Parliamentary franchise in Themiclesia

The parliamentary franchise of Themiclesia is the extent and manner in which Themiclesian citizens may participate in democratic politics by selecting representatives to the House of Commons, the lower chamber of the country's bicameral parliament. The upper chamber, the House of Lords, is an unelected body.


The Themiclesians themselves referred to parliamentary institutions by many names, as they gradually took on parliamentary characteristics during several reforms. The House of Commons has a legal name of trjung-st′ja-srjêng′ (中書省), or "royal secretariat"; however, in the 19th century, this term was quickly displaced with gjun-sjêngh-tje-srjêng (群姓之省), or something akin to "house of the lineages", referring to the belief that it represented the many non-royal, non-noble lineages. Similarly, the House of Lords is formally called the men-gra′-srjêng (門下省), or "office under the [royal] gate", referring to its deliberative space; however, it has come to be called r′jet-go-tje-srjêng (徹侯之省), or "house of all earls".

Casaterran influence is unmistakable in these changes, but the older names were never abolished for reasons of legal continuity. As such, many institutions have more than one name, but only one is generally appropriate in any given context.


The deepest roots of the parliamentary franchise may be traced to institutions introduced under King Kl′ang of Tsjinh in 330. Seeking to balance heredity and meritocracy, he ordered the aristocracy houses in each county to assemble and rank candidates according to reputation, which became the ceiling of their bureaucratic career. While this process implicitly acknowledged aristocractic influence, it was very distant from classical democratic systems. The assemblies deliberated but did not cast actual ballots, and those that were rated neither met as a legislative body not acquired influence on account of their election. Instead, it permitted clans to strengthen their faction in the bureaucracy.

To facilitate such assemblies, a formal list of aristocratic houses in each prefecture was drawn up by the royal court, totalling 185 across the realm in 395. It is unclear how common houses could join the list, though public service across multiple generations seemed requisite to build up the "reputation" that aristocratic houses claimed. This institution proved resilient and withstood the revolution of royal dynasties, concretely conceived by its participants as a key entitlement. In 532, when King Ngjon of Rjang wished to appoint unelected ministers, his court successfully opposed it as a contravention of the "great law of the state" (邦憲).[1]

While colonialism in Columbia became economically significant to Themiclesia from the 1500s, the colonies had little direct influence in the royal court. The first colonists were labour camp inmates promised free land for military service, and as such few of them developed aptitude for public service, much less satisfying the multi-generation requirement before enfranchisation. The few families that did become the Camian gentry later on were mostly branches of existing Themiclesian aristocrats and were, thus, not normally considered eligible for separate enfranchisement, though their position relative to local magistrates were comparable to their metropolitan relations. In 1680, 48 aristocratic houses existed in Camia, ordered to assemble for civic elections between 1603 and 1698. The situation in Solevent is less clear, though some 20 to 30 houses there were too deemed aristocratic, yet they were never ordered to assemble.

Save for periods of political reform, the number of aristocratic houses holding the franchise remained stable. In the early 6th century, King Ngjon of Rjang encouraged houses located in the palatine states to move to his dominion, resulting in a considerable expansion to the franchise, reaching 389 by the end of his reign. When Emperor Ngjon succeeded the Rjang state in 543, his courtiers sought to establish themselves locally and began to participate in the system as well. The native houses were called "state houses" (邦氏, prong-gjê′), and those following Ngjon "migrant houses" (喬氏, kjaw-gjê′). In the late 6th century, the two amounting to about 500 houses altogether. In the middle of the Mrangh dynasty, the demesne and palatine began to merge, resulting in the addition of another 200 to 300 houses active in politics centred in Kien-k'ang. This figure again became stable through the Mrangh and then the Dzi dynasty.

There have been various discussions of clan politics under the imperial order, which grew murkier in its manifestations as the throne gained power. The final Mrangh emperor attempted to abolish civic elections and institute his hand-picked candidates, part of an ambitious package of reforms. However, he and his house were soon deposed by houses threatened by his reforms. As the new ruling clan, Dong′, was itself one of the conspirators, its power was hinged on protecting the political access centrally and financial security rurally of the other houses.


Though some Camians thinkers took civic elections as a political franchise in Casaterran terms, this thinking had little impact in Themiclesia. The 1600s and early 1700s was a period of centralization, with the crown gaining against the bureaucracy and aristocrats that controlled it. Nevertheless, the aristocracy felt little compunction to elect those opposing the crown and critical of the emperor for disregarding the views of the aristocracy, which was framed as an aberrance from the "harmony and normalcy" of former centuries. This reference to the past was a recurrent motif in Themiclesian politics, compelling monarchs exepriencing failures to reconcile his relationship with the aristocracy.

Despite such monitions, Themiclesia was in the largest part still a centralized, undemocratic state, and scattered aristocratic displeasure formed only an ineffective opposition to Emperor 'Ei and his disastrous and expensive wars. A closer reading of the history of the period reveals that the emperors acquired clout by aligning himself with the bureaucracy and nurturing his own faction within it, while still (perhaps reluctantly) respecting the rules of civic elections and the underlying reality that, without their assistance, much bureaucratic experience would simply be inaccessible.

In 1798, the aristocracy's anger manifested as a mass petition, signed by several hundred of prominent individuals, to dismiss the prime minister, the Lord of Nap, who had an interest in textile exports to the Subcontinent and was therefore endeared to the throne's desire to rebuild the navy and re-subjugate Camia and Solevent. While the crown relented, Gar-lang's faction persuaded pro-crown peers to decline the premiership, which was saddled with the task of raising an army, rebuilding a navy, and fielding them while the treasury was bankrupt. With no prime minister for over a year, the emperor was left with no option but Gar-lang himself,[2] who was a vocal proponent of disarmament. In office, Gar-lang opposed the Emperor's plans and instead dismantled Themiclesia's armed forces, while the beleagured emperor began sending letters to court his former supporters.

