POLI SCI 106 Chapter 5: Week Three Reading: Democracy, Electoral Institutions, and Political Parties

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Essentials of Comparative Politics- Chapter 5
Defining Democracy
Democracy- Political power exercised either directly or indirectly through participation,
competition, and liberty
A system in which political power resides with the people
Liberal Democracy- A political system that promotes participation, competition, and liberty
Rooted in the ideology of liberalism, with an emphasis on individual rights and freedoms
Some liberal democracies have social democratic regimes, which emphasize collective
welfare more than individual rights
The Origins of Democracy
Liberal democratic institutions have roots in ancient Greece and Rome
Greek democracies provided the foundation for the concept of public participation
(popular sovereignty)
Roman Empires laid out the concept of republicanism, which emphasized the separation
of powers within a state and the representation of the public through elected officials
(legislative bodies)
13th century Magna Carta- No individual, even the king, was above the law
Concept thrived in England and expanded
Contemporary Democratization
Modernization and democracies were thought to be largely linked
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
1970’s = theory was debunked as democracy failed in Latin American countries and non-
democratic Asian countries thrived
Modernization theory suggests that a middle class is essential for democratization
A significant segment of the population with economic resources necessary to advance
and demand their own rights
But the distribution of wealth may be more important
The nature of resources that fuel economic development can determine the likelihood that
democracy will emerge
Civil Society- Organized life outside the state, or “the art of association”; a fabric of
organizations, not necessarily political, create by people to help define their own interests,
whatever they may be. Under the right circumstances, these associations serve as a vehicle for
democratization by allowing people to articulate, promote, and defend what is important to them
Influenced by modernization, may pressure elites for change
Modernization resulting from foreign investment, globalization, and trade my push
democratization forward
Internal pressure or incentives may cause elites to favor democracy; institutionalization
of democracy in Eastern Europe came about partly because democracy was a prerequisite
for membership in the European Union
Modernization does not lead to individualism and democracy; rather, Western democratic and
individualist practice gave rise to modernity
Institutions of the Democratic State
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Executive- The branch that carries out the laws and policies of a state
Head of State- A role that symbolizes and represents the people, both nationally and
internationally, embodying and articulating the goals of the regime
Head of Government- Deals with the everyday tasks of running the state, such as
formulating and executing domestic policy, alongside a cabinet of ministers who are
charged with specific policy areas
Legislature- The body in which national politics is considered and debated
Bicameral Systems- Legislatures that contain two houses
Unicameral Systems- Legislatures that contain one house
Rule of Law- The sovereignty of law over the people and elected officials
Constitutional Court- Charged with ensuring that legislation is compatible with the constitution
Judicial Review = 90% of liberal democracies now provide them
Concrete Review- Courts can consider the constitutionality of legislation when a
specific court case triggers this question
Abstract Review- A constitutional court may rule on legislation without a
specific court case
Models of Democracy: Parliamentary, Presidential, and Semi-Presidential Systems
Parliamentary Systems- Comprise two basic elements: first, prime ministers and their cabinets
come out of the legislature; and second, the legislature is also the instrument that elects and
removes the prime minister from office
“Indirectly elected prime minister holds executive power as a head of government; directs
cabinet, formulates legislation and domestic and international policies”
Overwhelming majority of power resides with the head of government (prime minister)
Vote of No Confidence- Parliaments retain the right to dismiss a prime minister
at any time simply by taking a vote of confidence
Legislatures and judiciaries take a backseat to the prime minister, who is the
main driver of legislation and policy
Presidential System- The president is directly elected by the public for a fixed term and has
control over the cabinet and the legislative process
“Directly elected president holds majority of executive power as head of state and
government. Directs cabinet and formulates legislation and international and domestic
policies. Serves for a fixed term
Fusion of head of state and government
Semi-Presidential System- The president holds power independently of the legislature, yet shares
powers with a prime minister
Directly elected president and indirectly elected prime minister share power. President
helps set policy while prime minister executes it. President also manages foreign policy”
Parliamentary, Presidential, and Semi-Presidential Systems: Benefits and Drawbacks
Parliamentary Benefits: Prime minister has confidence that he or she can get legislation passed.
Prime minister may also be more easily removed by the legislature through a vote of no
Parliamentary Drawbacks: Public does not directly select prime minister and may feel that it has
less control over the executive and the passing of legislation
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