Solstice Report: Sôgmô reëlected, Sandus breaks records

2022 Election Results: Sôgmô reëlected unanimously, participation down again

The 2022 Winter Solstice Election has concluded after the normal ten-day period when the polls are open, giving eligible voters plenty of time to cast their ballots. But election turnout was down this year slightly compared to last year, dropping to only 55.6% of eligible voters. This was down 3% from last year’s turnout of 58.8%, already a stark departure from turnout in recent years that hovered around 75-85% of eligible voters. Before a few last minute votes, the turnout was even below what the government says is its own active population, since 50% of Sandum citizens are listed as “active” on the Tabulae Sandae, the national registry of citizenship information.

Despite the lower than usual turnout, though, voters still came back with their usual resounding result: out of all ballots cast, all voted in favour of the Sôgmô’s continued mandate as leader of the country. They will remain in power again in 2023, the twelfth year of their reign. Since taking the throne in 2011, not a single vote has ever been cast against the Sôgmô’s governance of the State of Sandus, an enduring testament to the public’s high regard and faith in their government.

Nevertheless, electoral success is never a given. While it is certainly rare for electoral campaigns to meet with defeat in Sandus, where democracy seeks to reach a broad and mutually-agreeable consensus, candidates have failed to achieve a mandate before, and the Sôgmô is not immune to such challenges. By law, if they would fail to reach a majority of votes in favour of their reign, the Sôgmô must work with the Sandum people to place new or additional restraints on their exercise of power—including even possible abdication.

The Sôgmô received one petition from a citizen asking about making the process to apply to join a coöperative easier. The Sôgmô had mentioned in their Blue Lecture on 9 December that making it easier to join a coöperative would be on their agenda in the new year.

Charity Taxes: Sandus shattered records in 2022

In 2022, the Sandum people donated $16,507.93 USD to charity, shattering last year’s record by more than $4,000. As records indicate, citizens gave more to charity in 2022 than any year previously, almost surpassing the total charity given in the first eight years (2012-2019) since Sandus began its charity tax system. And this is with only a fraction of the citizen participation and response compared to 2020, when about half of the country responded. So far, only 6 citizens have declared their charity taxes for Autumn 2022, or 27.3% of all citizens.

In the last season, Autumn 2022, citizens donated the second most of any season with $4,275.86, only behind Summer 2022 by less than $700. Citizens donated to religious organisations and political campagins and organisations, but also to social foundations, local charities, abortion clinics, homeless individuals in need, Wikipedia, and more. Items donated to charity include: clothing, toys, foodstuff (cakes, mole negro, etc.), household items, gifts, books, and much more. And citizens volunteered 269.5 hours worth of labour this past season, down from 460 hours volunteered in Summer but consistent with the Spring’s 273.25 hours.

A deeper dive into charity taxes

How does the government calculate these numbers, and compile this information to give an accurate reporting on charity done in Sandus? Charity taxes are considered a legal obligation of citizenship, much like voting in elections and other similar requirements of citizenship. In reality, only a handful of citizens tend to respond to the government’s requests for citizens to declare their charity on a quarterly basis, usually done through a specific charity tax form, called a TC-3, short for Tabulae Civium (Latin for “Citizens’ Register”). And the government relies entirely on citizen feedback and accuracy for their numbers.

“I go through my bank account at the end of every season and tally it all up,” the Sôgmô explained, writing down all the money they have given, down to the cent. “I have never missed a season.” But other citizens tend to estimate their charity or give only so much that they know how much they have given.

But what exactly counts as charity? “Charity is whatever is given for the benefit of another person without the expectation of reward or remuneration,” the Sôgmô clarified, but added that the government is intentionally quiet about what counts. Instead, it leaves the specifics intentionally vague so that citizens can decide for themselves what they count as charity, while encouraging citizens to do whatever they can to help others.

“What matters most to me, and to our country, I think, is that we really shape ourselves to think more compassionately, more altruistically, for the sake of others. Charity taxes are our country’s tool to educate our citizens in this way about compassion and social advocacy.”

