Prof. Dr. Melanie Sully

Austrian Yearbook with chapter on comparative parliamentary standards Dr Melanie Sully

Austrian Yearbook for Politics: Contribution by This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. on Codes of Conduct and Parliaments

Auszug Dr Melanie SULLY „Verhalten und Kodizes in Parlament und Politik“, in Österreichisches Jahrbuch für Politik, Hrsg Khol ua

Das Europäische Parlament verordnete seinen Mitgliedern einen Ethikkodex, der Sanktionen, wie die Streichung von Diäten von zwei bis zu zehn Tagen, die vorübergehende Aussetzung der parlamentarischen Aktivitäten (jedoch nicht des Abstimmungsrechtes) für maximal zehn Tage oder der Verlust einer Funktion, z.B. Berichterstatter, vorsieht. Brüche des Ethikkodex werden an prominenter Stelle auf der Parlamentshomepage veröffentlicht. …

           
In Deutschland enthalten die parlamentarische Geschäftsordnung sowie deren Anlage 1 Verhaltensregeln für Abgeordnete, die, zusammen mit dem Abgeordnetengesetz, den sensiblen Bereich der in Konflikt stehenden finanziellen Interessen regeln. Ordnungsstörungen im Parlament können seit 2011 durch Ordnungsgelder geahndet werden: „Das Ordnungsgeld schließe die bisherige Lücke in der Geschäftsordnung zwischen dem Ordnungsruf, der ohne einschneidende Folgen für die betroffenen Abgeordneten bleibe, und dem Sitzungsausschluss, der aufgrund der damit verbundenen Einschränkungen der Rede- und Abstimmungsrechte das schärfste Ordnungsmittel darstelle und deshalb für bestimmte Ordnungsstörungen als unangemessen nicht in Betracht gekommen sei […]. Reine Fragen der Kleiderordnung sind allerdings ausgenommen, soweit sie nicht allgemeine Regeln des Anstands verletzen“. Die Möglichkeit des Ausschlusses von Abgeordneten besteht weiterhin, ihr wurde aber, wie auch die Regelung über Ordnungsgelder, von manchen Experten mit Kritik begegnet.

In Großbritannien: Suspendierung, welche einen automatischen Verlust des Gehalts für ein paar Tage bis zu einem Monat bedeutet; seit 2003 kann ein Gehalt des Abgeordneten ohne Suspendierung zurückgehalten werden. Im Regelfall können Abgeordnete nur hintereinander suspendiert werden.

 

Lettland verabschiedete 2006 einen Ethikkodex, welcher 2010 erweitert wurde und einen Bestandteil der parlamentarischen Geschäftsordnung bildet. Abgeordnete sollen sich dabei an Kleidervorschriften halten, ihr Wissen um die Demokratie ständig vertiefen sowie etwaige Fehler anerkennen und ausbessern. Sie werden angehalten, ihre Sprachkompetenz zu verbessern. Außerdem sollen Fragen nur dann nicht beantwortet werden, wenn es die Preisgabe vertraulicher Informationen oder ihres Privatlebens betrifft. Ein Mitglied des lettischen Parlaments erhielt vor Kurzem einen Verweis, da es alkoholisiert in der Öffentlichkeit aufgetreten war. Sanktionen bestehen unter anderem in einem offiziellen und öffentlichen Verweis des Abgeordneten sowie in der Publizierung des Namens.                        
Das polnische Parlament („Sejm“) verabschiedete ethische Verhaltensprinzipien für Stellvertreter und Regeln über die Mandatsausübung für Abgeordnete. Diese Prinzipien regeln die Ausübung außerparlamentarischer Beschäftigungen, erhaltene Spenden und Einladungen auf Auslandsreisen. Gemäß der Geschäftsordnung kann vom Ethikausschuss über einen Abgeordneten ein auf der Parlamentshomepage zu veröffentlichender Verweis verhängt werden.        

Excerpt from Codes and Conduct in Politics and Parliaments by Dr Melanie Sully (first appeared in a long version in German in Österreichisches Jahrbuch für Politik, ed A.Khol et al, Vienna, 2013)

 International Experience

Georgia adopted a code of conduct in 2004 but has not effectively implemented it, “eight years have passed since the signing of Georgia’s parliamentary code of ethics but the cases of parliamentarians unethical behaviour have not been deterred from occurring while the generally low public perception of MPs conduct remains largely the same as it was before”[1]. Offensive language, ghost voting and fighting remain. The code however did not include mandatory provisions or an enforcement mechanism. Public naming and shaming is seen as an effective penalty for deterring ethical misconduct. The head of procedural rules committee in the Georgian parliament told Transparency International, “every MP could afford to pay a fine for misbehaviour but it would cost them much more to pay for their reputation”.

