DESK REVIEWS | 01.05.01. Background
DESK REVIEW | 01.05.01. Background
Brazil is a federative republic with a political system composed of three levels of independent government (federal government, 26 states and one federal district, and 5,563 municipalities). The government is led by a president (executive branch), bicameral legislature (chamber of deputies and senate house) and several political parties. Brazil is a democratic nation, governed by means of an independent judiciary, with national and subnational (mandatory voting) electronic elections every four years (Paim et al., 2011). It is a young democracy, still with many contradictions.
Paim, J., Travassos, C., Almeida, C., Bahia, L., & Macinko, J. (2011). The Brazilian health system: History, advances, and challenges. The Lancet, 377(9779), 1778–1797. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(11)60054-8
Under the principle of ‘One Country, Two Systems’, Hong Kong became a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China on 1 July 1997. This arrangement allows the city to enjoy a high degree of autonomy, including retaining its capitalist system, independent judiciary and rule of law, free trade, and freedom of speech. According to the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s political system and autonomy would remain unchanged for 50 years until 2047. It designates a three-branch system of governance led by the Chief Executive and the Executive Council, with a two-tiered system of representative government (i.e., Legislative Council and District Council), and the independent judiciary (HKSAR Government, 2019, May-b). The structure of the government is described below:
- The Chief Executive and Executive Council
The Chief Executive (CE) is the head of the government, which is elected by a broadly representative Election Committee in accordance with the Basic Law and is appointed by the Central People’s Government. It is responsible for implementing the Basic Law, signing bills and budgets, promulgating laws, making decisions on government policies, and issuing Executive Orders. The term length of CE is five years and possible consecutive renewal for once only. He or she is assisted in policy making by the Executive Council (HKSAR Government, 2019, May-b).
The Executive Council assists the CE in policymaking and advises the CE on matters relating to the introduction of bills and subsidiary legislation. It consists of 16 official and 16 non-official members. All members are appointed by the CE from among the senior officials of the executive authorities, members of the Legislative Council and public figures. It serves for a period no longer than the expiry of the CE’s term of office (HKSAR Government, 2019, May-b).
- Legislative Council and District Councils
The Legislative Council is the law-making body of Hong Kong currently comprising 70 members. It also debates issues of public interest, examines and approves budgets, receives and debates the Chief Executive’s policy addresses, and endorses the appointment and removal of the judges of the Court of Final Appeal and the Chief Judge of the High Court (HKSAR Government, 2019, May-b). The terms of the Legislative Council are four years.
The District Councils, currently consisting of 479 seats, undertakes improvement projects and promote recreational, cultural, and community activities in their respective districts. They also advise the Government on matters that affect the well-being of residents and the adequacy and priorities of government programmes (HKSAR Government, 2019, May-b). The terms of the District Council are also four years.
- The Judiciary
The Basic Law ensures that Hong Kong remains within the common law system. It is independent from the legislative and executive branches of government, with the courts showing no bias. For the most serious types of criminal offences, a jury decides whether the accused is guilty or not, with a majority vote required. The Court of Final Appeal is the highest appellate court and is headed by the Chief Justice (HKSAR Government, 2019, May-b).
HKSAR Government. (2019, May-b). Government Structure. Retrieved from https://www.gov.hk/en/about/govdirectory/govstructure.htm
The Indian subcontinent is a federal parliamentary democratic republic where the head of state is the President of India and the head of government is the Prime Minister (Nirmala, 2018). Moreover, India has a dual polity system, which is made of a central authority and state level governments (Nirmala, 2018).
Nirmala, R. (2018). Politics in India:-At a Glance: A Study of Indian Political System and Elections. Available from http://www.ijhssi.org/papers/vol7(12)/Ver-2/A0712020117.pdf
The Republic of Indonesia is a presidential republic that was founded in 1945 and gained full independence in 1949. A Federal Constitution was established in 1949, then briefly abandoned and reinstated in 1959. The Constitution regulates relationships with other states but also outlines responsibilities and powers, such as relations between state institutions (legislative, executive, and judiciary) within the country (Qatar Embassy in Jakarta – Republic of Indonesia, 2018). There were several upheavals until 1967 General Suharto became president. The ‘New Order’ regime was in power until 1998, following the Asian crisis in 1997. Between 1998 and 2000 the country underwent major political and governmental reform, including four amendments to the constitution and reorganisation of legislative and judiciary authorities to decentralise power. In 1999, for the first time, free elections were held in Indonesia. Aburrahman Wahid became elected president and stayed in power until 2001, when he was dismissed by parliament. He was superseded by Megawati Sukarnoputri. She was unseated in the 2004 elections by former general Susilo Bambang Yuhoyono. In 2014, Joko Widodo became president (BBC, 2019; CIA World Factbook, 2019; Qatar Embassy in Jakarta – Republic of Indonesia, 2018).