In previous centuries, the Emperor always chose highly-regarded men amongst recently-elects to fill the secretariat, which drafted royal edicts and letters; this was a device by which the emperor disguised his opinions as those of men elected by the aristocracy itself. Given latitude in royal appointment, the secretariat served to centralize power in some periods, while retaining the aristocracy's nominal approval, as they had elected the secretaries themselves. To counter the Emperor's epistolic manoeuvres, Gar-lang first promoted pro-crown royal secretaries to distant regions and urged his supporters to select anti-royalist candidates, who packed the secretariat. Without a secretary to draft his letters, the crown was unable to pretend support from the aristocracy. Thus, by 1801, the crown was, for the first time in history, able to control neither his secretariat nor the permiership.

Early 19th century

1801 – 1814

The 1801 civic election is often considered the first election in the political transition from monarchy to democracy. Internally, it was the first time something resembling a political party was active in Themiclesia, advertising for anti-crown candidates in many places and convicing the electorate that they held the key to establishing an anti-war government. Combined with peerage support, the party overcame royal power and reformed an existing institution for its goals, and became the dominant political body; it evolved into the Conservative Party that remains active today. Externally, it came during a period when Casaterran Enlightenment had permeated Camia and was gaining currency in Themiclesia. The success of a constitutional monarchy in Camia was, according to some authorities, indispensible in convincing Themiclesian electors to stand against royal power when used against them.

Despite a revolutionary context, the terms of the 1801 elections were the same as virtually all those that came before it. On Jun. 28, the aristocracy of each prefecture assembled in the prefectural capital and reviewed a list of male candidates who came from aristocratic backgrounds. Each aristocratic house, as a single unit, gave its ratings, from a highest of two to lowest of nine, of each candidate; each elector may only award one "two" in the entire list of candidates. The candidate who received most "two" ratings was given the Second Class ranking from that prefecture and presented to the royal court on Nov. 10, 1801 as a candidate for the royal secretariat.

7,956 houses participated out of a total of 7,989, providing a turnout of 99.58%; the prefecture with fewest electors had 25, while the one with the most, the Inner Region, had 582. Around 184 ballots were attributable to a female householder. Accounting for the number of administrative households, noble and common, the franchise was possessed by 0.43% of them. While each household made its decisions autonomously, many fell into one of two models: a patriarch making decisions alone, or a patriarch and matriarch making decisions together. The latter model was more common amongst the greater aristocracy, which married amongst itself and had more influential wifes. d While bodies of opinion have long existed during civic elections, they have generally been ephemeral, fading away once the election was over, whatever its results. The emergence of a party political in 1801 meant that the candidates were discouraged by the threat of disqualification from defecting to the throne. Furthermore, this party's influence also extended to the Council of Peers, which was another institution that checked royal power.

In 1809, the Limited Elections Act provided that the electorate of each prefecture judged the admission of new electors. Gar-lang believed this would create a conservative electorate unlikely to deviate from its current inclinations. Additionally, since the old rules stipulated that a family gained the franchise when it was in higher public service for five consecutive generations, the Emperor inevitably had leeway through to promote the clans that supportied him; the new system would, in Gar-lang's design, prevent royal meddling with the franchise. In 1810, he forbade peers from recommending their children as royal secretaries, since these individuals were, theoretically, free of the electoral will of the aristocracy, even though almost all peers backed Gar-lang.

In Jun. 1812, Gar-lang's government became aware of a plot by the Emperor to purchase the support of six royal secretaries and eventually to install a royalist as Inner Administrator, which would give throne access to receipts and outlays. Gar-lang raised the threshold in the royal secretariat to produce an official draft, from five members to half of all sitting members, which was ten in 1812. Politically, this was also Gar-lang's tactic to ensure that his party would not enact contradictory policies that undermined its unity. This was one of many reforms that eventually created a deliberative assembly out of the royal secretariat, though during this period discussions happened privately.

1814 – 1829

In 1814, Gar-lang was replaced by Lord Kjalh-djeng, who was not a member of the former's faction but appeared acceptable to them. Kjarh-djêng promised to increase the royal allowance in return for its support in a moderate, non-partisan leadership in the government. The Lord of Mjenh-lang became the senior figure in Gar-lang's party, which became sworn to defend a lowly-taxed aristocracy.

The franchise was not altered under Kjarh-djêng's administration between 1814 – 17, which was dedicated to ameliorating the strained relationship between the crown and aristocracy. Yet the political landscape began shifting during this period, under the influence of Gar-lang's policy to motivate the aristocracy to protest their political rights, for redress against inordinate taxation. While nearly all aristocratic households depended on rural income for its political activity (some of which occurred in the capital city), a growing number of them either moved or sent cadet lineages there to be closer to the organs of power and expand electoral influence. This subtle trend was explored in A New Look at Themiclesia's Road to Democracy, tracing the roots of the "conversion of elites to representative democracy".

As the gentry of each prefecture regulated its own franchise, most prefectures where Gar-lang's influence was strong happy accepted cadet branches to be added to the elector rolls, reasoning that an expanding aristocratic class made royal meddling more difficult, which infamously happened in 1812. On the other hand, aristocracies also judged whether the newcomer was of good stock and exhibited cultural, economic, and political minima. If reputed as politically corrupt or economically weak, one could be rejected. Through these changes, the franchise expanded at considerable speed, reaching 10,000 in 1829.

