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PSCI 110

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University of Waterloo
Political Science
PSCI 110
Jingjing Huo

PSCI 110 – Glossary of Terms Chapter 5 – Democratic Regimes Key Concepts - Democracy is political power exercised either directly or indirectly through participation, competition and liberty - There are various and competing explanations for why democracy has emerged in some cases and not in others - Executive, legislative and judicial institutions can vary dramatically across democracies in their construction and degree of power - Democracies can be classified as parliamentary, presidential, or semi-presidential systems - Electoral systems can be classified as plurality, majority, or proportional systems, or a combo Liberal Democracy – a political system that promotes participation, competition, and liberty; rooted in ideology of liberalism with emphasis on individual rights and freedoms Republicanism – emphasizes the separation of powers within a state and the representation of the public through elected officials (instead of the unaccountable powers of a monarchy or direct participation) Magna Carta – document that curbed the rights of the king and laid the foundation for an early form of legislature, a key element of republicanism; asserted that all freemen should enjoy due process before the law (no one is above the law) Direct Democracy – public participates directly in governance and policy making; historically found in small communities such as ancient Athens Indirect Democracy – public participates indirectly through its elected representatives; the prevalent form of democracy in the modern age Modernization Theory – SUGGESTS that as societies become better educated and more economically sophisticated they need and desire greater control over the state to achieve and defend their own interests (not always true!), potential to destabilize institutions and lead to violence - Middle class is essential for democratization; overall poverty can be hazardous to democracy – when people have little, they have little to fight for Civil Society – organized life outside of the state, “art of association”. Can serve as a vehicle for democratization by allowing people to articulate, promote, and defend what is important to them. Congregation of likeminded people may also pressure elites for change. Political Culture – argument that there are differences in societal institutions (norms and values) that shape landscape of political activity - Changing domestic and international conditions may mean that what leads to democracy now may be unrelated to how it comes about in the future Executive – branch that carries out the laws and policies of a state; two distinct roles: - Head of State – a role that symbolizes and represents the people, both nationally and internationally, embodies goals of regime - Head of Government – deals with everyday task of running state, such as formulating and executing domestic policy, alongside a cabinet of ministers who are charged with a specific policy areas - These roles can be either combined or separated in varying degrees Legislature – body in which national politics is considered and debated, charged with making/passing legislation - Bicameral/Unicameral Systems – legislatures with two/one house(s) - Bicameral system remained because (1) an upper chamber was retained as a check over the lower house, often reflecting a fear that a popularly elected lower house would make rash decisions, so they can amend or veto legislation originating in the lower house(2) federalism: federal states typically rely on an upper house to represent local interests (balance of upper and lower house varies with the country) Judicial – all states rely on laws to prescribe behavior and lay out rules of the political game; at core lies a constitution which maintains rule of law – the sovereignty of law over the people and elected officials Constitutional Court – ensures that legislation is compatible with the constitution, accompanied by judicial review as constitutions define more rights, there is a greater need for judiciaries to rule on them - Concrete Review – courts can consider the constitutionality of legislation when this question has been triggered by a specific court case - Abstract Review – constitutional court may rule on legislation without a specific court case Models of Democracy Parliamentary Systems – comprise of two basic elements: - Prime Ministers and their Cabinets come out of the legislature - Legislature is also the instrument that elects and removes the prime minister from office - In contrast, monarchs and presidents are little more than ceremonial - Public does not directly elect the country’s leader, the parties do Vote of No Confidence – parliament typically retains the right to dismiss a prime minister at any time simply by taking a vote of confidence; in this vote, the absence of majority support for prime minister will bring down the government Presidential System – president is directly elected by people for a fixed term and has control over cabinet and legislative system, cannot be easily removed. They are “technically” voted by the nation as a whole, and serves as an important national symbol and overseer of policy - Bigger separation of powers between legislative and executive branch, more likely to lead to checks and balances in government; president and legislative majority can be from different parties - Presidentialism can weaken political parties, since their leaders are concerned with winning a single national and directly elected office Semipresidential Systems – power is divided between a head of state and head of government , prime minister and directly elected president both exercise power; how the power is divided depends on the country - This system tends to reflect the old distinction between “reign” and “rule” that existed under monarchies - Presidents will usually set forth policy but expect the prime minister to translate those policy ideas into legislation and ensure that it passes - Independence of constitutional courts is often limited by the fact that they are appointed by president; usually found in countries where communism has collapsed Benefits and Draw back to Democratic Systems Benefits Parliamentary System – prime minister has confidence that they can get legislation passed; prime minister can be removed fairly easily Presidential – president is directly elected and can draw on a national mandate to create/enact legislation Semipresidential – directly elected president and indirectly elected