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.
[...] Humphreys, Study Pack, p.13-26. Macridis, Modern, p.84. Yves Mény and Andrew Knapp, Government and Politics in Western Europe (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), p.184. Humphreys, Study Pack, p.47. Macridis, Modern, p.107. Mény and Knapp, Government, p.109-111. Giovanni Sartori, Typology of Party Systems” (Oxford : Oxford University Press). Paul Furlong, Modern Italy: Representation and Reform (London: Routledge, 1994), p.146-147. Macridis, Modern, p.170. [...]
[...] That's why, since the past decades, France and Italy, which were very majoritarian on this point with his highly concentrated system, moved in direction of decentralisation. As a conclusion, one can assume there is no country, among France, Germany or Italy that perfectly fits either the majoritarian system or the consensual one. Indeed, France, that used to be very majoritarian moved towards a more consensual system for the past decades and became a kind of hybrid model. 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. [...]
[...] 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. The supremacy of the two major parties remained strong, due in part to a polling system that is unfavourable to small political groups. But, since 1983 the position of the two parties has weakened. This benefited small other parties like the FDP, the Greens and the Left party. [...]
[...] Mény and Knapp, Government, p.320. Website of the French Conseil Constitutionnel. French Legislation Website. Macridis, Modern, p.166. Furlong, Modern Italy, p.65. [...]
[...] 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. [...]
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