The Lord of Mjenh-lang took the reins of power from Kjarh-djêng in 1817, with no real policy change, except a strict stop on the exchequer.

1829 – 1845

The trickle of aristocratic movements through the country split many houses and severed them from reliance on agricultural income, and it became more accepted in cities for aristocrats to invest or engage in commerce. Formerly, they usually availed of the services of an agent, personal dealing deemed undignifying. There was no significant objection against these activities, so long as the "Conservative Consensus" was maintained—fiscal restraint and its chief adversary, warfare. While a merchant would almost always find himself excluded from electoral circles, there was no provision against existing electors deriving commercial income or advocating for his own commercial gains.

The Uzeri Rebellion of 1824 shocked Themiclesians, the Tyrannians landing and successfully taking a fortress in Menghe. Emperor K.rjang, used this issue to press for re-armament, meeting stern opposition from the Mjenh-lang, who believed that the Tyrannians have no reason to invade Themiclesia, since tariffs neared zero since 1803. Confident that the electorate would not accept the raising of agricultural taxes to fund re-armament, Mjenh-lang argued that the only source of revenues would be tariffs, the raising of which would instead provoke Tyrannian aggression.

To protect its own textiles industry, the Camians imposed a high tariff on fabrics from Themiclesia, provoking merchants to smuggle it. The Camians shot the smugglers and confiscated merchandise belonging to implicated merchants, affecting Themiclesian aristocrats' interests and generating discussions both at court and amongst gentle circles. While the public opinion universally condemned Camia for its "absurd policies", it was agreed that nothing was to be done. Export volume in porcelain, silk, and tea continued to grow throughout the 1820s and 30s, beginning the "Thirty Golden Years" (1825 – 55) in Themiclesia. Industrialists expanded from high-end products to more affordable ones with considerable success. With little to no tariff and no tax on income, a "torrent of money swept towards the nation and landed in its manufacturers' and shareholders' pockets." According to some historians, Themiclesia's pacifist and defeatist reputation allowed the owners of its products to "develop an imagination that he had participated in the taming of an empire of the Orient, and the product took on the quality of spoils".

Late 19th century

Representation of the People Act, 1844

By 1832, there was a common belief amongst some segments of society that the Great Settlement of 1801 had thrown off the "balance of power", which the imperialist faction romanticized as a positive feature of 1700s politics. This belief was trumpeted by the Lord of Ran, who called himself a disciple of the Lord of Gar-lang. At the same time, the theories of the Enlightenment had mollified some of the hard-line Conservative beliefs, that the nation should be run by an autonomous class of experienced, hereditary politicians, held by the like Gar-lang and Mjenh-lang, especially under the ineffectual leadership of the Lord of Tubh during 1832 – 37.

Furthermore, some promoted the idea that the defeat could have been averted if Themiclesian soldiers had been better-motivated through promises of spoils and regular furloughs, even though many older politicians criticized this view. "Themiclesia's mistake in 1790 was diplomatic, not emotional," the Lord of Tubh told the Council of Peers in 1838, "fighting four nations and a possible fifth." These beliefs caused a rapid re-grouping of ex-imperialist circles calling for "fairness, openness, and liberty" as cure for Themiclesia's ills. "The Western nations are strong because citizen are as shareholders to the state, and so the state is an enterprise that every man defends," Rjai-ljang said in 1843, "Themiclesia is weak because the state is a prison that extorts the fruit of their labours and gives the same to individuals who have done little to earn them."

As Rjai-ljang became leader of the soon-to-be-named Liberals, many senior Conservative politicians expressed distain, taking Rjai-ljang for a troublemaker. Yet as decades of low taxation had come to be regarded as normal, the Conservative appeal was ebbing amongst the urban gentry. Conflict broke out in the Council of Peers in 1841 and forced the resignation of the Lord of Hur, with a considerable body of peers siding with Rjai-ljang, who argued that a Casaterran-style government was not only desirable but necessary to stave off revolution. If the state was not to invest in a suppressive military, then it must adhere to an emerging class of businessmen and manufacturers. Rjai-ljang asserted they created much of Themiclesia's wealth and government revenue, after the peers had reduced land tax for everyone, including themselves, to a historic low.

In 1844, radical merchant leagues disrupted prices in cities and instigated a dockyard barricade that stopped maritime transport, causing losses for peers and themselves. Very large petitions demanding representation were also sent by junior administrators, who did not belong to the class enjoying hereditary rights to enter the civil service and participate in elections. While the peers were outraged and sought to hike taxation on trade, Rjai-ljang warned that "a tax on failing commerce cannot hold a candle to an unshakable resolution to end iniquity of political power and economic profits." The Conservatives were flustered to retaliate to what they perceived as insolence, after four decades of what they believed to be beneficient governmental restraint.

Both Rjai-ljang and the Conservatives understood that if the commercial and administrative disruptions persist, the urban gentry would be the first to defect to the movement for political liberalization, as they had the most contact with the West and were often themselves inovlved in commerce. Once the urban gentry defected, the rural gentry usually followed, especially under the spell of trade disruption that profoundly injured their interests. The Conservatives were taken aback in late 1844 after a 3,000-strong public gathering of administrators, shopkeepers, merchants, factory owners, and other gentlemen before the Chancery, declaring they would not resume work unless the royal court promised to discuss political reform.

