This essay will attempt to analyse the Federal Republic of Germany, Fifth Republic France and post-war Italy thanks to Lijphart's work Democracy (1984). Lijphart classifies the ‘majoritarian' model (or ‘Westminster model') and the ‘consensual model', in function of specific variables. We will consider eight elements to distinguish a ‘majoritarian' democracy from a ‘consensual' democracy. A ‘majoritarian' system consists in ‘concentration of executive power', ‘fusion of power and the cabinet dominance', ‘asymmetrical bicameralism' (sometimes near to unicameralism), two-party system, one-dimensional party system, majoritarian electoral system, ‘unitary and centralised government' and in the end, in a flexible constitution and a weak judicial review. On the other hand, a ‘consensual' system consists in ‘power sharing', ‘separation of power', ‘balance bicameralism', ‘multiparty system', ‘multi-dimensional party system', ‘proportional representation', ‘territorial and non territorial federalism and decentralisation', and finally in a ‘written constitution'. Lijphart suggests that ‘majoritarian' democracy works best in homogeneous societies, whereas consensus democracy is more suitable for plural societies. As we will see in this essay, the dichotomy between a ‘majoritarian' and a ‘consensual' democracy is not absolute in the reality. These are ideal model: there is no political system that satisfies all those criteria.
In a majoritarian democracy a single party forms the government and wields strong executive powers. First, the French Fifth Republic was very majoritarian as it was established to get rid off the political instability that characterised the Fourth Republic. To make the President the keystone of the Fifth Republic the Framers strengthened its authority and opted for the concentration of executive powers. Furthermore, these powers were reinforced with the French Head of State being elected by universal suffrage.
[...] The situation is different in Germany and in Italy where the power is diffused throughout the government and party system. As the Nobel Prize winning economist Sir Lewis pointed out, what these kind of plural ‘societies need is a democratic regime that emphasises consensus instead of opposition, that includes rather than excludes, and that tries to maximise the size of the ruling majority instead of being satisfied with a bare majority.' In Germany, the executive power is exercised by the Kanzler who is elected by the Bundestag at the beginning of each legislature. [...]
[...] On the other hand, the President can also dissolve the Parliament if the Chancellor loses his/her majority. However, a strong parliament is vis-à- vis the executive leads to a high rate of government instability and to legislative deadlocks in Italy. Like in every majoritarian system, France has an asymmetrical bicameralism legislature consisting in the Assemblée Nationale (lower house) the Sénat (upper house). The powers of the lower house are more extensive than those of the upper house. The traditional prerogative of the lower chamber is to first examine the budget. [...]
[...] Germany can also be described as mixed, with strong consensual elements, and Italy, that was predominantly consensual (in Lijphart's terms) for most of the post-war period, has recently acquired majoritarian features. There isn't any pure majoritarian or pure consensual model. Mixing both is possible, and may be necessary in order to have the most stable democracy that is possible. bibliography references: Berghahn, Volker R., Modern Germany, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press Debré, Michel. “Discours devant le Conseil d'État.” Paris Aug Furlong, Paul, Modern Italy: Representation and Reform, London: Routledge Humphreys, Peter, Lecture Notes / Study Pack, University of Manchester, 2006-2007. [...]
[...] Thus there was a simplification of the multiparty system into two major blocs, both competing for the highest stakes presidential power and legislative majorities to form a cabinet. This led to the notion of multidimensional party-system as France is marked by numerous cleavages (socio-economic, environmental, nationalist . Like France, Germany swung between the two-party system and the multiparty one. That was the result of the decline of the FDP in the late 1970s. Thus the CDU-CSU and the SPD were together accumulating the majority of the vote. [...]
[...] a plurality of parties represented in parliament, anti- system extremist parties at both ends of the political spectrum, intense disagreement between the remaining parties and no party able to win an overall majority). However Sartori's analysis is criticised and Galli's research, for instance, observes that from 1948 to 1987 the Italian political participation was dominated not by two parties: the Christian Democrats and the Communists. This leads to the fact that Italy was very much divided at first by the religious cleavage, but then after, some other cleavages became more important such as the socio-economic cleavage or the regionalist one. [...]
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