- Consociational state
Political scientists define a consociational state as a
statewhich has major internal divisions along ethnic, religious, or linguistic lines, with none of the divisions large enough to form a majority group, yet nonetheless manages to remain stable, due to consultation among the elites of each of its major social groups. Consociational states are often contrasted with states with majority rule.
Consociational polities often have these characteristics:
*Coalition cabinets, where executive power is shared between parties, not concentrated in one. Many of these cabinets are oversized, they include parties not necessary for a parliamentary majority;
*Balance of power between executive and
*Decentralized and federal government, where (regional)
minoritieshave considerable independence;
bicameralism, where it is very difficult for one party to gain a majority in both houses. Normally one chamber represents regional interests and the other national interests;
Proportional representation, to allow (small) minoritiesto gain representation too;
*Organized and corporatist interest groups, which represent
constitution, which prevents government from changing the constitution without consent of minorities;
Judicial review, which allow minoritiesto go to the courts to seek redress against laws that they see as unjust;
direct democracy, which allow minoritiesto enact or prevent legislation;
*Proportional employment in the public sector;
head of state, either a monarch with only ceremonial duties, or an indirectly elected president, who gives up his party affiliation after his election;
Referendums are only used to allow minoritiesto block legislation: this means that they must be a citizen's initiativeand that there is no compulsory voting.
*Equality between ministers in cabinet, the
prime ministeris only the primus inter pares;
central bank, where experts and not politicians set out monetary policies.
In this view,
Switzerland, a country with no clear majority group, is a prime example of such a consensus democracy. Examples of this include: the frequent use of referendums, its confederal structure, and the tradition that all large parties are included in the cabinet, creating oversized coalition governments. This can be directly linked to the many minoritiesSwitzerland has: its population consists of both Protestants and Roman Catholics; and French-, German-, Italian- and Romansch-speaking groups.
The EU too can be seen as a consensus democracy: The parliament is bicameral: one chamber, the
European Parliamentis directly elected, the other the Council consists of national ministers. The executive (the European Commission) is very weak in comparison to the legislature (especially the European Council). The Commission could be seen as an oversized coalition including (nearly) all parties in parliament.
Ethnic interest group
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