Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Single Dominant Party

From an article in the Straits Times on Multi-Party or Single-Party system. Two essays. The second one noted that in debates on the multi-party system, there were several undefined terms. He pointed out the difference between multi-parties in parliament, but with one majority party in power ("Majoritarian democracies"), and government formed by more than one party (Coalition or he uses "Consensual Democracies" which is so euphemistic!).

However, at this point in the article, instead of comparing apples with oranges, he's comparing rotten apples with rotten oranges.

Majoritarian democracies are those whose governments have a clear majority (above 50 per cent) of seats in Parliament. Consensual democracies typically have coalition governments.

He found that majoritarian democracies did not outperform consensus democracies on macroeconomic management of inflation, for example. Consensus democracies did better in the quality of democracy, democratic representation, and the 'kindness and gentleness of their public policy orientation' - such as being more environmentally conscious. He also found no trade-off between the effectiveness of government and the development of democratic consensus.

The debate isn't between "majoritarian" and "coalition" or "consensual" government. It's between one-party dominant democracy, and a two-party (or even multi-party) democracy where two or more parties take turns to win a majority to run the govt. 

In this dichotomy, "majoritarian" and "consensus/coalition" govt are on the same end of the spectrum as far as I am concerned. The advantage of a two-party, binary oscillating govt is not much better than a coalition of parties forming a govt. In either case, short-term political survival and consideration trumps long-term objectives. 

In fact, I would argue that a binary oscillating democracy is locked in a thesis-antithesis infinite loop that never breaks through to synthesis. The reason is simple, the people have not found a party that promises and delivers.

Similarly, in a democracy where the votes are split between so many equally pathetic, partisan, narrowly focused political parties that could never hope to represent even half of the voters to win a convincing majority, the voters have not found a party that represents their common ground and common interest enough to win their support and mandate. 

In either case, the party or parties in power are only on probation and most never get confirmed.

In contrast the PAP has been confirmed over many elections.


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