chapter  4
43 Pages

Democratic institutions

The devil’s in the detail. (Anonymous)

In this chapter

The discussion of democracy continues. Taking an institutional and

neo-institutional perspective, the chapter focuses on the choices about

institutional arrangements that democracies have to make and the

consequences of these choices. Political parties are an essential part of

modern liberal democracy, and they follow a variety of organizational

models and adhere to a wide range of political principles. Individuals decide

which political party to support, but liberal democracies have to decide via

public policy on their electoral systems. And the electoral rules they

establish can have a profound effect on the number of competitive political

parties and the ideological character of these parties. Democracies must

also structure legislative-executive relations. Here there are two polar

alternatives as well as a range of choices in between. The parliamentary

alternative, characteristic of most European states, makes the executive

responsible to the legislature, which selects and normally removes it. In

contrast, the presidential alternative makes the two branches independent

of one another. Central-local government relations are also a pivotal part

of any constitutional system. A range of choices exists in this area as well.