Despite the huge number of possible seat distributions following a general election in a multiparty parliamentary democracy, there are far fewer classes of seat distribution sharing important strategic features. We define an exclusive and exhaustive partition of the universe of theoretically possible n-party systems into five basic classes, the understanding of which facilitates more fruitful modeling of legislative politics, including government formation. Having defined a partition of legislative party systems and elaborated logical implications of this partition, we classify the population of postwar European legislatures. We show empirically that many of these are close to critical boundary conditions, so that stochastic processes involved in any legislative election could easily flip the resulting legislature from one type to another. This is of more than hypothetical interest, since we also show that important political outcomes differ systematically between the classes of party systems—outcomes that include duration of government formation negotiations, type of coalition cabinet that forms, and stability of the resulting government.
Matthew Partridge finds Dick Cheney’s memoir to be candid and honest, charting the former American Vice-President’s glory days of influence in the Bush administration to the now quieter times on the side-lines
The UK political climate has greatly changed since the general election and the advent of coalition government, and old certainties and models no longer work. Bryan Gould argues that the New Zealand experience of how governance changes since adopting proportional representation in 1996 offers some important parallels and lessons for Britain.
Steven Cook’s master-class in Egyptian political history since the military coup in 1952 is essential to understanding the political tensions between militarists, Islamists, and democrats which persist up to the present day, finds Matthew Partridge.
The Canadian government has proposed new legislation to reform electoral law in areas such as voter identification, fraud and campaign finance. The reforms have provoked a fierce reaction, with over 150 political scientists signing a letter of protest. In this post Patti Tamara Lenard summarises the proposals and explains why she and other experts believe they will undermine the integrity of elections in Canada.
Robert Dahl, the foremost American political scientist of the post-war era, passed away earlier this month. Bill Kissane looks back at the central role he played in creating the discipline of political science in the United States after the war and his status as the pioneer of democratization studies.
A common refrain is that there is “too much money in politics”, with many arguing for the public funding of political campaigns. But what are the effects of this kind of public finding on electoral and legislative behavior? Using evidence from U.S. state legislative elections over the past four decades, Andrew B. Hall finds that public funding for campaigns actually increases political polarization by reducing the influence of interest groups, which tend to be more moderate than individuals in the way that they donate.
Few would disagree that there is little apparent common ground remaining between Democrats and Republicans in Congress, but is the American public just as polarized? Douglas J. Ahler sampled over 2,000 respondents on their own political leanings and their judgments of how liberal and conservative others are. He finds that respondents tended to overestimate polarization in the mass public, including that of those on their, and on the other side, of the ideological spectrum. He also finds that overestimating polarization among one’s peers leads individuals to adopt more extreme political attitudes.
On June 24th, six-term incumbent Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran won his Republican open primary race, a result that was immediately challenged by his Tea Party opponent, Chris McDaniel. Rolda Darlington writes that McDaniel’s challenges are not doing him any favors, in light of Mississippi’s past history of African-Americans voter suppression up until the 1960s. She argues that if McDaniel really is in favor of democracy, as he claims, then must accept that thousands of African-Americans supported his opponent, in spite of their political identification or affiliation.
How might social scientists best account for the widespread acceptance of such unlikely sounding claims such as those put forward by the 9/11 Truth Movement, or those concerning the alleged foreign birth of President Obama? While comparably “ignorant” or “bizarre” beliefs might seem unremarkable in societies characterised by authoritarian rule, state controlled media and low levels of literacy, Stephen E.M. Marmura asks how does one hope to explain the persistence and apparent growth of conspiracy theories in developed countries such as the United States or Britain, which boast high levels of education, freedom of expression, political openness, and competitive, privatised, mass media institutions?
The Catalan government has announced its intention to hold a referendum on declaring independence from Spain on 9 November. However, with the Spanish government opposing the referendum, it is unclear what form such a vote would take, or even if it will be held at all. Sebastian Balfour writes on the emergence of a proposal by the Catalan government to hold a non-binding consultation on independence as an alternative, which would nevertheless carry all the political and moral force of a referendum. He notes that in the context of this uncertainty, the traditional demonstrations associated with Catalonia’s ‘National Day’ on 11 September may well be the most important since Spain’s transition to democracy.
In the 62 year long reign of Queen Elizabeth II, Canada’s cultural and religious landscape has changed almost completely. Norman Bonney writes that the anti-Catholic trappings of the rituals of royal succession fly in the face of the substantial Catholic majority among the Christian population and the increasingly overall secular character of Canadian society. He argues that ahead of the ascension of the next monarch, Canadians need to begin a public and political debate over the role of the Crown in the Canada of the 21st century.
In less than a month’s time, voters in Colorado will go to the polls to decide whether or not they wish to give their incumbent Senator, Democrat Mark Udall, another term, or instead, opt for his Republican challenger, Cory Gardner. Courtenay Daum takes a close look at what is proving to be a very close election race and one that might well decide which party controls the Senate. She writes that low ratings for President Obama and the fact that 2014 is an off year election may work against Udall, but that Gardner is also trailing in fundraising. She argues that the race may well come down to which candidate is best able to get the vote out, especially among core supporters and independents.