The Lord of Stsrungh (淙侯) and Lord Srerh (汛君) oversaw several fora between the Emperor, the peers, and leading figures in the political scene. The leading Conservatives re-iterated that as long as the government controlled its expenditures, the nation will eventually become pacified and content, but this failed to make a strong impression. "All the peers should firmly express to the nation that they intend to govern with respect for tradition, compassion for the unfortunate, and fiscal restraint," the Lord of Tubh said in Council.  Emperor Ng'jarh himself was in favour of reform, thinking he might escape control by his peers, who have formed a strong opposition to his two predecessors.

With the urban gentry largely in support of reform, the rural gentry would also have to assent before the matter could pass the Protonotaries. The rural gentry took into account the uproar of urban disorder and feared its spread to the countryside. On the other hand, they would still dominate the elector rolls because only they owned sufficient land to qualify under the terms of the "open franchise". Ultimately, they were proven correct, and into the late 1800s some rural elections were decided by as few as 489 electors, many of whom from a handful of families that owned large tracts of land worked by hundreds of tenants. Land division was discouraged by low value assessments, a Conservative policy to reduce land taxes payable. Many rural seats thus became Conservative strongholds for generations.

Since the same would occur to a lesser extent in urban constituencies, some have questioned the openness of the "open franchise". They assert that some family-units actually split into as many as a dozen votes by redistributing its properties and tax-paying businesses. Though at that time only the measure was subject to criticism, recent scholarship points out that as many as half of all the new electors may have been "splinters", whose opinions would have been taken into account by the family anyway. The other half then were individuals who genuinely had no previous, political privilege. Thus, the prima facie enormous expansion the electorate was not, in reality, that large. Indeed, the first elections were attended by an unexpectedly-large number of Conservative votes, when the political atmosphere seemed to be decidedly Liberal.

The Act of 1844 declared literate and propertied males entitled to the ballot. With the proviso that existing electors will never lose their votes, it expanded the electorate from 15,252 in 1844 to 124,520 in 1845, the existing electorate technically becoming a small minority. Property included land, buildings, or tax remission, but not movables, and literacy was assumed if one served in government; otherwise, a test on legal interpretation was administered. This test was condemend as too challenging and was challenged on those grounds immediately. After 1847, only property qualifications were required. Seats were redistributed to four per prefecture, giving a total of 120 seats.

To defend the interests of the peerage, a new House of Lords was established in the likeness of the Tyrannian one, housing the 59 earls but not the 154 lords, even though their titles were too hereditary. It seems many of the lords were keener on a seat in the new House of Commons, attesting to the scant competition in certain quarters and titles of nobility as a considerable electoral advantage; additionally, earls often had tense relations with the throne, which lords, traditionally active in the bureaucracy, did not wish to have. Legislation would have to pass both houses, so the peers technically retained an absolute veto; however, in practice, that usually resulted in political crises, so its use was not frequent.

Despite the Act's progressive nature, it did not provide for such basic features in modern elections as secret ballot, secret voting, or rules against bribery and intimidation. Each elector was called up by name and asked to declare his vote loudly and publicly, in the presence of the candidates, and voting did not commence until at least half of all electors arrived. As such, influential individuals could often sway the entire turnout by making passionate, last-minute speeches, or offering food and drink for any elector who supported his candidate. While intimidation was not widely reported, it sporadic occurred; on the other hand, if an elector repulsed an intimidator wittily, he might earn his candidate more votes. The Liberals were known for dominating the podia at polling places until 1871, when candidates and "their agents" were banned from voting places.

Representation of Universities Act, 1845

Five educational institutions, the Army Academy, the Pond University, the Western University, the College of Engineers, and the Academia Shinasthana were granted one seat each and the right to decide how to enfranchise their electors. The Army Academy, Pond University, and College of Engineers granted every student a ballot, while the Western University and Academia Shinasthana charged its governing body to elect their representative. A further four universities were enfranchised by 1889. The university constituencies were abolished in 1971 due to plural voting, where many university students and faculty were entitled to two or more votes.

Literacy and Numeracy Act, 1847

In 1847, the Liberals abolished the literacy-and-numeracy test for possible electors, but the statutory requirement of literacy remained. This was because voters could easily be tested for literacy, being asked to read and explain any number of written material found at the polling place, and the candidates themselves often challenged voters of the other candidate to demonstrate their literacy. Additionally, feigning literacy to vote carried a considerable fine, though by the mid-19th century most voters could read and write proficiently. On the other hand, candidates who made unreasonable challenges (such as explaining passages that tested legal knowledge rather than literacy) or challenged the same elector twice would often be booed and lose favour from the assembly of electors.

Peerage Act, 1847

This act formally excluded earls and any sons discharging their duties in the House of Lords from standing and voting at elections for the House of Commons.

Representation of the People Act, 1854

In the early 1850s, the Liberals were again divided as to the state of the franchise, which was now held by around 152,000 people. They wished to stem the Conservative movement to subdivide land or create various kinds of interests that multiplied the franchise. For example, an owner of a piece of land itself sufficiently valued to qualify could by contract entitle his brother, who otherwise had no property, to the land's rents in 30 years, for a total of 30 years. As long this right was cognizably valuable, it counted towards the brother's qualification in the present and created a new vote out of the same piece of property, even though the brother's rents have not yet materialized. This fiction was widely abused, some landowners entitling their sons to rents some 500 years into the future.

