|Lord Chancellor||David Smith (first)|
Rebecca Hunt (last)
|Members||6 – 23|
|Voting system||All-citizen membership|
Folkmoot (also variably spelled Fowkmoot, Folkmote or Fowkmote) was a political institution of Hjemland which operated from the micronation's foundation in 2014 until it was replaced by the Parliament of Hjemland in 2020. Although often cited as a legislature, the exact role of Folkmoot was vague and fluctuated over time with significant overlap of executive, legislative, and judicial powers.
The name folkmoot (and its Scots equivalent, fowkmoot) is derived from the Old English folcgemōt (pronounced folc-ye-moat) meaning literally "folk meeting". The name was chosen based on the Anglo-Saxon witenagemōt, a precursor of the modern Parliament of the United Kingdom.
The definite article ("the") — especially in speaking — was usually dropped: one speaks of "Folkmoot" not of "the Folkmoot". This is largely in-keeping with the way "Parliament" or "Congress" is not preceded by "the", especially when speaking.
Throughout its existence, Folkmoot has served a variety of roles, including executive, legislative, and judicial. The six founders of Hjemland formed the first recognisable Folkmoot — although it wasn't named as such — when they convened to declare Hjemland's foundation and to elect the first king. Unlike most legislative bodies, Folkmoot could not dissolved. Instead, like a law court, it was a permanent body that met at set times, called "sessions", each year (usually around the quarter days). The sessions were nominally presided over by the King and deliberated over and reviewed laws, as well as scruntinised the actions of the King and his ministers, termed "commissioners" at this time in Hjemland.
The King was required to appoint a "commission of government" (usually abbreviated "commission") from among the members of Folkmoot. Although nominally akin to ministers, in that each commissioner exercised a specific role, the commissioners were also likened to "auditors" of the King's powers, ensuring their appropriate use. The commissioners, therefore, served as intermediaries between the King and Folkmoot while also exercising the powers of both (thus, effectively, simultaneously exercising executive, legislative, and judicial roles). Unlike parliamentary systems, however, the King had absolute discretion in appointing a commissioner: once appointed by the King, commissioners did not require the approval — either initial or ongoing — of Folkmoot and they served entirely at the King's pleasure.
Moreover, while all law originated from and required the approval of Folkmoot, it also served a judicial role in ruling on the validity of existing laws. Prior to the passage of the Base Law in 2019, much of Hjemland's constitutional practice was based on established custom and "ancient common law". This was one area where Folkmoot exercised both legislative and judicial powers: able to agree and establish new laws and customs while ruling on the validity and applicability of existing laws and customs. Any member found guilty of a crime would theoretically be tried by Folkmoot, with the King acting as a judge and the rest of Folkmoot acting as a jury. However, in its entire existence this did not occur.
Like a law court, Folkmoot could not be dissolved but was a permanent body. It would sit in at least four sessions a year, usually around the so-called "quarter days". The most important of these, and considered the start of the new legislative year, was the summer session, taking place on or around Midsummer (24 June). Indeed, it was on Midsummer 2014 that Folkmoot convened for the first time. For this reason, the summer session was considered to be fixed. Dates of other sessions were far more fluid and many, especially the winter sessions, were weather dependent. Winter sessions could take place as early as November and as late as February.
The King could also call extraordinary sessions of Folkmoot, and such was not uncommon. The year with the fewest sessions was 2014 with just two. The year with the most was 2015 with nine: 2014's late winter session, the four ordinary sessions, and four extraordinary sessions.
Membership of Folkmoot was automatic to all citizens of Hjemland. New citizens would assume their place in Folkmoot at the start of the next session (which, in practice, meant from the next quarter day). If Folkmoot was convened in an extraordinary session, however, the new citizens would take their seats at that session rather than the following ordinary session.
Folkmoot was originally presided over directly by the King. However, over time, the King appointed a Lord Chancellor, first to assist and later to deputise on his behalf. By the time of Folkmoot's replacement, the Lord Chancellor had come to serve as the de facto presiding officer of Folkmoot with the King only directly presiding over the opening and closing days of a session.
As Folkmoot evolved, a complex – but unofficial – system of rankings also developed. It was largely derived from a member's rank and status within wider Hjemland society. Many of these ranks could intermix, leading to a lack of clarity over who preceded whom. It had little day-to-day relevance or practicality, however, and by the time of Folkmoot's permanent dissolution the ranks had become largely nominal and utilised only for seating during ceremonies.
The unofficial ranking order (italics indicate there could be multiple holders; in which case length of service or age (if length of service was equal) dictated seniority):
- Lord Chancellor — appointed by the King to preside over Folkmoot in his stead;
- Lord Commissioner – considered the informal head of government in Hjemland, nominally led government policy in and through Folkmoot;
- Lord Treasurer – charged with conducting any financial affairs undertaken by Hjemland;
- Lord Marischal – nominally in charge of any security or defence forces in Hjemland;
- Lord Advocate – foremost legal advisor to the King and Folkmoot;
- Lords Spiritual — incredibly rare, the rank was only ever applied to a single member whom also served as a commissioner, therefore, it was formally incorporated but never used in practice;
- Lords — those members ennobled by the King;
- Lords Lieutenant (rare) — those governing a territory on behalf of the King;
- Knights of the Realm (rare) — those who held one of the few quasi-militant roles;
- Commons of the Realm — all members who were not one of the above.
Reform or replace
From the foundation of Hjemland, there were those who sought to reform or replace Folkmoot. Indeed, support and opposition to reform was considered the beginning of party politics in Hjemland: Scans, named after their supporting Folkmoot being a Scandinavian-style assembly; and Tans, named after their supporting liberal democracy (tan or buff being a traditional colour of liberalism in the United Kingdom).
Supporters of Folkmoot likened it to a direct democracy with all citizens having a voice and a vote in state affairs and policy. Opponents, however, criticised it as slow to respond, cumbersome and impractical for a growing micronation.
Ultimately, Hjemland's first referendum (which was, at the time, technically a vote of Folkmoot in extraordinary session) overwhelmingly voted to replace it with an elected, representative parliament.