In Indonesia, executive powers lie with the ‘president, vice president, and the cabinet of ministers’. In the presidential cabinet, ministers do not represent their political parties but report to the president (The Embassy of Indonesia – Prague, 2015). Legislative powers lie with the People’s Consultative Assembly (MPR), which is made up of two parts. First, the Parliament which represents elected members of political parties. Second, the Regional Representative Council (DPD), which is made up of four elected delegates per province. According to the Embassy of Indonesia to the Czech Republic, ‘the MPR has 550 members from the parliament and 128 members form the’ DPD (The Embassy of Indonesia – Prague, 2015). Judiciary powers lie with the Supreme Court (The Embassy of Indonesia – Prague, 2015).
BBC. (2019). Indonesia profile – Timeline. BBC. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-pacific-15114517
CIA World Factbook. (2019). Indonesia. https://www.cia.gov/the-world-factbook/countries/indonesia/
Qatar Embassy in Jakarta – Republic of Indonesia. (2018). Political System. http://jakarta.embassy.qa/en/indonesia/political-system
The Embassy of Indonesia – Prague. (2015). The Government of the Republic of Indonesia. http://www.indonesia.cz/the-government-of-the-republic-of-indonesia/
The country is a parliamentary democracy with a bicameral legislature and party system, based on universal adult suffrage (Commonwealth Secretariat, 2019).
According to the Jamaica Information Service (2015), Jamaica’s national policies and programs are directed by its National Development Plan – Vision 2030 Jamaica. The plan has four (4) National Goals, each with several sub-goals. These goals are to ensure that:
- Jamaicans are empowered to achieve their fullest potential.
- The Jamaican society is secure, cohesive and just.
- Jamaica’s economy is prosperous.
- Jamaica has a healthy natural environment (JIS, 2015).
Commonwealth Secretariat. (2019). Constitution of Jamaica. Available from: https://www.commonwealthgovernance.org/countries/americas/jamaica/constitution/
Jamaica Information Service (JIS). (2015). A Vision for Jamaica: National Vision Statement. Available from: https://jis.gov.jm/media/A-Vision-for-Jamaica.pdf
Since 2013, Kenya operates under a devolved system of government consisting of 47 counties to enhance better governance. The devolved system ensures effective policy implementation at grassroots levels while enabling development of policy instruments at the national level (Kenya Law Reports, 2013).
Kenya Law Reports. (2013). The Constitution of Kenya, 2010. Nairobi, Kenya. http://www.kenyalaw.org/lex/actview.xql?actid=Const2010
The Mexican Constitution, signed on 5 February 1917, establishes that Mexico is a Federal, Democratic, Representative Republic, constituted by 31 states and a Federal District, in a Federation, but free and sovereign in their internal regime. In 2018, the Federal District legally changed its status to an autonomous entity now defined as Mexico City.
The Government is constituted by three powers: Executive, Legislative, and Judiciary. The Executive power rests with the President who is elected for 6-year periods. Historically there was no re-election of public officials in Mexico at any level until a Political-Electoral Reform in 2014 permitted re-elections within the Legislative branch for Deputies, Senators, and municipal heads (mayor). The Legislative power resides with Congress, which is constituted by a bi-cameral system. The Chamber of Deputies is integrated by 500 Federal Deputies and is elected every three years. The Senate is integrated by 128 members and is elected every six years. Finally, the Judiciary branch is headed by the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation as well as a number of federal and state-level courts of justice.
Moreover, within the World Bank’s Worldwide Governance Indicators (WGI) project, Mexico’s classification in the Political Stability and Absence of Violence/Terrorism measure of governance was -0.65 (the measure ranges from approximately -2.5 (weak) to 2.5 (strong) governance performance) showing a weak overall governance and a low ranking of 23.33 in comparison to all other countries (The World Bank, 2019).
 The indicator measures perceptions of the likelihood of political instability and/or politically-motivated violence, including terrorism.