Rjai-ljang was particularly indignant at the Conservatives for what he termed "fraud"; however, this tactic did not solely exist in rural areas. In the cities, entire terraces were being used in similar ways, creating a considerable number of Liberal-leaning votes. Eventually, the Liberals presented a plan to halve the property qualifications but insist that forms of property be limited to freeholds, leaseholds, capital equipment, and taxable revenues. This would disenfranchise a considerable number of rural voters, since rent income was not taxable. However, in urban areas, the renters would be favoured instead, since their leases were a valid kind of property under the proposed rules.[3] The Liberals argued this right is in good faith, since renters actually enjoyed their properties as elections happened, while "future rents are nothing but a obvious fiction."

The Conservatives failed to muster an organized response to the Liberal franchise reform; however, rural opposition was surprisingly weak, since Conservatives electoral positions would still be immovable after the banning of "future interests". In the emerging industrial centres, factory-owners were particularly suited to the new franchise, since the land the factories stood on were tiny compared to gigantic tracts of agricultural land, but its commercial output might be greater. The capital equipment clause favoured business-owners, who could argue the machines themselves were of considerable worth, while pitchforks and spades, common in rural households, were valued next to nothing. In toto, the reform stood to strengthen Liberal positions in the cities but not harm Conservative positions in the countryside.

In the House of Lords, the moderate Conservative leaders the Lords of (綸侯) and Sorh (巽侯) believed that the rural landowners' interests were parallel to those of the peers, who were effectively their representatives in parliament. Additionally, the threat of revolt was not entirely assuaged by the reform of 1845, and many prominent Conservatives believed that the cities must be provided with adequate representation, so the "radical classes" would not spread their beliefs to the countryside, where traditional beliefs still dominated. The law was passed in 1854 and first saw operation in 1857, granting the franchise to over 220,000 voters; individuals who have voted in the 1851 election would retain their votes indefinitely, even if their "property" was nullified for electoral purposes.

Representation of the People Act, 1870

After the 1854 act, around 6% of Themiclesian men were enfranchised, and this figure gradually grew to 8% by the 1860s. Women householders who voted prior to 1845 could still vote, but they composed of a negligible number by the 1860s, since matriarchs only became householders when her husband died without an adult son.

In 1856, Themiclesia's traditional monopoly on "oriental" tea, porcelain, and silks was broken by the opening of Menghe and Dayashina, both offering these goods for lower prices. Many farms failed and created unemployment in rural areas, placing unprecedented pressure on the Liberal government to respond. Generally, businesses and their patrons either scrambled to invest in new technologies to restore competitiveness or switched to other, less lucrative trades. The Liberal government took this opportunity to encourage diversification in the market, even offering state properties and resources to assist businesses on the brink of collapse. The excess of rural population eliminted opportunities in the countryside and encouraged migration to the cities, where urban wages then dipped to historic troughs.

However, many state that "every vote was not equal" in several senses, since social leaders often volunteered to vote first, reflecting the fact that many voters waited to be persuaded or paid. If an influencers failed to turn up at a polling place, the fates of many seats changed; this is especially true when most constituencies returned multiple MPs and ballots were public cast and tallied, in real time, so tactical voting became all-important to ensure a party's success in capturing more of the contested seats. Additionally, many constituencies were grossly underpopulated and their elections under-attended—Lêng Prefecture, geographically large, returned four MPs, even though only 500 – 700 electors regularly turned up, while Kien-k'ang's were attended by tens of thousands of electors and returned two MPs.

In 1862, it became unlawful to purchase an elector's vote, but neither party seriously considered banning the purchase or assistance of an elector's presence. The Conservatives, when pressured in large prefectures, offered free stagecoaches to help electors make the journey to the polling place, which occurred at the prefectural capital. Surviving letters document local party leaders arranging, by correspondence, for coaches and free stays at inns along the multi-day journey from the most remote communities to the capital. While some sang praises for "strong-minded" individuals who accepted one party's help to vote for another, these voters were usually struck from the assistance list at the following election, since voting was not secret. The practice of treating reached a zenith in the 1860s in Kien-k'ang, where elections were unusually competitive.

By 1865, Themiclesia's industries had somewhat recovered from the shock of economic restructuring, which multiplied the number of individuals who earned a salary sufficient to support a respectable lifestyle. The massive migration to industrial cities exacerbated imbalances in electoral districting. By now, urban electors were severely under-represented. Kien-k'ang's 38,000 electors returned 2 MPs, while S.rum-l′jun Prefecture's 1,283 elected 4. In prefectures with large, industrial centres, the Conservative frequently spent exorbitantly to turn out rural voters, while Liberals could easily depend on urban voters just strolling to the polling place; conversely, Liberals were spending heavily in the country to compete with Conservatives, since there were physically fewer voters to canvass.

In Money in Elections, Susan Gwang said that the Liberals built their rural presence on industrialists' money, who were adamant to support a pro-commerce Liberal government. Rural elections thus became "somewhat farcical", with Liberals offering friendly business contacts to agriculturalists in exchange for their ballot, in contrast with urban elections, where the number of voters generally made blatant bribery more difficult. Though local Conservatives sometimes sought legal action against this practice, the courts adjudged that business contacts and opportunities were not valuable in se, so the charge of electoral bribery was useless. Nevertheless, the Conservatives ferociously attacked the Liberals in parliament for their "unscrupulous" electoral practices and pandering to businessmen.

The primary objects of the Act of 1870 were the redistributions of seats. In the 1860s, both parties found the prefecture-sized constituencies difficult to manage and campaign in, and on that agreement they agreed to divide urban from rural constituencies. This would create predominantly Liberal seats, but the Conservatives, often strapped for cash, could spend less on convincing rural gentlemen to travel to the prefectural capital to cast a vote. The end result was the splitting of contested seats into several with predisposed outcomes, most of which were new industrial and commercial centres. 34 districts, each returning two MPs, were created this way. The defeat of the Conservative Nja-'rjum ministry in 1868 had a catalytic effect on the passage of the act, the Liberals governing almost unopposed from 1868 to 1881.