In the European Union codes of conduct in parliaments exist in various forms besides the United Kingdom, eg in France, Germany, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta and Poland. Elsewhere there is an ongoing discussion going in the direction of adoption of some code of conduct eg Estonia where a draft code of ethics is being reviewed by the parliamentary groups.

In France a code of ethics was adopted by the national assembly in 2011. France also created a commissioner for ethical standards who is appointed for the legislative period by three fifths of the main decision-making body of the National Assembly including at least one opposition party. The commissioner acts as an advisor to MPs on the code which covers conflicts of financial interest, acceptance of gifts and foreign travel invitations. Some of the Nolan principles such as transparency, objectivity, integrity and responsibility form the philosophy of the Code.

The Code was adopted in response to recommendations made by a working group including representatives from the parliamentary groups and legal advisors which had been set up by the Speaker.

In Germany the Rules of Procedure with Appendix 1 sets out rules for MPs which together with provisions of the Law on the Status of Deputies relate to conflicts of financial interest. For violation of order in the Chamber the Rules include since 2011 the possibility to impose fines (Ordnungsgelder): “Das Ordnungsgeld schließe die bisherige Lücke in der Geschäftsordnung zwischen dem Ordnungsruf, der ohne einschneidende Folgen für die betroffenen Abgeordneten bleibe, und dem Sitzungsausschluss, der aufgrund der damit verbundenen Einschränkungen der Rede- und Abstimmungsrechte das schärfste Ordnungsmittel darstelle und deshalb für bestimmte Ordnungsstörungen als unangemessen nicht in Betracht gekommen sei…… Reine Fragen der Kleiderordnung sind allerdings ausgenommen, soweit sie nicht allgemeine Regeln des Anstands verletzen“. The exclusion of an MP is still possible but has, as also the new possibility to impose fines, been met with some sceptism by some experts.[2],[3]

In Ireland there are codes of conduct for MPs in the Lower House, the Senate and a Minister Code. A commissioner supervises the Ethics Acts mostly concerned with material and financial conflicts of interests and offers guidance. The code bans financial gain for influencing legislation and lays down rules on accepting gifts and hospitality and using confidential information for personal gain.

Latvia has a code of ethics since 2006 which was amended in 2010 and is an appendix to the rules of procedure. It states that MPs should be properly dressed and keep on learning about democracy and acknowledge and correct their mistakes. An MP should improve their knowledge of Latvian and not avoid answering questions unless they relate to confidential information or their private life. Recently a Member in the Latvian parliament was reprimanded for appearing in public under the influence of alcohol. Sanctions include an official and public reprimand and naming the MP.

Lithuania has a code of conduct since 2006 for state politicians with a register of private interests. The object of the code is “that state institutions have to serve the people, develop democratic management and increase confidence of society in state and municipal institutions promoting responsibility and accountability. A state politician is defined as a Member of the Seima, municipal council or mayor or government members of municipal councils or deputy mayor. Members of the European Parliament elected in the country are included. The code also applies to chairmen and deputy chairmen of the parliamentary groups. The Code stipulates respect for human rights and freedoms, justice, tolerance, honesty, transparency when taking decisions, avoidance of unfair ways of seeking advantage and bans making profit from official information received. MPs and candidates should also declare their private financial interests in accordance with laws. Investigations into breach of the code are carried out by the relevant committee where the state politician works which in parliament is the commission for ethics and procedures. As in Britain anonymous complaints are not considered. The committee has access to relevant documents and the state politician concerned has the right to submit evidence and witnesses and see the material collected. The politician can be required to rectify the problem or make an apology.

In Malta there are brief codes of ethics for MPs, parliamentary assistants and ministers. These relate to payment for outside work, fees, travel abroad and financial interests to reduce corruption.

In Poland, the Sejm has principles of deputies ethics and rules on the exercise of the mandate of an MP. These are concerned with eg extra jobs the MP holds, donations received and invited trips abroad. An ethics committee according to the rules of procedure can reprimand an MP and this is published on the parliament website.

The European Parliament has a code of ethics for Members with sanctions.The case will be reported on a prominent position on the website. A tougher code with the aim of regulating more effectively conflicts of interests, accepting financial gain for influencing voting and laws and lobbyism came into force in 2012. Once again the Nolan principles of selflessness, integrity, transparency and also responsibility were cited as guidelines. Ethic principles also exist for EU officials such as a commitment to the EU, integrity, respect for others and transparency which take account of best practices in member states designed to build trust.[4] Early in 2012 new guidelines were issued by the European Commission for commission staff and rules on accepting hospitality. Rules for Commissioners are in a separate code of conduct. Gifts can be accepted below 50 Euro. More expensive gifts need authorisation for up to 150 Euros and expensive gifts should be refused but assessing the worth of gifts so precisely is not so simple.

The USA[5] has a 450 page House Ethics Manual for Congress, in the Senate there is an Ethics Manual and Code of Official Conduct of the Senate plus a code of ethics for the government. Each house has its own code of official conduct for members and staff and an ethics committee independent of the other; each provides rulings and can investigate and impose sanctions. There are strict rules on accepting gifts, accepting invitations and paid employment.

