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leading models of representative democracy

presidential system (USA), parliamentary system (GB), presidential-parliamentary system (france and russia)

three main branches

executive, legislative, judicial


president is the sole effective head of government, constitutionally armed with real decision-making powers

core principles of the constitution

the president and congress are elected separately; lawmaking depends on a balance of congressional and presidential powers; the supreme court may strike down laws as unconstitutional; the president, the congress and, and the states can together override decisions of the supreme court

parliamentary system of democracy

most widely used form of democracy.

head of government in parliamentary system

usually prime minister or premier; and various ministers of the executive branch; plus the bureaucracies directed by respective cabinet minsters

ceremonial head of state

a constitutional monarch or president who possesses few, if any, real decision-making powers and whose main job is to symbolize the country's unity or the continuity of its history

parliamentary government

the government is selected in a two step process: 1. people elect national legislature 2. national legislature elects or approves the government. no separation of powers/there is a fusion of powers between executive branch and legislature

how parliamentary system works

legislature elects (or approves) the government; the prime minister and other government ministers serve simultaneously as members of the legislature; the gov. must present and defend its policies before the legislature; the legislature can vote the government out of office;

investure vote

formal vote of the legislature to formally approve (elect) a new government

vote of confidence

a showdown vote in the legislature to determine if the government still has the support (confidence) of a voting majority of legislators

single-party majoritarian government

one party wins and absolute majority of seats in the national legislature and forms the governmnet

party discipline

maintained when the parliamentary deputies of a particular party vote together unanimously as a bloc

hung parliment

if no party succeeds in winning an absolute majority of legislative seats (alternates are majority coalition or failing that, a minority government)

coalition government

consists of two or more parties that agree to share cabinet posts, usually in order to form a voting majority in the legislature

most characteristic features of coalition government

it provides small parties with an opportunity to participate in the executive branch of government

essential features of parliamentarism

provide for a system of governmental dependence on the legislature

Parliamentary system: how the legislature elects/approves the government

1. single party majoritarian government 2. majority coalition government; 3. minority government

advantage of coalitions

expands representation in the executive branch of government, increase level of bargaining and compromise in the executive branch, flexibility and adaptability (can reform without a new election)

disadvantages of coalition

inefficiency (harder for two parties to agree), ineffectiveness (same), governing coalitions fall apart and must be replaced fairly frequently

governmental instability

governing coalitions fall apart and must be replaced fairly frequently

minority government

consists of one or more parties whose delegates do not constitute a majority of the legislative house

how minority governments legislate

parliamentary alliance, on a vote by vote basis, abstain from voting

parliamentary alliance

when two or more parties agree that they will not share cabinet posts, but their legislators will vote together to support the government and pass legislation

anticipated elections

parliamentary elections that take place before the expiration of the legislature's full term aka snap elections

circumstances under which anticipated elections can take place

no government can be formed in the national legislature, public pressure demands immediate elections, government wants snap elections so as to solidify a parliamentary majority

presidential-parliamentary system

aka semi-presidentialism. features a president and a prime minister who each have significant decision-making powers. (dual-executive system)

single member district/plurality method

country is divided into electoral districts for elections to a particular legislative chamber

single member district (SMD)

also known as the mandate system. one person is elected to represent each district. in each district, the candidate who wins a plurality of votes-that is, the most votes-wins the legislative seat


simple majority

multimember district

sends two or more representatives to the national legislature

plurality election systems

also called majoritarian electoral systems

potential problems with SMD/plurality system

1. can lead to a disparity between a party's share of the vote on a nationwide basis and its share of the seats in the legislature. 2. also, tends to punish small parties 3. a result that is fair at the local level may turn out to be unfair at the national level

proportional representation (PR)

a party's share (percentage) of its seats in the legislature exactly or approximately equals its share of the popular vote nation-wide. voters vote for THE PARTY, not the individual candidate

problems with PR

1. can lead to a fairly wide proliferation of political parties represented in the legislature 2. often results in a multiparty coalition government or a minority government

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