The Act further provided that all towns that surpassed a population of 200,000 would receive "separate representation" from a pair of MPs, and large cities like Kien-k'ang, which now surpassed a million residents, were represented with four of six MPs in a single, large district. No district in the 1800s had one, three, or five MPs. Susan Gwang notes that "an odd number of MPs in a district, even where making mathematical sense, seemed to be a non-option to reformer's minds. The evenness of representation may be the result of a mutual desire for a potential equilibrium." At any rate, the threshold of 200,000 in gross population was revolutionary, as it was the first time electoral districts were created according to human population, in an era when towns were enfranchised based on the strength of their gentries.

Representation of the People Act, 1885

In 1878, the Liberal government was defeated for the first time since 1868 after two well-liked ministries by the Lord of Sng'rja and Lord Tl'jang-mjen. On the strength of a small majority in the House of Commons, the Conservatives returned under the Lord of M'i; however, his government was plagued by internal strife and disintegrated in 1880. Before 1876, the Conservatives were led by M'i in the Lords and Krungh (then Lord Gwrjang-goi) in the Commons, the two having a friendly relationship. But Krungh's father died, moving him to the upper house. He then battled M'i for primacy in that chamber, promoting his New Conservatism that had captured some MPs hearts to the peers; meanwhile, Conservative MPs quarreled for leadership in the Commons. Thus, while there appeared to be a majority in both houses, M′i in reality led a government with limp minority in them.

In 1880, Krungh attempted to improve his position in the House of Lords by provoking the Emperor to create four new peers in his pocket, but this triggered an explosive reaction by the party and M′i above all. To forstall Krungh's rebellion, M′i called a general election before the appointments were made, to test Krungh's popularity and the state of his coffers, being known for aggressive canvassing and patronage. This proved a tactical misstep for both him and his faction, as the Liberals gained momentum from what many described as the most sordid politics Themiclesia had seen in a half-century and returned with an unquestionable majority. M'i resigned, making way for a new wave of Liberals convinced that representation should be based primarily on economic importance derived from population, even if the franchise itself was limited.

Compared to the four MPs granted to many rural prefectures, cities were again under-represented by 1885. The Liberals increased urban representation fairly consistently, so that Kien-k'ang had ten seats, Gupple eight, and Tonning six in 1885. However, they never proposed to disenfranchise rural areas, since this would pitch the Liberals immediately against influential figures there. The Act of 1870 automatically enfranchised 37 new towns during its 15 years of operation, tripling the size of the House since 1845. Lord L'ong-mjen pointed out, "If Sngrak, with its 87,000 residents, should receive four MPs, then Kien-k'ang should receive more than fifty, if we agree that their residents, though not entitled to vote, should enjoy an equal degree of representation in [the Commons]."

The 1880s saw a re-alignment of some political objectives between Liberals and Conservatives. Krungh's New Conservatism called for universal enfranchisation of all working men, who he believed would benefit from his social policies; however, M′i strongly opposed it. Indeed, M′i rabidly opposed anything he thought was "unconstitutional", even if some of his closest allies told him that the Conservatives were losing the battle for the Commons if they could not appeal to the workers.[4] A continued reliance on hereditary legislators, they warned, has been the spark of revolution in many states, including Camia. However, M′i and many rural peers thought New Conservatism betrays the Conservative ideal of low-cost government. M′i transformed the matter into one of morality, claiming that a tax on the rich only is a "highwayman tax", since highwaymen stereotypically robs the rich.

At the same time, the Liberals led by L′ong-mjen were also concerned with the desire to politicize the masses by giving them the vote, which may, according to them, lead to "social legislation", which would injure commercial interests.[5] In this matter the Liberals sometimes voted to support of M′i's administration, but its other priorities were largely agricultural in nature. On the other hand, Krungh's new policy was urban-facing and encouraged the formation of workers' unions backed by Conservative money, providing premises, travelling expenses, etc. Both Krungh and M′i wished to challenge the urban electorate's Liberal tendencies, and on this note they reconciled their philosophical differences in 1888 to press for an election, making an effor to stop factional quarrelling in the House of Lords and to support countervailing candidates in urban constituencies.

Before 1885 Act was passed, the parties agreed to enfranchise those who have performed "public service", i.e. clerks in central and local bureaucracies. They regarded this class, all literate and white-collar, as "individuals of substance" whose experiences and opinions were worthy of consultation. The Liberals voted more on ideological grounds in this matter; Krungh expected them to be friendly to a larger role for government, while M′i was ambivalent. Nevertheless, L′ong-mjen noted Krungh's motives and demanded that all "gainfully employed" people be enfranchised on the same lines, believing they owned a stake in the performance of their enterprise and would not support excessive social assistance. L′ong-mjen and a young Lord of Mik expressly spoke, in the lower and upper houses respectively, against franchise for the "idle classes", who would "wreck all policies rewarding industry."

While that debate seemed to straddle party lines, a differnent one affirmed them. The Liberals argued that the House of Lords should have its fiscal powers curtailed, since the peers' tribute payments now made up only a sliver (less than 0.4%) of government revenues; thus, the Liberals contended, they should not have say in how the rest of the nation is taxed. However, the Conservatives responded that peers were the pillar of democracy, since without them Themiclesia would either still be fighting wars that drained the economy or have been destroyed. They said that peers have demonstrated that they were a "compassionate" class whose motives are "far from personal", enacting policies that benefited the whole nation. Furthermore, they also cited that most constitutional monarchies had a peerage that moderated both popular opinion and monarchy. L′ong-mjen withheld response realizing Liberal peers may ultimately oppose this change.