There are some parliaments which have considered introducing codes but rejected the move. In New Zealand in 2007 four opposition parties announced their intention to sign a voluntary code of conduct and canvassed support from the Speaker to implement it for parliament. After consideration the government parties decided that codes of conduct were superfluous since there are already adequate laws especially on conflicts of interest. The debate for a code was initiated by opposition parties who felt that they were not getting a fair say in the House especially after the adoption of a new electoral system which had led to several parties in parliament. The old rules fitting a traditional two-party system disadvantaged minority parties who felt they had less rights and were shouted down by the government parties. There were constant calls to order and protests against Ministers dodging questions.

 

Melanie Sully, Prof., Dr.;BA, MA, PhD, political scientist, consultant, editor and writer on Austrian, European and British current affairs; former radio correspondent for Voice of America; special guest lectures eg at Chatham House, London, Harvard, Moscow; from 1988-91 guest professor in political science, University of Innsbruck; professor at the University of Vienna 1991-92; professor at the Vienna Diplomatic Academy 1992-2010; OSCE consultant on parliamentary ethics as well as women in politics; expert for “good governance” projects for the Cultural Department of the Austrian Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs; member of the advisory board of the Georgian Institute of Politics, Tbilisi University. 

Member of scientific board of the Institute for State Organisation and Administrative Reform in the Austrian Federal Chancellery.



[1] Case Study, TI Report, April, 2012 and OSCE Report 2011. Georgia with the assistance of the OSCE is now working on improving its code of conduct.

[2] See also A. Ingold and S. Lenski, Ordnungsgeld und Sitzungsausschluss als Ordnungsmaßnahmen gegen Bundestagsabgeordnete, JZ 3/2012.

[3] Fines can be imposed in the Czech parliament should an apology not be forthcoming and the money goes to the state budget; similarly in Slovakia fines can be imposed for voting fraud, breaking the oath, unjustified absence etc. Fines are being considered in the Hungarian parliament. A cut in salary can follow for misconduct eg in France, Poland, Spain, Belgium, Finland and Greece (information in respective rules of procedure).

[4] Issued by P. Nikiforos Diamandouros, Ombudsman, 19.6. 2012 in a statement.

 

Österr. Jahrbuch für Politik 2012 eds Khol/Ofner/Karner/Halper www.oejp.at Böhlau Publishers Vienna, March 2013
This series has appeared since 1977. One of the editors there from the start is former Parliament Speaker Prof Andreas Khol. As he presented the book white smoke was announced via text message from the Vatican. The book this year has several main topics important for good governance eg direct democracy, anti-corruption, parliamentary committees of inquiry, party finance and the new laws on election campaign financing. Authors include Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger, Finance Minister Maria Fekter, State Secretary Sebastian Kurz and SPÖ leader of the parliamentary group Josef Cap.
Prof Dr Melanie Sully wrote a piece on comparative parliamentary standards looking at ways to increase confidence in politics eg through codes of conduct "Verhalten und Kodizes in Parlament und Politik" pp 253-73
Summary: "Codes of conduct suddenly became a topic in Austria in 2012 following a series of corruption charges which damaged the image of politicians. The ÖVP adopted a code of conduct and party leader, Michael Spindelegger, made it clear there would be zero tolerance for serious breaches of ethics rules.  Such an experience is not new and not confined to Austria. This chapter looks at cases in other countries notably the UK, which adopted a code of conduct for parliamentarians which has served as a model for other legislatures. Codes, whether adopted by parties or parliaments, can complement laws, can serve to increase standards in public life, can act as criteria for the public and the media to judge politicians and enhance trust and confidence in our democracies".
"Als Folge einer Serie an Korruptionsvorwürfen, die dem Image der österreichischen Politik alles andere als zuträglich waren, rangierte in Österreich das Thema 'Verhaltenskodex' 2012 plötzlich an erster Stelle auf der politischen Tagesordnung.  Die ÖVP verordnete sich einen Verhaltenskodex und Parteiobmann Michael Spindelegger betonte, schwere ethische Verfehlungen nicht mehr zu tolerieren.  Doch Erfahrungen solcherart sind weder neu, noch beschränkt auf Österreich. Dieser Beitrag beschäftigt sich mit Beispielen einiger Länder, darunter vor allem des Vereinigten Königreichs, dessen Verhaltensregeln für Abgeordnete anderen Ländern als Modell diente. Kodizes, verabschiedet entweder von Parteien oder vom Parlament, können Gesetze ergänzen und dienen dazu, Verhaltensstandards im öffentlichen Leben zu heben.  Medien und Öffentlichkeit dienen sie als Beurteilungskriterein für Politiker und stärken das Vertrauen in unsere Demokratien".
Prof Dr Melanie Sully, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.