prime minister share power and responsibilities, creating both a public mandate (presidency) and an indirectly elected office that may be supported by a coalition of parties Drawbacks Parliamentary System – public does not directly select prime minister and may feel that it has less control over the executive and passing of legislation Presidential – president and legislature may be controlled by different parties, leading to divided government. Office does not allow for power sharing, and president may not be easily removed from office except through elections Semipresidential – conflict between prime minister and president over powers and responsibilities Political Parties – organizations that bring together diverse groups of people and ideas under the umbrella of an ideological mandate; two functions: - Establish a means by which majority can rule - Means by which politicians can be held accountable by the electorate and fellow political elites Constituencies – a geographic area that an elected official represents, they are allocated a certain number of legislative seats (varies from country to country) Electoral Systems Single-Member District (SMD) System – (AKA First Past the Post System) electoral constituencies are single-member districts, which means that there is only one representative for that constituency; “winner take all” approach can amplify the political power of some parties while weakening the political power of others - People are more unwilling to vote for smaller parties in this system, since they are unlikely to win so a vote casted is a vote wasted - More likely to produce a legislature dominated by two parties - Voters are choosing between individual candidates, effecting the party itself (local politics vs national politics) - Can be seen used in a two round system (France) or a preference system (Australia) - Supporters emphasize that individuals can more easily connect with their elected representative, allows for creation of large parties that are able to muster the majorities needed to govern without being held hostage by smaller parties Proportional Representation (PR) System – attempts to decrease number of votes that are wasted, thus increasing the number of parties in legislature - More focused groups - Relies on Multimember Districts (MMDs), more than one seat is contested in each district - Votes are cast for the party rather than the candidate - Percentage of votes a party receives in a district determines how many of that district’s seats the party will gain (party that won 17% of vote, gets 17% of district’s seats) - PR voters are more willing to vote for smaller parties, because they know that they will get at least some representation - More internally disciplined parties, since those who do not follow the rules can be dropped from party lists in next election - Supporters of system say that it wastes fewer votes and a greater range of interests, sharpening and expansion of different ideological views, party lists can make it easier for the parties themselves to expand the representation of underrepresented groups (women, minorities) by placing them high on lists - May support political instability and fragmentation Mixed Electoral System – combines plurality or majority SMDs with PR; voters are given two votes – one for a candidate and the other for a party - Some seats are filled by individual races, others by party outcome Referendum – allows public to make direct decisions about policy Initiative – citizens themselves collect signatures to put a question to a national vote; such direct participation can legitimize the democratic process, but there may be too much weight on hands of uninformed public Civil Rights – refers to the promotion of equality Civil Liberties – refers to the promotion of freedom (civil rights may overlap) - Individuals are considered the primary vehicles of democratic rights, and their rights are defended from intrusion by the state and other individuals - Democratic rights are seen as institutions created and defended by the state - Liberty is a positive freedom; where liberty is weak, repression will remain the norm Chapter 8 – Advanced Democracies Key Concepts - Advanced democracies are characterized by institutional liberal democracy and capitalism - Despite a set of shared core institutions, advanced democracies differ greatly in how their political, economic, and social institutions are constructed - All advanced democracies have faced changes in and challenges to sovereignty, in the forms of supranational integration and devolution - Many advanced democracies have seen a rise in postmodern values, though these may come into conflict with increased ethnic and religious diversity - Economic institutions in advanced democracies have become increasingly post-industrial and tied to large welfare states, which encounter demographic challenges as their populations grow older Advanced Democracies – problematic term since it is both value-laden and teleological (connotes some “final stage” that countries are supposedly headed towards), term can cover a diverse set of countries, in textbook terms is used to refer to countries that have institutionalized democracy and a high level of economic development and prosperity - Typically known as “first-world” countries, not always though (too much diversity) - How to determine what is an advanced democracy: look at degree and institutionalization of participation, competition, and liberty - Factors such as: presence of private property, open markets, GDP at purchasing power parity, economic output (advanced countries usually do not produce the majority of GDP through agriculture), high HDI (human development index) Freedom and Equality - Countries with liberal economic systems are more focused on individual freedoms than collective equality – limiting role of state in regulating the market and providing public goods - Social democratic systems are direct opposite - Mercantilist systems focus on development than either freedom or equality - Role of freedom: all advanced democracies are institutionalized liberal democracies, sharing a belief in participation, competition and liberty; but how countries define these are different - Public’s level of participation also varies; use of referenda and initiatives differs (some use them more than others) - Countries are also shaped by the electoral systems they use; majority use proportional representation to elect legislatures, and a minority (Canada, USA, France, Australia) use a form of single-member-district plurality or majority
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