Sunday, June 20, 2010

Liberal Youth: where the Constitution is silent, the Returning Officer speaks...

15.1 In the event of an ambiguity arising concerning the interpretation of this Constitution, subject to the provisions of 12.10 above, the matter shall be referred for a Rule of Interpretation to the Chair or, if the ambiguity relates to an LIBERAL YOUTH election, the Returning Officer.

Curiously, the Liberal Youth Constitution is silent on what happens if an ordinary member commits an election offence as defined by Article 9.15. It does, at Article 9.12 (h), give me the power to take action, up to and including disqualification, against candidates who breach any clause of Article 9.15.

However, it seems to me that, if an ordinary member commits such an offence, and cannot be directly linked to the campaign of a candidate, the authors of the Constitution would not have intended that they be at liberty to do so without hinderance or penalty. I therefore declare, using the powers vested in me under Article 15.1, to issue the following Rule of Interpretation;

Article 9.16 (a)

Any member of Liberal Youth, other than a candidate, deemed to have committed an offence under Article 9.15 by the Returning Officer, might be punished by loss of franchise for a specified period. The same right of appeal as specified in Article 9.12 (h) shall apply to any such ruling. Such a ruling shall not preclude further action being taken against said person(s) under Article 4.4 of this Constitution.

And, having posted notice of this Rule of Interpretation, it is my intention to utilise it...


James Harrison said...

This is why I bloody hate constitutions! I didn't understand a thing in that post!

Anonymous said...

It's rather unfortunate that the Article 9 printed copy sent with the ballot cuts off 9.12 after e) v)...

Mark Valladares said...


Here is the full list of offences;

9.15 It shall be an election offence to:
a) Obtain, release, or use any official lists of the names and/or contact details of members.
b) Send unsolicited campaign material to any member, except where specifically permitted by the Returning Officer.
c) Slander or libel, implicitly or explicitly, any candidate in the election or any other individual or organisation in LIBERAL YOUTH in the course of the election campaign.
d) Threaten, bribe or impersonate the Returning Officer, Deputy Returning Officer, or any other person involved in the running of the election.
e) Breach any provision of the Constitution or election regulations made under 9.12 b), in the course of an election.
f) Disrupt the smooth running of the election or count.
g) Threaten, bribe, or harass any voter, or impede their ability to vote freely or secretly.
h) Submit false or misleading information to the Returning Officer, or his/her Deputies, or the Appeals Panel.
i) Campaign within any area excluded by the Returning Officer or his/her Deputies.
j) Attempt to commit any election offence.

I have to admit that j) intrigues me...

Mark Valladares said...


Basically, where the Constitution is silent, or unclear, I have the right to establish new Rules. I've taken advantage of this to award myself the right to punish members other than candidates for committing election offences, as this is not currently permitted. It seems to me to be a nonsense that ordinary members can do as they please.

Hope that this is helpful!

hypnoticmonkey said...

Why does j) intrigue you? Attempts are perfectly coherent crimes in the real world.

And I really don't see how you've managed to twist the words 'Rule of Interpretation' into 'being a one-man sovereign body capable of creating your own amendments to the constitution.' That's just utterly disgraceful under absolutely any interpretation of the concept of rule of law. The constitution has a procedure to give power of interpretation to a person where there is an 'ambiguity'. There is nothing ambiguous here, its an omission plain and simple. If the writers of the constitution wanted offences to apply to ordinary members, they'd have written it in. Under this erroneous logic, the Chair could write his or her own version of the constitution provided he or she could get someone to raise it for ruling.

I'm sorry Mark, this is just wrong. There are no two ways about it, you don't have the power to do this. I wish you did, because I think its quite sensible, but also I'm glad you don't because it would be dreadful to give any one person, especially an unelected office, the right to simply insert bits into the constitution at will.

'Rule of Interpretation' means a rule to interpret the words of the constitution as written, you can not interpret things that aren't there. Just because the phrase uses the word 'rule' doesn't mean you can create rules.

Lastly, going back to the by-elections, when I wanted an all-member ballot you refused because it wasn't in the constitution. You wouldn't consider the weightof the arguments in favour of an all-member ballot because it was not accounted for in the constitution, and therefore the weight of the arguments were of no effect. You indeed even said that if we disagreed with that we're at liberty to propose an amendment to the constitution, but that short of that you couldn't act.

Please, Mark, some consistency here otherwise you trample all over our constitution and completely destroy the point of having it in the first place.

bolivianewtonjohn said...

I think what Anonymous was referring to was the fact that on the copy of the constitution sent around with the ballots, article 9.12 ends at e). Meaning you are apparently working from a different version of the constitution than the electorate. Plus our version already has a 9.16.

Now I'm no lawyer, but I believe a constitution to be a statement of what the authors intended, by definition. Personally I can't see where the ambiguity is arising, could you perhaps explain your reasoning on that, for clarity?

Many thanks :-)

Mark Valladares said...


Point taken, but I beg to disagree. I believe that if an action is an offence, and that the acts of a supporter are potentially punishable by means of sanction against a candidate, it seems to me that the Constitution is ambiguous in terms of its intent. It cannot surely be the case that a candidate can be punished but not the person who has committed the offence.

It is a breach of natural justice, the exercise of which is core to the delivery of my duties as Returning Officer. I have drafted the RoI so that I am not the final arbiter, and it is consistent with Article 4.4 of the Liberal Youth Constitution and the Membership Rules of the State Parties which, for the record, supersede the Liberal Youth Constitution.

We'll only really know if I have to use it...

Mark Valladares said...

Bolivianewtonjohn (nice tag, by the way),

I'm operating from the Constitution sent to me by Liberal Youth, although it appears that the version sent out with ballot papers is incomplete. Apologies for that, but we were in a race to get the mailing out before time ran out.