Discussion: Parliamentary Systems

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Discussion: Parliamentary Systems

Discussion: Parliamentary Systems

NOW FOR AN ORIGINAL PAPER ASSIGNMENT: Discussion: Parliamentary Systems

Prime Minister Cameron is an outspoken Eurosceptic, saying there is “a lack of democratic accountability and consent that is … felt particularly acutely in Britain.” In early 2013, he pledged to hold a national referendum—an in-or-out vote—on British EU membership. In October 2014, Parliament nixed a bill to establish a referendum vote in 2017. Meanwhile, even UK ally Denmark agreed that London should pay the EU the extra £1.7 billion the European Commission demanded.

Are All Parliamentary Systems Alike?

No. Most parliamentary systems function in ways similar to the British system, but in countries with multiple parties and proportional representation (see Chapter 11), the government often cannot count on a clear parliamentary majority. Where there are five or six parties in parliament—and none with a popular base to match either of Britain’s two major parties—it often happens that no single party has enough seats to form a government. In this event, coalitions, or two or more parties joining forces, are necessary. Sometimes coalition governments work fairly well; in the worst cases such as Italy, however, parliamentary rule can be unstable and even chaotic.

France: President versus Parliament

The U.S. presidential and British parliamentary systems represent two different approaches to democratic government. Under the Fifth Republic founded in 1958 and forged in the crucible of a constitutional crisis, France fashioned a unique form of representative democracy that combines elements of both models. Today, France is the world’s fifth-ranked economy, sixth-ranked exporter; in the first half of 2012, it was the fourth-largest recipient of foreign direct investment and has more multinational corporations in the global Fortune 500 than the United Kingdom.

In June 2012, French voters brought François Hollande’s Socialists to power, replacing Nicolas Sarkozy’s center-right government. It was a stunning victory for a party that in the United States is wrongly perceived as incompatible with a stable democratic order. Wrongly, because it’s not the first time it’s happened in France and, despite all sorts of dire Chicken Little predictions emanating from the land of the Anglo-Saxons, the sky over ancient Gaul has not fallen.

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