PM with veto?

Has anyone heard of a parliamentary system granting the prime minister a right to veto bills? Would it be a reasonable idea (presumably with a 50%+1 override)?

9 thoughts on “PM with veto?

  1. Technically, Danish legislation is subject to royal consent (where the prime minister presents new acts for the Monarch to sign – a remnant of the separation of powers behind the original Danish konstitution), so if the PM does not present an act of parliament in the State Council, it is a de facto veto.

    Needless to say, that is an extremely rare occurrence in a parliamentary system – if the parliament meant business, it would pass a vote of no confidence – but as far as I recall there was one case during the mid-1980s where the PM refused to present an act for the Monarch.

  2. In Australia, the Constitution doesn’t even mention the Prime Minister, so a fortiori it doesn’t grant him/her a veto. On the other hand, the GG has an absolute veto over all new Acts (no 66.67% or 60% override provision). In fact, the Constitution even says that new taxing/ spending bills can only be introduced by message from the GG, although since both Houses retain their normal veto over such bills it is hard to imagine the courts would regard a third party as having standing to enforce this requirement.

    In the ACT, which has no local Crown viceroy (unlike the Northern Territory which has its own Administrator akin to a State Governor), the Chief Minister has no veto and indeed on some occasions the minor parties and independents in the Assembly have “ganged up” to pass new legislation against the active opposition of the CM (ie, not merely where the CM agreed to a conscience vote but then personally voted no, or when the CM disagreed with the proposal but thought it should be voted on, like John Howard with the Republic referendum). From memory, marijuana trials circa 1995.

  3. The whole point of the parliamentary system is that the executive is constantly and absolutely accountable for its existence to the majority of the legislature from which it is drawn. The idea of the executive being able to veto a decision of the body to which it owes its power seems a logical absurdity.

    Not that politics necessarily avoids logical absurdities, but still….

  4. Formally the UK, like all Westminster systems, retains a royal veto. It has not been exercised since 1707 and its a little strange that it was adopted into the US constitution. If it was ever to be used again, it would be on ministerial advice.

  5. It is fairly standard in constitutional monarchies to require royal assent or sanction, whether the monarch is regarded as a part of the legislature (Denmark etc.) or not (Norway). Since the monarch is not constitutionally responsible, counter signature by ministers would typically be required for any veto to be issued. It is a vestige from a time when governments were responsible only to the monarch and classical checks and balances were practiced. Sweden dropped the formality in 1974. Some republics mimic this kind of assent process, but this will vary, as will the practical consequences.

    The Belgian king vetoed an abortion bill in the late 1980s since he had a personal moral objection, though I do not know to what degree any ministers were complicit in that. In any case the objection was respected by the politicians, who then promptly used a constitutional provision to suspend him from his duties for a few days so that they could get the bill through regardless.

    I think a veto could strengthen a PM where the parties are less cohesive or where there are minority governments with tenuous outside support. It could make obsolete other creative parliamentary manoeuvres to avoid having to adopt unwanted policies. In some ways it is less extreme than the French procedure of deeming legislation to be passed unless no confidence is expressed, but it certainly goes against the idea of parliamentary government.

  6. The Commonwealth monarchies also have a colonial relic called reservation where the governor-general can, in theory, reserve a bill for Her Majesty’s pleasure. It is additional to a governor-general’s formal power to give or refuse assent to bills. It is as vestigial as the royal veto itself.

  7. The ACT does have a federal veto, rather like the imperial veto that reservation was designed to be. The governor-general has and has exercised the power to disallow ACT laws.

  8. True, and the federal Minister for Territories also retains some reserve power to dissolve the ACT assembly and call new elections if it is hopelessly (a) deadlocked, (b) corrupt (as with local councils under most States’ laws). Apart from that, however, neither the Minister nor the Governor-General has a direct role in the ACT’s executive processes (ie, formation or removal of ACT governments).

    The Canberra Times once had an editorial critical of the then Territories Minister titled “Wilson Tuckey is Not Out Governor”. I was tempted to put this to the music of “Billy Deane is/ Not the government/ He’s just a guy who/ Thinks that he is the one/ Who should say how Oz is run…”

  9. In some countries the government can veto proposals/amendments by MPs if they increase government speding. (Spain: Constitution, art. 134.6; In France such proposals/amendments are forbidden: Constitution, art. 40)

    The refusal of Boudewijn to sign the abortion bill was purely his own idea. In the end the council of ministers signed the bill, acting for the king who they found incapable of performing his duties (a solution the king agreed to). In a strange turn of events, the christian-democrat party initially opposed the bill in parliament, but its ministers had to sign it in order to relieve the king of this task.

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