The 1885 Act tripled the size of the electorate, with over 1.4 million individuals casting their votes in the election of 1886. Other than the aforementioned public servants, all males who owned land, regardless of value, or equivalent interests in land, such as leaseholds above a certain value, were enfranchised. As a result, as many as 30% of urban residents were now entitled to vote, though many of the factory workers who migrated to the cities still lived in factory-provided dormitories or workhouses, in which they had no legal interest and thus could not vote. The task of evaluating leaseholds became much more challenging, since many leases were signed to multiple occupants at once or on different days, who may not be co-equal under local laws.

Concomitant with the 1885 franchise reform was a redrawing of the district map in many cities. Kien-k'ang had been a single, massive constituency with some 100,000 electors, returning ten MPs. However, the polling place usually became one of public gathering and tension at polling. With votes publicly declared and tallied, onlookers often started riots whenever a favoured candidate fell behind, and electors could themselves become unruly at times. Though the authorities considered calling the local militia to maintain order, the risk of insubordination prevented that recourse. Kien-k'ang was thus split into four electoral districts, each returning four MPs, in the hopes this would divide or confuse "the mob" during polling; similar divisions occurred in Tonning, Gupple, and Kwang-tju. At the same time, the rural-urban balance was also adjusted, with new seats added to the latter.

The reconstituted House of Commons returned in 1886 with 47 new members. However, the issue with electoral disorder was not solved with new districts and polling places, so the parties resolved the following year to hold future polls in small, restricted spaces, where a mob cannot form or threaten polling. Krungh's faction was particularly disheartened by this change, believing that a large turnout of non-electors strongly influenced voting preference, particularly against Liberals that spoke for employers and skilled labourers against labourers and "paupers". Krungh went so far as to say that the law stopped a "wholeshole and necessary voice for the multitudes", believing that mob pressure was a valid influence on elections. M′i, however, was delighted by this chance to co-operate with the Liberals, since he regarded this sort of "mob" as firm evidence unqualified commoners could not be trusted with political rights.

Representation of the People Act, 1891

M′i formed a government in 1888 after the Liberals split on impeaching First Admiral K.rit for embezzlement, which was connected to a bad leak and fatality. Public opinion first demanded the admiral be thrown into the ocean, then a secret letter to the Naval Exchequer, intercepted, revealed that the a junior minister, William Brek, was associated with the affair. L′ong-mjen had campaigned for increased naval expenditure, but the scandal severely damaged his party's credibility in managing the forces. M′i promised he would not pursue Brek and his Liberal colleagues and ordered to prosecute K.rit maximally after securing his impeachment. Thus, even though his government held a minority, some Liberals voted with him. The whole event generated more public attention than either party anticipated, and some historians regard it as a watershed moment for the House of Commons, having taken an active role in investigating malfeasance and protecting the common man.

Nevertheless, the Liberals soon regrouped in 1890 and turned against M′i. The threat to reveal Brek's role became moot when M′i misjudged public support for his administration and tried to institutionalize tax exemptions for aristocrats. M′i thought the public supported his juridical policy against corruption and the Liberals thereby tainted, but in reality the press framed the admiral as an abuser of his subordinates rather than a financially corrupt individual. Thus, when M′i attempted to protect aristocratic interests, which he believed was lawful, he was also criticized as an abettor to an abusive aristocracy. Meanwhile, L′ong-mjen severed ties with Brek. M′i was thus replaced by the Lord of Snur-ljang, as most of the peers would not accept the controversial and reformist Lord of Krungh as their leader. L′ong-mjen flirted with Krungh on public education, which was a broadly supported issue except by the most reactionary Conservatives.

While Krungh wanted to co-operate with the Liberals, he could not reconcile the fiscal implications of public education with the reactionary arm of the party. On the one hand, Snur-ljang told him the party would be permanently split if he left it a third time, leaving nothing to check the Liberals; on the other hand, Krungh had achieved considerable support in the Commons that could rival the Liberals in a contested election. In 1891, the Liberals proposed a confidence vote in the Commons against Snur-ljang's government; this was narrowly defeated by two votes. Krungh and Snur-ljang resolved that Conservative positions in the lower house must be boosted through a moderate increase in the franchise, which Krungh thought his labour policies were sure to procure; the increase must also be moderate enough to appear innocuous to the Liberals, who have since 1885 opposed universal franchise as a radical option.

The Conservative gamble was unsucessful, the Liberals instructing friendly employers and landlords to compel workers and tenants to vote Liberal or else lose their jobs or homes. Snur-ljang resigned in disgrace, and L′ong-mjen returned to power.

Electoral procedures

The actual process of conducting elections evolved greatly during the 19th century.

At the beginning of the century as until the ROP Act of 1870, every constituency regardless of geogrpahic size polled at a single time and place. The royal court usually commissioned returning officers some months prior to polling, as it had to accommodate an interview period in which the houses, informed by the returning officer of the candidates, may discuss their merits in private. Then the returning officer would fix a date in which he would ask each householders, publicly, of their selections. Each prefecture consisted of a single district, and the number of householders entitled to elect varied between dozens and hundreds.

