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Erik Moberg ã:
A Theory of Democratic Politics
 
 

14 - PARLIAMENTARY CONSTITUTIONS WITH PROPORTIONAL ELECTIONS: SUMMARY AND FURTHER CONCLUSIONS

In this constitutional setting we are likely to get several political parties since the elections for the legislature are proportional. Furthermore it is important for the parties to get into the executive, since in a parliamentarian system most decisive constellations include the executive. Since there are numerous parties the executive is likely to be a coalition.

A party aspiring for a place in a coalition executive is greatly helped by being cohesive and disciplined, and therefore the parties will be so, if effective means for discipline are available. In a proportional system that is the case, and thus the parties are likely to become cohesive and disciplined. The main actors will consequently be party main actors.

As for their policies the basic important fact is that the parties are capable of delivering, or, in other words, have a capacity for credible commitment towards the voters. In their relations to the voters they are therefore likely to strive for instruction rather than delegation. Furthermore, and since it is much easier to agree about specific instructions than about general ones when forming a coalition executive, specific instructions are likely to be particularly important components of policies. Politics will to a large extent be interest politics.

Since lobbyists are expected to approach the main actors they will, in this constitutional setting, turn to the leaderships of the cohesive political parties. The lobbying activities will thus be very concentrated, and to some extent perhaps also closed or secret. Since politics to such a large extent is tuned towards interests, lobbying is also likely to be quite effective. The interest organizations, which may have organizational ties with the parties, are likely to get interests satisfied in exchange for votes from their members.

This, so far, is a short summary of some earlier main points. In addition to this a few further conclusions may be added. I will start from the contention that the main actors, in this constitutional setting, are political parties, and that politics therefore, on the whole, is party politics. It may also be said that we are dealing with a partyocracy.

The fact that the main actors are parties, does not, of course, mean that individuals are unimportant. The parties do obviously consist of individual human beings and this fact should certainly, and in accordance with methodological individualism, be recognized. The individuals do however almost exclusively play their roles within, or on behalf of, the parties. Thus, and when it comes to dealings with actors outside the party, for example with other parties, or with the electorate in campaigns, or with lobbyists, it is usually the individuals belonging to the party leaderships which acts on behalf of their parties. Party positions on political issues are of course also determined by the individuals who belong to the party, usually with more influence the higher up in the party hierarchy they are. Since the parties are likely to be well developed organizations, and to have an easily recognized identity over time, they will be able to develop successively, and to harbor, more and more elaborated, and more and more comprehensive, party programs. I have already said several times that politics in this constitutional setting tends to be focused on special interests. This does not mean that general instructions are altogether eradicated - we have for example seen that general instructions in a big party's program may prevail. Specific instructions are, however, much less threatened, and even encouraged by the system. Most parties, as it seems, will have to deal extensively with specific instructions in order to survive. Specific instructions are thus, in a sense, forced upon politics. This may also impede the voters from favouring ideological positions, and reduce them to interest seekers. All of this, it may be noted, is to a large extent in agreement with Buchanan's contention (1993) that "Political players who might seek to further some conception of an all-encompassing general, or public, interest cannot survive". Buchanan is however discussing democratic constitutions in general, whereas the focus here is on parliamentary constitutions with proportional elections.