Reforming the Danish constitution is considered almost impossible – besides passing a proposal in two consecutive parliaments, the constitution also demands that any constitutional reform or amendment pass a referendum where 40 per cent of the electorate votes in favour. The good news are that the constitution – originally dating from 1849 and
copy-pasted from inspired by the Belgian constitution of 1830 – is fairly short and unspecific in most areas.
The Swedish constitution is another type of animal altogether. Bizarrely, Sweden has four constitutional acts, but each only needs adoption by two consecutive parliaments to be amended. The present Instrument of Government also hails from a different age – it became active in 1975, covers more issues and is much more detailed.
In any event, the Swedes have been considering more fundamental reforms of the constitution after thirty years of amendments and the Commission on Constitutional Reform published its report earlier today. Some of the proposals are of the kind only die-hard constitutional nerds will find interesting, others raise more general considerations.
The proposal which is bound to have the biggest visible effect is probably opening for extra elections in local and regional councils (p. 31f). The Swedish system has a strange mix of magistrate and parliamentary government and relations between local parties occasionally become deeply troubled. The committee opens for a supermajority deciding on extra elections and this may be a useful safety valve in some instances.
List vs. personal votes is a classic in Swedish political debate (in my opinion, the Swedes are discussing varieties of party lists, but there you have it) and the commission have come out with a modest change of the limit needed to count personal votes. Well…
The report also includes a different regulation of the role of the Law Council which performs a legal-technical test of some law proposals. As I see it, it would increase the council’s role in the early stages of the legislative process and it may be useful in avoiding sloppy legislation or proposals clashing with basic legal principles. I occasionally feel that a similar more formalised and independent evaluation of proposals would be good in a Danish context.
Finally, there is the introduction of an investiture vote on the Prime Minister at the beginning of each parliamentary term. Sweden applies the principle of negative parliamentarism and the question is if the proposal deals with a real problem. Is 1998 – when the Social Democrats lost massively but stayed in power – the inspiration for this? Then we might ask if an obligatory investiture vote would have had any direct consequences. On the one hand, the PM would have been forced to get (v)’s explicit support. On the other hand the question is if (v)’s and (mp)’s position would have been stronger in negotiations?