Certainly error exists. Charity taxes are not exactly a science and, as the Sôgmô jokes, “I am an historian, not an accountant.” But no matter their accuracy, charity taxes are a key feature of the government’s plan for the country and make up a huge part of citizenship. “It is one of the few things we can do to say, ‘see, we are living our philosophy, even if we are just a micronation.'”

Blue Lecture: CPG to propose updates to Founding Law

At their 9 December Blue Lecture, the Sôgmô addressed the country to both reflect on the past year and to plan their agenda for 2023. One of the last but perhaps most monumental agenda items was the amending of the Founding Law, the basic law that created the State of Sandus on 13 April 2011. The Founding Law is, by this point, almost a dozen years old, but it was written when the Sôgmô was 16 years old. Much of the language included in the Founding Law is vague, unclear, and at times nonsensical. But after spending much of the year reflecting and consulting citizens on the running of our government, much of the Founding Law now not only seems unclear, but also has significant gaps.

The proposed changes include updating the language so that it is less vague but as equally expansive in its meaning and scope. But they go beyond just language, and suggest even updating whole articles to reflect new constitutional rights in Sandus and to enshrine in the basis of our constitution the republican system that has developed in Sandus since 2014. The changes may even include constitutional principles that exist by virtue of our government operating on precedent and convention, but that are not included in the robust Founding Law. This would include enshrining in such principles as constitutional flexibility, plans having legal power, and so on.

But amending the Founding Law has never been done before, and there are two extremes that the government is hoping to avoid. First, the government is especially concerned to not fall into the trap of writing barriers around its power. Sandus does not have a written constitution, and for good reason. An unwritten constitution has allowed us to transform from what was an absolute monarchy in 2011, and intentionally so in the Founding Law, to a fully-fledged republic today. It has meant that we could respond to current events appropriately with political necessity, not beholden to half-baked ideas that may not be appropriate given the circumstances. The unwritten constitution has allowed Sandus to have such flexibility or to perform state planning that has legal power, and writing a new Founding Law as a kind of constitution may back the government into a corner. So, there is a fine line between having a Founding Law updated to 2023 and having a Founding Law that restricts our government.

On the other hand, the government is concerned with changing the constitution beyond what is appropriate, such as beyond what it sees as the current capacity that citizens have for activity. The proposed changes to the Founding Law are exactly that: proposed changes to the Founding Law. They are updates, seeking to put into writing what has come to be common practice a dozen years later. They are not amendments to our constitution in the sense that they change what our constitution is. They merely update what our Founding Law describes as the basis of our constitution, but also leaves open the fact that the constitution is something greater than the Founding Law alone. The constitution includes precedent, convention, statutes (including the Founding Law), decrees, plans, offices, honours, institutions, and so on. In other words, the government is not seeking to change the constitution, but rather simply amend and update the law that first founded our constitution.

This will likely occupy much of the Sôgmô’s work in the new year, since by law any amendments to the Founding Law have to be voted on at a national referendum, such as at the Winter Solstice election in December.

CPS Party Congress 2022: New Party Constitution, new Central Committee

The Citizens’ Party of Sandus unanimously ratified the Party’s new constitution at its annual Party Congress in November. Divided into a number of sections, the new constitution defines Party membership, establishes discipline for members, affixes a prime place for the Party’s platform as an “outline of the Party’s goals, principles, and policy position, and even organises the Party in a new structure. As such, the constitution creates new organs in the Party, such as allowing for the creation of committees and chapters, which members can participate in by thematic topic and by geographical area, respectively. The constitution also reformulates the Party Secretary’s powers and responsibilities, and establishes a new office: the commissioner, whose responsibilities include political education and discipline.

The new constitution also reconstitutes the Central Committee, the central body that governs the Party when the Party Congress is not in session. Previously, the Party Secretary could choose whom to make a member of the committee, but now the Party Constitution specifies that the committee is made up of the Party Secretary, the Commissioner, and the Sôgmô.

Discussion at the congress also focused on drafting a new platform for the Party in 2023.