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The Ministry, The Wizengamot, and Legislation

Discussion in 'Fanfic Discussion' started by Taure, Sep 11, 2019.

  1. Taure

    Taure Magical Core Enthusiast ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    The Minister for Magic

    We know from Pottermore that the Minister for Magic is elected once every 7 years (unless they resign earlier):

    Even if Pottermore hadn't told us this, the books consistently portray Fudge as extremely concerned about public opinion, something which would only really make sense if he is elected.

    We see that the Minister has day to day control of the Ministry. They also have the power to remove the Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot, though it is not clear if this is a unilateral decision or if the Wizengamot must also be involved.

    Question 1: What is the extent of the Minister for Magic's authority?

    The Wizengamot

    In the books we only see the Wizengamot act as a court. However, there are hints in the books that it holds more than judicial power:

    Fudge was sacked before his term was up (i.e. properly sacked, not just failing to be re-elected). For him to be sacked means there must be a body with the power to sack him. The Wizengamot is the only body we know of which could fit the bill (other than perhaps the International Confederation of Wizards).

    Further, the name "Wizengamot", as a play on the old witenagemot, suggests a role beyond the judicial.

    Pottermore conveniently confirms that the Wizengamot acts as wizarding Britain's legislature:

    The composition of the Wizengamot is unknown.

    Question 2: Who sits in the Wizengamot? How do they get there? Are there political parties within the Wizengamot? What is the relationship between the Wizengamot and the Minister? Is it a true parliamentary system, where the Minister is a member of the Wizengamot who commands a majority?

    Legislation

    We see a lot of different types of magical law in the books.

    Decrees

    The Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery 1875, the Educational Decrees in OotP.

    Codes

    Werewolf Code of Conduct 1637, the Code of Wand Use.

    Guidelines

    Guidelines for the Treatment of Non-Wizard Part-Humans

    Bans

    Ban on Experimental Breeding 1965, Ban on Importing Flying Carpets

    Acts


    Muggle Protection Act

    A lot of these definitely seem to be similar to real life secondary legislation, i.e. legislation made by the executive rather than the legislature. Descriptions such as guidelines, codes, etc. suggest this, and Fudge also appeared to have a lot of freedom in OotP to make decrees however he liked.

    We also know that a lot of these laws are written by Ministry employees.

    Which raises the question of if there is any primary legislation. Pottermore describes the Wizengamot as like a parliament, but the majority of legislation seems to be made by the Ministry. Are all these pieces of Ministry legislation perhaps made under more general primary legislation passed by the Wizengamot, empowering the Ministry to legislate within certain areas?

    Question 3: How are laws passed? What kinds of legislative powers does the Wizengamot have? How much can the Ministry legislate without the Wizengamot?

    I have placed this thread in the Fanfic Discussion thread so that people can answer these questions not only by reference to what we can deduce from canon (very little) but also with reference to how they would do things in their own canon-compatible fanfic.
     
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2019
  2. Sesc

    Sesc Slytherin at Heart Moderator

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    As far as Canon goes, I think you extracted everything there is. So as for extending that, I think the most rewarding direction is doing as much of it as possible via conventions. So the answer to "what can Fudge do" is "whatever he can get away with". Which is to say, I don't necessarily expect the Wizengamot to actually pass legislation, it's not a formal process like that. Rather, they can convene and agree to anything at all they like, and that's binding then.

    In particular, most people agree there is to be a Minister, and a Ministry, and they generally administrate in whatever way they like. But if Fudge does something someone who can organise a majority in the Wizengamot doesn't like, Fudge won't be doing it anymore quickly. So in principle they could nix everything from standards on cauldron bottoms to the amount of time Ministry staff may spend in the bathroom. But because they only convene bi-anually on equinox, and otherwise only when a quorum of 1/3 calls for it, that is very much impractical and never done. Instead, the one, effective power of the Wizengamot would then be to recall the Minister, and -- because I like my pureblood-dominated wizarding world -- also to suggest candidates for the election.

    Perhaps one has to have a certain number of sponsors from the members to run. Which results in:

    - People with enough money to bribe run
    - Conservative purebloods run
    - The token Muggleborn, sponsored by everyone who preaches equality and enjoys their own plum seats, runs (and loses)


    Incidentally, the authority over everything of the Wizengamot then also explains how it's a court. It's simply the highest authority, and a making decisions is what they do -- including over guilt and innocence. What I'm actually most interested in is where the Wizengamot convenes. It can't be the courtroom, that's impractical. There has to be some kind of parliamentary chamber -- i.e. a central area for speaking, and raised benches around it for good view. Is that room in the Ministry? And how many members does the full Wizengamot have anyway?
     