The World Bank. (2019). Mexico Data. https://data.worldbank.org/country/mexico
New Zealand is a constitutional monarchy whose head of State is the Sovereign, Queen Elizabeth II of New Zealand. The Governor-General is the Queen’s representative in New Zealand. New Zealand’s Parliament consists of the Sovereign and the House of Representatives. New Zealand’s Parliament has only one chamber (the House of Representatives) and there is no upper house such as a senate. The House of Representatives consists of members of Parliament who are elected as the people’s representatives for a term of up to 3 years. New Zealand has no single written constitution or any form of law that is higher than laws passed in Parliament, with the rules about how government works contained in a number of Acts of Parliament.
New Zealand’s House of Representatives is elected using the mixed member proportional representation (MMP) voting system. Each elector has two votes — one for a local member of Parliament and one for a preferred political party. Political parties are represented in Parliament in proportion to the share of votes each party won in the party vote in the general election (New Zealand Parliament, 2016).
There are two tiers of government in New Zealand – Central government and Local government.
- Central government makes decisions affecting New Zealand as a whole.
- Local government looks after the interests and needs of specific communities through regional, city or district councils.
- runs housing, welfare, education, health, justice, immigration, the police, energy, the national road, and rail systems, defense, foreign policy, and public finances,
- regulates employment, import and export, and workplace safety,
- levies personal income tax, business taxes, and GST (the goods and services tax that is added to almost all goods and services in New Zealand).
Local government bodies:
- provide local services like water, rubbish collection and disposal, sewage treatment, parks, reserves, street lighting, roads, local public transport, and libraries,
- process building and environmental consents and administer other regulatory tasks,
- levy taxes on property, which are called ‘rates’.
There are two levels of local government – regional councils and territorial authorities (district and city councils).
- Regional councils are primarily responsible for environmental resource management, flood control, air and water quality, pest control, and, in specific cases, public transport, regional parks and bulk water supply.
- Territorial authorities are responsible for a wide range of local services, including roads, water reticulation, sewerage and refuse collection, libraries, parks, recreation services, local regulations, community and economic development, and town planning.
Sometimes, city and district councils combine to create a unitary council. In November 2018, NZ had 78 councils:
- 11 regional councils
- 61 territorial authorities (50 district councils and 11 city councils)
- 6 unitary councils.
Councils must consult with their community when making decisions (Immigration New Zealand, n.d.-a; n.d.-b; New Zealand Government, 2020).
Immigration New Zealand. (n.d.-a). Central Government. Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment website. Available from: https://www.newzealandnow.govt.nz/living-in-nz/history-government/central-government.
Immigration New Zealand. (n.d.-b). Local Government. Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment website. Available from: https://www.newzealandnow.govt.nz/living-in-nz/history-government/local-government.
New Zealand Government. (2020). How government works. New Zealand Government website. Available from: https://www.govt.nz/browse/engaging-with-government/government-in-new-zealand/.
New Zealand Parliament. (2016). Our system of government. New Zealand Parliament website. Available from: https://www.parliament.nz/en/visit-and-learn/how-parliament-works/our-system-of-government/.
South Africa today
Today, South Africa is a democratic country that is governed by a Constitution and an independent judiciary system (South African Government, 2018c). It has three levels of government (national, provincial, and local), for which each has its own legislative – and executive authority. To date, key political issues in South Africa that negatively influence local and foreign investors include Land reform, State corruption (e.g., state capture inquiry involving now former president Jacob Zuma), widespread unemployment, the economic crisis as well as provincial water and national energy (electricity) crises involving Eskom (country’s power supplier) and a severe drought.
The three tiers of Government are described below (South African Government, 2018c):
- Executive authority: comprises of a National Cabinet and is constituted by the President, Deputy President and Ministers;
- Legislative authority: comprises of a National Parliament and is constituted by two bodies, i.e., the National Assembly (350-400 members) and the National Council of Provinces (90 delegates);
- Judicial authority: judges are appointed by the Judicial Service Commission and the authority itself is made up by the Courts and includes the Constitutional Court, Supreme Court of Appeal, High Courts and Magistrates’ Courts.
The people of South Africa democratically elect a ruling party every five years, whereby general elections elect a new National Assembly and provincial legislatures. The last general elections were held on 8 May 2019.
South African Government. (2018c). Structure and functions of the South African Government | South African Government. Available from: https://www.gov.za/about-government/government-system/structure-and-functions-south-african-government