The Consociational Model

Lijphart’s article discusses constitutional design and government organization in regards to divided societies in which he recommends a “consociational model” in which political institutions share power among different identity groups. He claims that the power sharing model is the only model able to be adopted by divided societies. While describing his “one-size fits all” model, Lijphart highlights nine areas in which constitutional writers have choice and gives his opinion on how to craft the most effective constitution for a divided state.1

President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines wants to change the constitution in order to both introduce federalism as well as change the central government from a presidential system to a presidential-parliamentary one, however people suspect he may have an ulterior motive. Duterte believes that federalism will move money and power away from Manila to poorer parts of the country and foster peace between the diverse groups the country inhabits. Duterte also hopes that the parliamentary system will foster party politics. Despite Duterte’s wishes, he has found difficulty finding support in Congress. Critics of Duterte worry that the controversy about the transition of the constitution will lead to a corruption of the executive branch.2

Is democracy an effective regime of government for countries with significant diversity and if not, what would be a better regime?

India and Nigeria are both countries with very diverse populations and a history of political unrest that has improved with the implementation of a democratic regime. One of the leading political problems both these countries face is whether or not groups (based on things such as ethnicity, religion, party, etc.) are receiving representation in the government. There are many factors to take into consideration when it comes to ensuring individual group receive representation in a democracy. Constitutions determine whether or not there is a system of power sharing. There can be both a division of power between central and local governments (federalism) or power sharing between parties which is determined in the elections. A proportional representation system allows voters to elect representatives based on parties whereas in a member district system votes elect representatives based on the individuals.


 

  1. Arend Lijphart, “Constitutional Design for Divided Societies” Journal of Democracy 15(2): 96-109 (2004) Found in J. Tyler Dickovick, Jonathan Eastwood Comparative Politics: Classic and Contemporary Readings (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017) 177-186.
  2. “The president of the Philippines wants to change the constitution” The Economist, June 30, 2018. https://www.economist.com/asia/2018/06/30/the-president-of-the-philippines-wants-to-change-the-constitution.

 

Perks of Parliamentary

Clay Risen analyzed the effectiveness of a parliamentary system using the German example in his article “German Lessons”. He considers how some Americans fantasize over the German system because their many parties allow for greater representation and they must work together in coalitions. For years Germany had three major parties: the CDU, the SPD, and the FDP. As people got frustrated with their parties, they left and created new parties. Germany now has six major parties, which is troublesome because when it comes to grand-scale decision making, each party is based on specific personal preferences, and therefore cannot make decisions about such important issues. Risen argues America’s two-party system is better because each party covers a broad spectrum of ideals, making it more efficient in decision making. (1) 

 

An article published by the Jerusalem Post talks about how in Germany the police attempted to ban an alt-right group from marching on the anniversary of the Kristallnacht. The far-right group blames all the Muslims in Germany for violence inflicted upon Jews. Chancellor Merkel allowed for a great number of Muslim migrants in 2015, which led to the creation of a new political party in Germany; the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party argues that Islam does not coincide with the constitution of Germany. (2)

 

Is a multiparty, parliamentary system of government less effective at decision making than a two-party, presidential system?

 

There is no definite answer to this question. A lower number of parties causes each party to be responsible to have a certain stand on a variety of issues. As seen in the U.S., though, this can create a stalemate in Congress as each party does not want or does not know how to cooperate and compromise with the other party. A parliamentary system allows for this cooperation, but the parties comprising the coalition governments might not have a firm stance or be able to make a difference on certain issues.

(1) Clay Risen. “German Lessons” Democracy: A Journal of Ideas

(2) Reuters. “Merkel Commemorates Nazi Kristallnacht Against Jews With Synagogue Speech” Jerusalem Post. (November 9, 2018)

Cultural norms in relation to political representation

In “Is gender like ethnicity? The political representation of minority groups” by Mala Htun, the author analyzes the politics of gender and ethnicity and its effect on various electoral systems before introducing the best system to represent these two types of groups. The author describes how gender is a crosscutting group, meaning that it does not smoothly coincide with other social structures, class, or geography. This type of crosscutting group is best represented in government using quota systems, which can be within the parties or legislature-wide. Many countries introduce quotas with the hope that they will be a temporary stop on the road to equal representation of women in the legislatures. On the other hand, coinciding identities tend to drive party membership and voting patterns and are best suited to reservation systems that go around the parties and alter the electoral system to be more just.

In Ireland, the introduction of gender quotas by regulating the party candidates in 2016 has lead to many more women participating in politics. However, Ireland’s spot on the gender representation world ranking has been seriously declining in recent decades and the quotas did not seem to win women actual seats in the legislature. Some theorize that this has to do with the long-standing Irish sentiment that a woman’s place is in the home. However, the numbers are more encouraging in local governments, where women hold about 20% of the positions that govern at the county level.

Can cultural forces to keep women out of politics be so strong that even quotas fall short of their goal to better represent women?

