Combining majoritarian and proportional democracy: How other countries might learn from Australian bicameralism

Stream: Panel 78 - Comparative Politics: Westminster Systems
Date: Wednesday, 28 September 2016
Time: 11.00 am – 12.30 pm


It has been noted that the "Australian" model of bicameralism provides a way to balance the "majoritarian" and "proportional" (or "consensus") visions of democracy. The paper compares this model to other balancing approaches and asks how other countries might learn from the Australian experience. It proposes an adaptation of the Australian model in which the "majoritarian" chamber is not a separate chamber, but a sub-chamber or "committee" within a highly proportional parliament. In the proposal voters have only one vote to rank party lists and thereby make two simultaneous choices: one about the proportional composition of the legislature (based on their first preferences) and one about the two top parties forming a majoritarian “confidence committee” within the legislature (based on their party rankings). A crucial part of the proposal is that only the majority in the confidence committee has the power to dismiss the cabinet in a vote of non-confidence. The proposed system virtually guarantees the feasibility of identifiable and stable one-party "majority" cabinets governing (like minority cabinets) with shifting, issue-specific majorities in a highly proportional legislature. To illustrate the system, the 2013 federal election in Germany is analyzed. Germany used to be a prime example of how mixed-electoral systems could balance the majoritarian and proportional visions in a pure parliamentary system. Recently, however, German elections failed to achieve crucial goals of either visions. The paper shows how the proposed system could improve democratic performance in accordance with both visions of democracy.


Steffen Ganghof (Presenter), University of Potsdam, Germany
Steffen Ganghof is a Professor of Comparative Politics at the University of Potsdam. His research interests include democratic theory, political institutions, political economy and political theory. His articles have appeared or are forthcoming in journals such the British Journal of Political Science, the European Journal of Political Research, Comparative Political Studies, Party Politics, and West European Politics.