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Governance Deep Dive

This doc is a more technical dive into how governance on Calamari operates. Calamari is built on Polkadot and Substrate; the governance system is directly inspired by what Polkadot uses. One of the main differences is that our Council manages its own membership.

Note: not everything documented here is released yet. Check our roadmap for the up to date status of features.

Concepts to know

If you're reading this doc we're assuming you know what an extrinsic is, and that you're generally familiar with how Substrate runtimes work.

System Actors

There are three kinds of actors that can participate in governance on Calamari: Public Token Holders, the _Council, and the Technical Committee. They all have a different set of extrinsics they are allowed to submit to the chain.

The Public Token Holders are everyone who owns a Calamari token. They can use their stake to second proposals that are trying to become referendums, and vote on referendums, proportional to the amount of stake they have.

The Council represents passive token holders and exists because democratic systems usually have issues with low voter turnout. There are three council members, and their responsibility is to submit common sense proposals for the regular development and maintenance of the system. In our case, the Council is also responsible for bootstrapping the Manta Network and is thus made up of members of the Manta Core Development Team. The Council manages the membership of the Technical Committee.

The Technical Committee is responsible for handling emergencies. They have the ability to fast track all three periods, and how much the periods are shortened depends on how many committee members believe the action is necessary. Unanimous agreement is required for instantaneous changes. There are three technical committee members, and they are also part of the Manta Core Development Team.

Launch Phase

The process of submitting a proposal starts out by getting the preimage hash of the proposal, in order to verify that it doesn't change at any point during the process.

There are two ways to submit a proposal, and the launch periods alternate between the two methods.

1. Public token holder proposals

Public token holders can submit a preimage hash using the democracy.externalProposeDefault() extrinsic. These proposals all go into the public proposal queue. Then stakeholders can second proposals, and the proposal with the most stake backing it at the end of the period is promoted to a referendum.

2. Council motions

The council can create "council motions" also called "external proposals". They can submit the preimage hash using three methods,

  • democracy.externalPropose()
  • democracy.externalProposeMajority()
  • democracy.externalProposeDefault()

which have differences in voting thresholds that we'll cover in the Voting Phase section below. The council votes on the proposal internally, with one vote per council member, and if it passes, the proposal moves to the external propose queue where it waits for the end of the period and is automatically promoted to a referendum.

We only promote one proposal at a time to avoid the situation where two opposing proposals pass simultaneously.

During this period, the Technical Committee has the ability to cancel any proposal and fast track proposals made using the democracy.externalPropose() or democracy.externalProposeDefault() extrinsics.

Voting Phase

At the start of the Voting Period a referendum has been tabled either from the external proposal queue or the public proposal queue. Now token holders have the opportunity to vote on the referendum with an aye to pass or nay to reject.

The percent of ayes needed for a referendum to pass depends on the extrinsic used to submit the proposal, and varies based on voter turnout using a method called Adaptive Quorum Biasing. The idea is to anticipate that in practice voter turnout is not 100%, and that different proposals will have varying levels of contentiousness and trustworthiness.

If a positive turnout bias is applied, then a super-majority threshold is required to pass at low levels of turnout, and the threshold decreases as turnout increases. On the other hand applying a negative turnout bias means that a super majority is needed to reject at low levels of turnout, and the threshold increases as turnout increases. In all cases these biasings work out so that if 51% of the total stake votes in one direction (a simple majority), then that choice is executed.

Now let's look at the different biases that are applied to the different extrinsics:

ExtrinsicVote BiasLow turnout behavior
externalProposeno biasalways simple 50% + 1
public proposalpositive turnout biasthreshold to pass starts high
externalProposeMajoritypositive turnout biasthreshold to pass starts high
externalProposeDefaultnegative turnout biasthreshold to pass starts low

Let's consider an example of an external proposal generated by democracy.externalProposeDefault(). Consulting the table above we see that this extrinsic has a negative turnout bias applied. In other words, the threshold for passing starts low and increases as turnout increases. For example, at 25% turnout it needs 34% ayes to pass, at 75% turnout it needs 46% ayes to pass. As turnout increases, it becomes harder to pass approaching simple-majority of 50% + 1 of the turnout.

During the Voting Period the Technical Committee can fast-track external proposals created using the democracy.externalPropose() or democracy.externalProposeDefault() extrinsics. The Council also has the ability to cancel a referendum.

Enactment Phase

Once a referendum passes, the chain automatically implements the referendum code using the pallet_scheduler. There's a delay before the implementation starts so that stake holders can prepare for the change.

As with the previous periods, the Technical Committee can fast-track the delay on external proposals created using the democracy.externalPropose() or democracy.externalProposeDefault().

The Treasury

The Treasury is a reserve of tokens that is controlled by the Council and used to fund community projects. The goal of the Treasury is to have a source of funds that can incentivize projects on the network. Anyone can submit a treasury spend proposal with a 1% deposit of the total spend amount, and the proposal will be approved or denied by the council.

The funds in the treasury are collected through:

  1. Transaction fees: 40% of on-chain transaction fees are transferred to the Treasury.
  2. Treasury slashing: when a treasury spend proposal doesn't pass, the deposit amount (1% of the total proposed amount) is "slashed", which means that it is transferred to the Treasury.
  3. Democracy slashing: when any democracy proposal is canceled the preimage deposit fee is transferred to the Treasury instead of being returned.

API Reference

The naming of functions here follows the Substrate invocation method, [pallet].[extrinsic].

ExtrinsicWho can invokeUnfiltered*
democracy.notePreimage(call)Public Token HoldersYes
democracy.propose(preImageHash)Public Token HoldersNo
democracy.emergencyCancel(index)Technical CommitteeYes
democracy.fastTrack(proposalHash)Technical CommitteeYes
democracy.vetoExternal(proposalHash)Technical CommitteeYes
democracy.cancelProposal(index)Technical CommitteeYes
  • In order to reduce the system's complexity during the initial rollout, some extrinsics are filtered out, and will be enabled in future updates.