  3. wordhammer

    wordhammer Supreme Mugwump DLP Supporter

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    Harry was tried by about 50 for the Patronus in book 5. Dumbledore referred to it as a full criminal trial, so that had to be at least a majority. My hopefully canon-compatible take on it is that the Wizengamot is populated by the most prominent witches and wizards in the country- those who have made an impression of wisdom and insight. The membership isn't the least bit hereditary, but there isn't much turnover since they still had Madame Marchbanks in it. I would say that membership is offered by the Wizengamot to those they consider worthwhile, but that it requires a majority of them to agree before offering it to a potential candidate, and that they all take it seriously enough that they haven't yet offered a position to other accomplished/powerful/popular wizards and witches seen in the story like McGonagall, Lucius Malfoy, Slughorn, or Ollivander.

    Aside from the actual Wizengamot members, the elected government is a combination of the Minister and his appointed subordinates, assisted by the existing employment of workers in the Ministry's departments. Head Auror would be a seniority rank, while Director of the DMLE would be chosen by the current elected Ministry whenever the position became open.

    The fact that there aren't much more than 20,000 citizens to be governed (arguably) suggests that roles aren't as divided as in a conventional muggle government. That said, the Ministry needs to employ a larger portion of its constituents than would a large town, since their imperative is to keep the Statute, not just put out fires, repair roads, and manage education policy.
     
  4. Mordecai

    Mordecai Drunken Scotsman ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    Given the combined legislative and judicial roles, I like to think its heavily influenced by the House of Lords.

    You suggest that the Ministry legislates secondarily, under authorisation from overarching primary legislation by the wizengamot. I prefer to think that when the books refer to Arthur writing a law, its a more literal thing. Civil servants often write the laws that Parliament enacts, at least Government backed, less political, or technically complex ones. Thats likely what the Ministry does. The departments write legislation, likely at the direction of the Minister given via his Directors, which are then put before the Wizengamot to vote on.

    Membership of the Wizengamot is an interesting one. Given that there's approx 50 of them, and the population of Wizarding Britain is likely around 15,000-20,000...and factor in the influence of the modern House of Lords and the old Witenagemot, I wonder if the 50 members are meant to be the great figures of society. In a society that size, everyone will if not know everyone then at least know of almost everyone, and certainly reputations will form and spread extremely quickly.

    Possibly governed by unwritten conventions and traditions to determine who gets in, and also who gets to stay in. I imagine once you're in its hard to get removed, but still possible in the event of some sort of great enough scandal. And when a seat comes open, there's likely a hierarchy of the sort of people who get offered it. Probably at the top are folk like "Former Ministers for Magic who retain substantial popularity", "Retired Ministry Department Heads who're reasonably well known and popular", and "War Heroes". If none of them are available or want it, it probably works down through "Prominent, popular figure in society", "Successful business owner" and "Person who has made headlines recently and currently extremely popular".

    From that method, you'll get a Wizengamot thats broadly going to be in line with Ministry thinking, but is probably also opinionated and stubborn enough to make problems for a Minister who they think is going off the rails.
     
  5. Sesc

    Sesc Slytherin at Heart Moderator

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    Uh. That's the size of a town. I don't know everyone in the 15k town I grew up in. I don't even know all the notable names. Some, sure. But everyone in, say, the city council? Or the golf club? Or the business association? Or did you mean everyone who is notable will know everyone else who is. For the argument that would be enough, I guess -- it's much easier to know everyone in the golf club if you're in the golf club, and what the average person knows or doesn't know isn't really relevant anyway.
     
  6. Mordecai

    Mordecai Drunken Scotsman ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

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    Yeah, sorry I phrased it badly. Anyone who is notable will know everyone who is notable, and anyone who wants to be 'notable' will be able to get known by the other notables if they put a bit of effort in.

    I wonder though, if the Minister is directly elected by all over 17 year olds, thats presumably...what? About 10,000-14,000 folk as the electorate? Assume moderate political engagement, turnout in the UK is generally in the 60s and 70s...thats an electorate of 6500-9100. Campaigning in that sort of environment would be very different I would think. That really is all about personal relationships. You might not meet all 14,000 people face to face, but you'd probably try to identify influencers in society, and get them on your side so that they talk you up when interacting with other people.
     
  7. buzzer

    buzzer DA Member DLP Supporter DLP Bronze Supporter

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    I'm pretty sure that Fudge was on very good terms with both Tom the bat keep of the Leaky Cauldron and Madame Rosmerta. Both of whom would be exactly the kind of influencers that you're talking about. I can't think of too many other examples of people likely to be social influencers outside of shopkeepers though.
     
  8. arkkitehti

    arkkitehti Groundskeeper

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    Anyone with an audience is an influencer.

    In the Harry Potter Britain you have quidditch stars, the Weird Sisters, people like Gilderoy Lockhart; you have journalists like Rita Skeeter; you have background influencers like Slughorn and all those Slug Club members meeting in his parties. Harry himself is a major player who managed to shake the politics with a single interview with Luna and is courted by Scrimgeour for that influence. And then there's Dumbledore, who Fudge feels has enough influence to singlehandedly change the ministry leadership.
     
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