SCOPE 2014Challenges of political leadership in times of crisis. What strategies, what consequences? Economic Crisis through Romanian MPs’ Eyes: The Story Told By Parliamentary Questions Irina Ionescu, PhD Faculty of Political Science University of Bucharest
Research Design TOPIC / STAKE/ QUESTIONS • How did Romanian MPs see the recent world economic crisis? • What (1) political and (2) policy approach to this crisis steams form their discourse and activity? • What is their assessment of the causes of the world / national crisis? • What (1) political and (2) policy answers do they seem to provide to the Government? • How did the large mass of rather anonymous MPs saw the crisis? • How did they choose to react? • Did they try to talk to the Government? In which terms? DATA & SAMPLE& METHOD • Parliamentary questions and interpellations (PQIs). • 2008-2012 – 1st parliamentary term elected through a candidate-centered system • All deputies & all PQIs from 2 committees [the most relevant?]: • Committee for Economic Policy, Reform, and Privatization • Committee for Budget, Finance, and, Banks • Content analysis of PQIs & data concerning MPs identity. • Some simple quantitative analysis.
Why parliamentary questions? = the most policy-oriented purely individual assessment tools for parliamentary activity. • the key tool available for MPs to exercise the oversight function of Parliament on Government activity. • come from MPs’ experience in their constituency or in the standing committees. • As opposed • to motions - a “private” tool, less prone to media pressure • to draft bills - far less subject to institutional constraints and strategic political calculations. • to simple discourses - require a more documented and intrinsically policy-oriented approach due to their oversight nature. • PQIs – the least constrained by party leadership = > MPs have no better alternative tool to talk directly to the Government and receive an answer. Any answer.
Who are the leaders? (II) The Most Substantive Intervention Award • MirceaDraghici, PSD– automobile industry, monetary policy • Marian Neacsu, PSD – fiscal measures need predictability • Nitu Adrian, PDL – fiscal policy – lump sum tax, VAT Focus On The Big Picture Award • ValentinRusu, PDL - Romania inside the world economic game / EU economic & financial policy Originality Award • TitiHolban, PNL – economic crisis impact on the media [business] Sustainability Award • CatalinChereches, – impact of budget policy /national debts on future generations • ClaudiuManda, PSD – fiscal budgetary responsibility
PQIs drive Different motivations for parliamentary questioning: (1) To request information (2) To press for action (3) To gain personal publicity (4) To demand an explanation (5) To test ministers in controversial areas of their policies (6) To attack ministers in difficult political situations (7) To dispose of a large number of heterogeneous topics rapidly and conveniently (8) To show concern for the interests of constituents (9) To help build up a reputation in some particular matters (10) To force compromises on an unwilling government (11) To delay a headstrong government until other forces and events make their influence felt (12) To demonstrate the government’s faults (13) To rally the troops within an opposition party, with only a remote intention of forcing change on the government (14) To create elements of excitement and drama. Parliamentary Questioning: Control by Communication? by MattiWiberg [Herbert DORING (ed.), Parliaments and Majority Rule in Western Europe, St. Martin’s Press, Frankfurt, 1995.]
Demands addressed to the Government (I) Types of demands: • Strategies • Action to be taken • Effective policies • Rational measures • Money • Functional administrative mechanism …..in the name of: fairness & legality > efficiency & efficacy & effectiveness & rationality
DEMANDS addressed to the Government (II) • Missing: • Monetary policy / banks - absent • Trade – quite absent, except for the “Romanian products” discourse • Foreign Models / Intervention – 6 MPs • What are the conditions negotiated? • What will be done with the money? • IMF = escaping goat for Gov. malfunction / bad decisions • The Gov. does whatever the IMF says /humiliating decisions • The IMF uses an apocalyptic discourse – compared to the NBR: who is right? • BUT • No foreign models. • Low rate - “compliance” discourse = do what Europe says / comparisons with EU states.
Political vs. Policy approaches to crisis • Very few references to political matters – “it is not the political color of the government that explains its bad policy / measures / actions”. • No direct political attacks – only scattered examples • No reference to doctrine (Government or MPs) – only scattered examples • Low levels of “heavy” populism in MPs’ discourse. As compared to their “potential”. • Technical, focused, simple questions. • Government treated as an information desk. => MPs’ professionalism vs. a crisis with no political color vs…..? Power vs. opposition: interesting divide • PDL > PSD >> PNL: the time spent in power is positively correlated to oversight activity/eagerness (= frequency of relevant PQIs or crisis related PQIs) • Discourse / content analysis: NO real difference between power and opposition. • They all tell the same story about the crisis.
Key Observations • Duration of the crisis – end 2009 (a few), 2010, 2011 (1st half) • (very) Low emphasis on the crisis as 1) issue or 2) as MPs activity drive: • “these problems have been here / will be here anyway” • Questions vs. interpellations – preference towards questions – dialogue with ministers vs. prime-minister • Activity Level: Newcomers >>Incumbents • Massive focus on local /constituency issues (~80%) • The policy area of the committees is not a determinant of the topic of PQIs • Media / public sources based POIs - the more complex the issue addressed • No knowledge / approaches / “reflexes” related to economic and financial concepts they come across daily as committee members. • MPs demand explanations for the governmental policies asking for studies and in depth analyses. • POIs illustrate the chronology of Government policy decisions. • Did the MPs do their job right?
Invitation to debate MPs’ PROFILE • MPs don’t think in policy terms. • MPs don’t think as decision makers. • MPs don’t think as legislators (too much). => They think like citizens and as representatives of citizens. LEADERSHIP Leaders don’t just ask questions such as: • Is it fair? • Was it really necessary? • Why did YOU do that? • What are YOU going to do? => Leaders step in. [ ideas, solutions, actions…] How does the perfect PQI look like? • What does it really mean to hold the Government accountable through PQIs? • How do you measure & assess that?