Cultural norms can be beneficial or harmful for women based on their location and regime type. For example, in the UK, it is normal to see women in the workplace (even if not always in the highest-paying roles), which makes participation in politics a small step forward rather than a shocking sight. In addition, powerful figures like Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May have paved the way for other women in politics, so a quota system might be effective. However, some authoritarian societies like China have gender inequality rooted in the system so deeply that many Chinese parents have aborted or killed newborn Chinese girls since they have thought to be of less value than sons. In a society like this one, even quotas might not be effective since women aren’t very empowered even outside of politics.

Sources:

Htun, Mala. “Is Gender like Ethnicity? The Political Representation of Identity Groups.” Perspectives on Politics 2, no. 3 (2004): 439–58. Found in Dickovick, James Tyler, and Jonathan Eastwood. Comparative Politics: Classic and Contemporary Readings. New York: Oxford University Press, 2017. p255-268.

Demolder, Kate. “Ireland Needs to Elect More Women and This Is How We Achieve It.” IrishCentral.com. January 23, 2019. Accessed January 27, 2019. https://www.irishcentral.com/opinion/irish-politics-women-for-election.

PR or SMD? It’s not all the same to me…

In Andrew Reynolds and John M. Carey’s “Getting Elections Wrong”, they argue against Meisburger’s defense of a single-member district system (SMD). Reynolds and Carey believe that proportional representation (PR) can be highly effective, and they debunk his idea that PR is only possible in established countries that have parties and strong ideologies. They also explain the PR has been successful in Tunisia post-Arab Spring, and that the PR system best represents minority groups.

Is proportional representation successful in reflecting the will of the people on crucial and divisive issues such as healthcare?

In The Star Vancouver’s November 1 article “Proportional representation could create a better health-care system, advocates say”, Cherise Seucharan says that British Columbia residents are choosing between a PR and SMD system of representation. The article says that PR provides the best system of election for healthcare, and does not affect the country’s economic growth. An expert she interviewed even stated that PR leads to “seamlessly integrated” healthcare in a society. It can be hard to tell which system will best reflect the will of the people but in terms of health care in Canada, it is the best option. However, it remains to seen how it would fair for other issues and in other countries with distinct cultures and characteristics. For example, in the United States, a change to a PR system could seriously dismantle the laws and ideas America has considered fundamental. To illustrate, the majority of Americans support further gun control legislation, and this change to the Second Amendment would actually be a reality in a PR system.

Sources:

Reynolds, Andrew, and John M. Carey. “Getting Elections Wrong.” Journal of Democracy. April 17, 2012. https://www.journalofdemocracy.org/article/debating-electoral-systems-getting-elections-wrong.

Seucharan, Cherise. “Proportional Representation Could Create a Better Health-care System, Advocates Say.” Thestar.com. November 01, 2018. https://www.thestar.com/vancouver/2018/11/01/proportional-representation-could-create-a-better-health-care-system-advocates-say.html.

Australia and the Seven Prime Ministers

Cate Pollini

 

In The Formation of National Party Systems, the authors discuss party systems. The authors explain three concepts to analyze parties: first, party systems arise from divisions in society, second, parties emerge with collective societal change, that then form coalitions and third, party systems may arise from electoral rules or Duverger’s law. Durverger’s law is a government that favors a two-party system because of their plurality-rule elections and SMD run state. Regardless of this, parties are always seen to combine their political demands into policy, which is party aggregation.

 

Over the past eleven years, Australia has had seven prime ministers. To elected officials, Australia uses an alternative vote ballot in which voters rank candidates by preference. This narrows the race down to two major parties that will aggregate at the national level. Due to this voting structure, small parties are rarely ever able to gain seats in government. This relates to Duverger’s law because Australia favors a two-party system with their voting constituencies. This past year, Scott Morrison replaced Malcolm Turnbull. The change in party leader relates to the importance of factions in the Australian government. The conservative factions believed their voice was not being heard because of the Liberal Party, so they called for an election in an attempt to govern themselves.

 

Are factions democratic if they are able to control major aspects of government such as elections?

 

In democracy’s purest form, all power is given to the people. Factions are instituted in governments so that people with the same interests are able to share their opinions and possibly form an identity in government. According to James Madison, the problem with factions is that not everyone will have the same opinion and if there is a majority it is not always democratic because the majority can be a faction. Instead, large republics should be formed because they can control factions by making decisions for the country.

Citations:

PradeepChhibber and Ken Kollman. 2004. The Formation of National Party Systems: Federalism and Party Competition in Canada, Great Britain, and the United States. Princeton: Princeton University Text. 

Luke Mansillo. “Australia Has Had 7 Prime Ministers in Just 11 Years. Blame Its Quirky Election Laws.” The Washington Post. September 20, 2018. Accessed November 14, 2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2018/09/20/australia-has-had-7-prime-ministers-in-just-11-years-blame-its-quirky-election-laws/?utm_term=.e09e3e802315.