniciative of a citizen, a group of citizens, or a citizen movement.
The political system is based, in the legislative area, on free and voluntary establishment and free competition of political parties (respecting basic democratic principles and rejecting violence as a means to promote their interests), on popular iniciative and referendum according to Art. 2, on direct election of the head of state by all citizens every 5 years, on the separation of legislative and executive power, and on an independent judicial power. ..... Every measure taken by the police is subject to control by Citizen Commissions. The use of armed forces has to be sanctioned by Citizen Commissions and national referendum. ......
..... Major cases of encroachment upon natural environment have to be controlled by Citizen Commissions.
|The Constitution can be amended or changed only by constitutional laws. These laws have to be first assessed by Citizen Commissions and then enacted by referendum.
|The ratification of international treaty according to paragraph 1 has to be approved by Parliament, (unless a constitutional law stipulates that that ratification requires approval by referendum.) The citizens can require that such a treaty has to be presented for assessment to Citizen Commissions and approved by referendum.
|In Czech Republic, legislative power belongs to Parliament and national referendum, in some cases after assessment by Citizen Commissions. In case of difference between voting in Parliament and referendum, it is referendum that decides.
|Parliamentary elections are general, equal and direct, by secret ballot according to the (principle of proportional representation) majority principle. In each constituency, the candidate who has obtained most votes is elected, regardles of whether he/she presents him/herself as a private person, representative of a political party, or a citizen movement. Exact rules are determined by election law formulated by Citizen Commissions and approved by referendum.
|Any decision concerning declaration of war, sending troups abroad or receiving foreign troups on Czech territory, as well as any decision to join international defense systems has to be approved by (a majority of all MPs and senators) a majority of participants of national referendum held on this issue. If so required by a national initiative organized in accordance with the Constitution, the issue has also to be assessed by Citizen Commissions.
The Institution of Citizen Commissions
Chief Principles: The Citizion Commissions´ function is only advisory. Decisions are made in representative bodies and referenda. The only exception are Administrative Citizen Commissions organized once a year, to make irrevocable decisions concerning salaries and other prerogatives of politicians and high civil servants on all levels. Both politicians and civil servants are the citizens´ employees. Their salaries are paid by the citizens through taxes. In all other situations, it is the employers who decide salaries, even if mostly after negotiations with unions. It is inadmissible that politicians, as the only employees in existence, are allowed to use taxes for deciding the level of their own salaries and prerogatives. This right must be reserved for the citizens as taxpayers, through the intermediary of regularly organized Citizen Commissions.