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OPINION Parliament of the 21st Century

by: MIRJANA NAJCEVSKA

In the Constitution, Rules of Procedure of the Assembly and Law on the Assembly, there is not a single provision that stipulates that sessions of Parliament are to be held in the Parliament building, and there is no restriction for them to be held on a certain internet platform.

There is no need for any changes in any of these acts in order to enable online sessions of the Parliament. They provide the legal basis for the work of the Parliament to be carried out in any form that enables MPs to express their opinions, to unequivocally express their views and to make relevant decisions.

Everything else is a matter of technical support and appropriate logistics that will ensure appropriate implementation of the competencies of the Parliament in a manner provided by the Constitution, Rules of Procedure and the Law.

In the mentioned acts there are even provisions that can be useful for facilitating the realization of this type of sessions.

For example, Article 11 of the Law on the Assembly stipulates that: “The bodies of local self-government shall supply equal assistance to the MPs for performing their functions. The bodies (see paragraph 1 of this Article) shall supply the MPs with office space and conditions for contacting the citizens from their constituency”.

The MPs can use this office space, if necessary, also as space from where they will participate in sessions if there are no conditions to do this in another way.

The advantages of holding online sessions are numerous (regardless of whether it concerns essential elements of performing the MP function or ordinary ones that will raise the reputation of MPs).

Here I will number just some of the advantages that I see in holding online sessions of Parliament:

– this way of holding sessions will enable the factual realization of the constitutional provision (Article 66 of the Constitution) according to which the Assembly is in permanent session.

– greater participation of MPs (even when MPs are out of the country, when they are prevented from coming to Parliament, when they need to participate in events outside of Parliament, they can be present during the entire or part of the session, to discuss and to vote).

– MPs will have a much greater opportunity to be closer to the citizens and to communicate with them (namely, to carry out the additional functions stipulated in Article 8 of the Law on the Assembly: contacts with citizens, contacts and consultations with non-governmental organizations, contacts, cooperation and consultations with the Trade Union and association of citizens, cooperation with international organizations).

– the provisions of Articles 72 and 73 of the Rules of Procedure of the Assembly will be able to be practiced more often (the State President, Prime Minister, ministers and authorized representative of the proposer of a law submitted by at least 10.000 voters can participate at the parliament session. Representatives of other bodies and organizations can also participate in the session and in the work of the Assembly, when issues of their competence are being considered. High parliamentary and state representatives of other countries and of international organization and other prominent foreign persons may also attend a session of the parliament as guests or to hold a speech).

In my opinion, this way some of the negative behaviour that MPs are currently practicing will also be reduced:

–possibilities for playing with the quorum will be reduced

– MPs will not be able to usurp the podium

– a more civilized communication will be reached in which MPs are not exposed to insults, humiliation and interruption by other MPs

– possibilities for manipulation with travel and daily expenses will be reduced

– cheap eating and drinking will also be reduced.

Online work of parliamentary bodies is no longer an exception in the world.

A hybrid system, for instance, is used by: the Russian Duma,  Federal Parliament of Australia , British ParliamentEuropean Parliament.

Latvia, Belgium, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Ecuador, Venezuela, Honduras, Cuba, Vietnam,  apply principles of online communication and work.

Innovativeness in finding new solutions and modes of work is just starting.

Of course, the flexible approach is always best. Hybrid solutions, temporary solutions or adjustments can also be accepted, which will enable the most efficient work of Parliament and fully realizing the work tasks of the MPs with the least possible threat to their health and safety. A percentage presence of MPs can be determined or we can even start thinking about reducing the number of MPs.

According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union:

“Whatever happens, the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted innovations in the work of parliaments and development of new working methods that can have a significant impact on how parliaments will look like in the future”.

In the text, I had no intention to argue or to take arguments with which I would disprove the series of nonsense such as – will a person on a respirator be participating in the work of Parliament, or about the right taken away of MPs bargaining in the hallways of the parliamentary building and so on. Nevertheless, I am a serious professor and it does not seem fit for me to put all kinds of nonsense on paper.

 

translation: Natasha Cvetkovska

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