Between 1800 and 1845, householders usually travelled to the prefectural capital several days prior to polling and stayed at either a relative's house or hotel. During daytime, discussions would occur between them of their selections, and candidates often made speeches appealing to them. An important function of this pre-polling assembly was the admittance of new electors, who could not be granted the franchise without the existing electors' public assent. As it was otherwise impossible to gather electors in one place, the pre-polling meetings were the only time potential electors could gain recognition. During actual polling, the returning officer asked each householder individually which candidate he endorsed as "high" (尊, tsun).

The first Casaterran-style election was held nationally in 1845 for the new House of Commons. Electoral procedures varied considerably. Several weeks before polling, the prefectural magistrate was required to send notify throughout his jurisdiction of an impending election and all potential electors to produce their qualifications, so that the elector list could be compiled. Polling would occur several days after the completion of the list, usually before the seat of the magistrate. At the polling place, a scaffolding was erected for the magistrate and electoral officers. Candidates in some jurisdictions would be allowed some time to speak. After speaking, the returning officer first asked for volunteers and then called each elector by name to declare their votes. The practice of allowing volunteers is inherited from the ancient prerogative of the most renowned houses to declare their selections first.

As Themiclesia practiced block vote after Anglia and Lerchernt, the elector voted verbally by reading the full names of the candidates he supported; the returning officer then repeated his votes and asked for his confirmation. After he confirmed it, he noted this on a voting log and ordered the clerks to update the tally accordingly on a board. The markings were invariably in large ink strokes that everyone present might see them. Reactions to voting depended on the riding. In cities like Kien-k'ang, votes were frequently attended by wild cheers and boos that sometimes drowned out the elector's voice; in rural prefectures, elections were more frequently solemn affairs. The returning officer was tasked with maintenance of public order, but polls seldom ended without some sort of disruption.

The importance of tactical voting varied according to the competitveness of elections. In prefectures with few electors, seats were often split between candidates in gentlemen's agreements. In such a case, polling was pro forma, as electors would have agreed beforehand precisely how to vote to achieve a desired outcome; in the event an elector reneged on his commitment, a minority of returning officers excluded their votes from the tallies, though most ruled them valid. On the other extreme, electioneers were widely employed in competitve districts to achieve optimal electoral outcomes. As the number of competed seats grew, so did the complexity of voting arrangements, required to minimize wasted votes. Electioneers would monitor polling progress and either courted or offered support from other electioneers for subsequent favours. In Kien-k'ang, which was a ten-seat riding, electioneers often used flags or musical instruments to signal how a candidate or party's supporters should vote.

In civic elections of previous centuries, treating was not very common; however, in the 1820s, it became basic.

20th century


Enfranchised Disenfranchised Ridings Seats Franchised
To 1800 Bureaucratic families Prefectures, 4 MPs each 136
1809 Peers do.
1845 Literate males with freehold and real interests above 24 m'rjing 5 new prefectures, 4 MPs each
Port of Tonning, 2 MPs
156 0.90%
1847 Sons of peers sitting on behalf Army Academy
Pond University
Western University
College of Engineers
Academia Shinasthana, 2 MPs each
1854 Literate males with freeholds, leaseholds, and capital equipment above 12 m'rjing Those without real interests other than freeholds and leaseholds above 12 m'rjing Port of Gupple, 2 MPs
Tonning, 2 MP
Kien-k'ang, 2 MPs
172 3.20%
1855 University of Kien-k'ang, 2 MPs 174
1861 Kien-k'ang, 4 MPs 176
1870 Literate males with freeholds, leaseholds, and capital equipment above 8 m'rjing 17 towns with more than 100,000 residents, 2 MPs each
Kien-k'ang, 6 MPs
Tonning and Gupple, 4 MPs each
210 12.10%
1872 Kien-k'ang, 10 MPs
Tonning and Gupple, 6 MPs each
Rjem-tsi, 4 MPs
Kwang-tju, 6 MPs
New towns
1881 4 new prefectures, 4 MPs each
New towns
1885 Literate males with any freeholds or leaseholds worth 6 m'rjing
Petty serjeanty (clerkdom)
Kien-k'ang split into 4 ridings, 4 MPs each
Tonning and Gupple into two, 4 MPs each
New towns
270 24.20%
1887 University of Ljang
Southern University, 2 MPs each
1891 Literate males with any freehold or leaseholds worth 5 m'rjing New towns
Split ridings
Naval Academy (gentlemen only), 2 MPs
National College of Engineers, 2 MPs
286 27.52%
1894 1 new prefecture, 4 MPs
University of Snjang, 2 MPs
1902 New towns
University of Upper Themiclesia, 2 MPs
1903 New towns 304
1904 Males and females with any freehold or leaseholds worth at least 3 m'rjing 8 MPs for 9 prefectures
New towns
344 62%
1907 All adults aged 25 or above, with a fixed address 92%

See also


  1. The word "great law" is distinct from the "law" (律, rjut, and 令, ringh).
  2. Tradition dictated that prime ministers must be peers.
  3. E.g., if a person paid ten years' rent for a property in city-centre, the rent was deemed the value of his leasehold.
  4. M′i was a judge and wrote one of the influential monographs on the "historic Themiclesian constitution", a reframing of traditional Themiclesian politics as a form of constitutional law. He believed that Themiclesian government was (and has always been) one shared between a hereditary crown, nobility, and a semi-hereditary gentry. It is this belief he defended as a "conservative".
  5. "Social legislation" (眾法) referred to any number of legislative proposals to restrict working hours, establish wage minima, impose safety standards, etc. that the Liberals believed restricted entrepreneurs' creativity and profit-seeking efforts.