Thursday, January 17, 2013

Worldbuilding: Complexity in the Political Landscapes

As part of Way of the Shield, I've been delving deeper into the politics of Druthal.  In doing so, I'm taking into account the same thing I said about strawmen villains, but taking that to a macro scale.  Sure, it would be easy to break the Parliament into two sides, and say, "This side are the right-thinking heroes, and this side are the villainous morons".  But then you don't have a story, you have a screed.  If a screed is what you want to write, go for it.  Didn't hurt Ayn Rand's sales.  But that doesn't interest me.

Druthal is a Parliamentary Monarchy, in which I've played some mix-and-match with aspects from traditional monarchies, parliamentary systems and healthy dose of US-style democracy.  It's not a perfect system.  It's not supposed to be.  It's a messy, flawed sausage grind, and that's what I like about it. 

The Druth Parliament probably has more in common with the US Senate than, say, the British Parliament.*   There are 100 members (Chairs) to the august body, 10 from each of the archduchies.  Each Chair serves a 5-year term, with no term limits.  Elections are staggered, so every year there are two chairs per archduchy up for re-election.  Chairs are ranked by seniority, so the 1st Chair of Acora is the longest-serving member from that archduchy, 2nd Chair of Acora is second-longest, and so on to 10th Chair for the newest member. 

Elections are not winner-take-all, since two Chairs are available in any given election.  Once votes are counted and illegitimate ones are tossed**, the top two candidates receive the Chairs.   Since no candidate needs an actual majority to win a Chair, there are more than two political parties holding Chairs in the Parliament.  In fact, there are six.***

Now, in designing these six, it was very important to give each party a valid platform that people can believe in.  No one is "wrong".

  • Traditionalists (or "Dishers", colloquially) believe in the fundamental necessity of archduchies (and below that, duchies and baronies) understanding their own needs.  They want to maintain and strengthen the local authority of minor nobility; a baron knows his own barony better than anyone else, after all.  
  • Loyalists ("Crownies") believe that Druthal needs to stand as a united nation, that a strong center, where everyone is given access to the same infrastructure, rights and opportunity raises the whole nation up.  
  • Free Commerce ("Minties") believe that Druthal grows by trade and business, and by providing the means for commerce to thrive (including secure, easily traveled roads, well-protected sea-routes and minimal taxes and tariffs), the average Druth has the opportunity to succeed on their own merits.
  • Ecclesials ("Books") believe in the fundamentals of community and moral centers, and that the grounding the church gives serves the needs of the people, on a local level, far more than any well-meaning directive from the capitol.  
  • Functionalists ("Frikes") do not hold to specific ideologies of "what is good for Druthal"-- what's good is what works; if it doesn't work, you don't keep grinding at it.  They do tend to believe that simple, small steps work better in the long run than grand, sweeping gestures, and that moderation is the key to functionality.
  • Populists ("Salties") believe that the people themselves are the backbone of Druthal, and that the core industries of day-to-day living (farming, ranching, mining, fishing, etc.) are the true center that everything is built off of.  By helping the people who do those things, all of Druthal is helped.
Now, in order to actually get anything done in the Parliament, of course, coalitions must be formed.  Loyalists and Free Commerce tend to vote together one way, and Traditionalists and Ecclesials tend to vote together the other way, and Functionalists and Populists tend to be swing votes.  In 1215, when Way of the Shield takes place, the Ruling Coalition consists of the Loyalists, Free Commerce and the Functionalists-- with the Frikes being the uneasiest of allies-- holding 53 Chairs.  Traditionalists and Ecclesials form the Opposition Coalition, with 41 Chairs.  The Populists do not belong to either Coalition, but with only 6 Chairs, they have the weakest voice in the Parliament.  However, since the Frikes are the least likely to vote with uniformity, the Populists can be a crucial swing vote on any given issue.

All of this, of course, is mostly the under-the-surface part of Way of the Shield; I've gotten more infodumpish here than I do in the actual text.  The important part, for me, is the shades of grey.  There is no these-people-are-right-these-people-are-wrong dichotomies.  I have heroes on both sides of the aisle, as it were, and villains as well.

And for me, that makes for a more interesting story.

*- This is mostly because I am American, and I'm far more familiar with our government than anyone else's. 
**- Most common form of this tends to be people voting for someone ineligible; namely, someone who is already serving and isn't actually up for re-election in that cycle.
***- At least, six that have members in the Parliament.

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