Patterns of political accountability and blame management: Using Lijphart’s typology of majoritarian-consensual systems to study ‘cultures’ of political accountability

Stream: Panel 33 - Comparative Politics: Cabinets, Parties and Different Models of Democracy 
Date: Tuesday, 27 September 2016
Time: 11.30 am – 1.00 pm


The aim of this paper is to understand differences in political accountability of political elites in opposite political institutional arrangements. In Patterns of Democracy (1999), Lijphart associated his seminal typology of majoritarian vs. consensus democratic political systems to countries’ policy performance. According to Lijphart, consensus democracies are ‘kinder and gentler’ in terms of public policy and additionally have a less abrasive political culture. However, Lijphart did not study to what extent differences in institutional arrangements affect how democracies deal with political accountability on adverse performance or adverse elite behaviour. The puzzle of this study is how different notions of political accountability influence the perception of ministerial conduct after personal scandals and policy incidents in a consensual (the Netherlands) and a majoritarian Westminster context (New South Wales, Australia). After political incidents, accountability perceptions are most pronounced, due to the public and disruptive nature of the incidents, and such escalated political accountability processes (blame games) are highly comparable in established Western systems. We analysed how sixty elite interviewees (ministers, parliamentarians, journalists, and civil servants) from two political systems interpret ministerial behaviour in a series of qualitative vignettes (hypothetical but credible blame game scenarios). This study explores the existence of different ‘accountability cultures’ and thus expands the use of Lijphart’s typology to understand policy and office related accountability processes.


Minou de Ruiter (Presenter), Utrecht University
Minou studied Public Administration & Organizational Science (2008-2013, with honours) at Utrecht University. In 2013, she received a Research Talent grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research. Since January 2014, Minou is working on a PhD project focusing on the relation between political incidents, blame management and ministerial careers in the Netherlands and Australia. In 2014 she received an Australian Endeavour Research Fellowship grant, to stay at Sydney University (August-December 2015) as a visiting PhD. This comparative paper is a result of that research stay.