Seneschal C. Carlüs Xheraltescù has introduced a bill in the Hopper that would reduce the size of the Cosa to 10% of its present size. The bill, entitled the “Please Be Seated Amendment”, would amend the Organic Law to reduce the total number of seats in the lower house of the Ziu to twenty. At the moment the Cosa has two hundred seats, which is a ratio of 1 seat to 1.17 adult citizens.
The Bill’s preamble states that “political office should be more of a challenge to acquire” and that “competition can only result in a higher quality of public debates”. The reduced number of seats would be distributed according to the parties’ share of the vote as now, and the allocation of those seats would remain at the parties’ discretion. The coalition has however also committed to addressing the question of mandatory candidate lists during the 48th Cosa, and the Seneschal reiterated this pledge in the Ziu recently. Individual Members of the Cosa would also still be able to hold multiple seats, subject to the legal cap on the number of seats any one Member can hold.
The Bill addresses a Talossan peculiarity, known as the “one-man party”. At present there are more seats available in the Cosa than there are actual voters. Individual citizens may thus bypass not only the political parties but the need for any actual popular support whatsoever, and can become a member of the lower house of the Ziu merely on the basis of their own individual vote. Indeed, depending on the actual turnout one popular vote may actually entitle the MC-elect to two or more Cosa seats.
The Bill may also be an indirect attempt to reduce the extent to which party leaders can widely distribute seats in the Cosa, particularly to new citizens, an aspect which is underlined by some of the contributions made by coalition MZs to the debate in the Ziu. Critics of the practice claim this is a form of political patronage facilitated by the “EM200″ system, so named for its originators, Wes Erni and Robert Ben Madison. At the time of its introduction the latter reigned as King Robert I.
The Coalition Agreement called for a reduction of the size of the Cosa, but did not specify a target for this reduction. The MRPT manifesto proposed a reduction to sixty seats, would would impose a de facto threshold of approximately two votes in order to win representation in the Cosa. The FDA manifesto also committed the alliance to reducing the size of the Cosa, but did not specify a numerical target.
Reactions in the Ziu have been charged, with RUMP MZs criticising the bill for what they claim is its undermining of representativity. Both Sir Alexandreu Davinescu and Sir Cresti Siervicül, who are the most vocal RUMP MCs, have ruled out supporting any change in the size of the Cosa. Sir Alexandreu described the proposals as making the Cosa “less representative of the voter’s wishes”. He also urged the smaller parties in the Cosa to oppose the bill, stating that “the price we’d pay for this bill is too high, especially when all we’d get in return is making ourselves seem more elite and making our country less representative”.
In response to Sir Alexandreu’s statements, as well as the assertions by Sir Cresti that a reduction in the number of Cosa seats would have unpredictable and potentially unjust effects on the representation of smaller parties, TSP leader Gaglhen Fortaleça stated that “this bill walks in EXACTLY the wrong direction. Keep the Cosa as it is!”
Vocal MRPT MC Ian Plätschisch also criticised the bill, stating that the “drastic” reduction in the size of the Cosa would “eliminate the party dynamics that everyone knows and loves”, and that “20 [seats] is too small to allow even representation for smaller (not even necessarily 1 person) parties”.
Senator Miestrâ Schivâ defended the bill on the grounds that “I heartily support this bill, although I could be persuaded by any other electoral reforms which would make an effective threshold of 2 or 3 votes for winning a Cosa seat”. Arguing that the provincial assemblies were moribund due to the ease with which Cosa seats could be had, the Senator further accused the RUMP of fearing “this bill because it will mean they won’t be able to bring whoever they like into the Cosa using 0.5% of the legislature as a bribe.”
Françal Ian Lux MC stated that “the whole point of this bill is to allow the Cosa to be more effective and efficient with its work”, and claimed that the two hundred-seat Cosa led to “complacency”. He also stated that “if you only have 20 seats, only those who are truly involved AND worthy are the only ones who’ll get a seat. Even if it seems elitist and exclusive, I’d much rather have such an arraignment if it would benefit the government and the kingdom as a whole.”
The Seneschal indicated that he is open to compromise on the final seat total, and called upon the opposition to propose changes to the Bill that would achieve its aim of improving the quality of representation while addressing some of the concerns about the future of the smaller parties.