What is flexible constitution

Parliamentarism

Gerd Strohmeier

To person

Dr. phil., born 1975; Professor for European systems of government in comparison at the Institute for Political Science at the Technical University of Chemnitz, Thüringer Weg 9, 09126 Chemnitz. [email protected]

The Westminster model has changed as a result of the constitutional reforms of the ruling Labor Party that took place after 1997, but even more because of the 2010 general election.

introduction

In various political science textbooks and reference works one can read that the British system of government - the Westminster model - is regarded as a prime example of a competitive democracy. [1] In the meantime, however, the question arises whether the textbooks don't have to be fundamentally rewritten. Eventually the Westminster model that Lord Hailsham [2] once called elective dictatorship and Arend Lijphart used it as a synonym for majority democracy about a decade ago, [3] challenged in two ways: first by the numerous constitutional reforms of the ruling Labor Party after 1997 and then by the result and consequences of the 2010 general election.

The article examines the change in the Westminster model (at the national level) against the background of the democracy models described by Lijphart [4] and the veto player theory established by George Tsebelis. He concludes that both the constitutional reforms and the 2010 general election changed the Westminster model, but the changes brought about by the election were far more serious than the changes brought about by the constitutional reforms.

Analysis based on the models of democracy

In his well-known work "Patterns of Democracy", Arend Lijphart contrasts two models of democracy: consensus and majority democracy. Both models are basically ideal types, but, according to Lijphart, are largely represented by real-life democracies: the consensus democracy of Switzerland, Belgium and the European Union (EU), the majority democracy of Great Britain. To distinguish the two models, Lijphart defines ten variables and thus ten elements of majority and ten elements of consensus democracy, half of which he assigns to two dimensions: the executive-party dimension and the federalism-unitarianism dimension. On this basis, a "two-dimensional conceptual map of democracy" is created, in which the position of individual countries within a certain period of time can be localized by determining the average variable values. Lijphart's last comparative study covers 36 countries from 1945 to 1996. [5]

The executive-party dimension comprises the first five variables, between which - as Lijphart shows - there is a high positive correlation. [6] The first variable is the party system and ideally assumes the form of a two-party system in majority democracy and a multi-party or multi-party system in consensus democracy. [7] Lijphart measures the number of parties in a party system using the effective number of parliamentary parties index by Markku Laakso and Rein Taagepera. [8] The average effective number of British parliamentary parties calculated by Lijphart between 1945 and 1992 is 2.11. This put Great Britain in 29th place (in descending order) in Lijphart's country comparison during this period. [9] The effective number of British parliamentary parties changed as a result of the 2010 general election: At 2.58, it is now well above the value calculated by Lijphart.

The second variable is the government, which ideally assumes the form of a one-party majority government in majority democracy and the form of an oversized ("oversized") multi-party coalition government in consensus democracy. [10] Lijphart measures the "majority" of governments by taking the average between the phase of one-party government and the phase of minimal winningGovernments [11] determined. [12] The calculated average majority of British governments between 1945 and 1992 is 96.7 percent. This placed Great Britain in 28th place (in ascending order) in Lijphart's country comparison during this period. [13] The majority of British governments changed after the 2010 general election due to the formation of a coalition government made up of conservatives and liberal democrats: at 50 percent, it is now well below the value calculated by Lijphart.

The third variable relates to the relationship between government and parliament and, ideally, shows in majority democracy the degree of a relationship dominated by the executive and in consensus democracy the degree of a (more) balanced relationship. [14] Lijphart measures the degree of executive dominance with the help of an index that is based on the duration of the cabinet - the mean of two different indices of the duration of the cabinet (with some, in some cases questionable, corrections or adjustments in various political systems). [15] The calculated average length of office in Great Britain between 1945 and 1996 is 5.52 years. During this period, Great Britain, along with six other countries, was at the top (in descending order) in Lijphart's country comparison. [16] The average cabinet length could decrease in Great Britain after the 2010 general election because - as Lijphart shows - the "chances of survival" of minimal winningCoalition governments are lower than those of one-party majority governments. [17]

The fourth variable is the electoral system and, ideally, takes the form of a majority electoral system in majority democracy (with a relatively high degree of vote-mandate disproportionality) and in consensus democracy the form of a proportional representation system (with a relatively low degree of vote-mandate disproportionality) on. [18] Lijphart measures the degree of disproportionality of an electoral system with the help of the least squares index by Michael Gallagher. [19] The average disproportionality of the British, calculated by Lijphart First-Past-The-Post Systems (FPTP) amounts to 10.33 percent between 1945 and 1992. This put Great Britain in 22nd place (in ascending order) in Lijphart's country comparison during this period. [20] The degree of disproportionality in the British electoral system changed in the 2010 general election - without reform of the electoral system - at 14.82 percent - although the electoral system neither led to a two-party system nor to a one-party majority government - it is significantly higher than that of Lijphart calculated value.

The fifth variable is the "organization" of the interest groups, which ideally assumes the form of competitive and uncoordinated pluralism in majority democracy and the form of coordinated and compromise-oriented corporatism in consensus democracy. [21] Lijphart measures the degree of interest group pluralism using the Alan Siaroff index (which has high values ​​for competitive and uncoordinated pluralism). [22] The average interest group pluralism reported by Lijphart is 3.38 in the UK between 1963 and 1970 and between 1983 and 1990. This placed Great Britain in 34th place (in ascending order) in Lijphart's country comparison during this period. [23] The degree of interest group pluralism in Great Britain has not changed significantly either through constitutional reforms or the 2010 general election. [24]

The federalism-unitarianism dimension comprises the last five variables, between which - as Lijphart shows - there is also a high positive correlation. [25]