Post by Peter T. Daniels Post by Anders D. Nygaard Post by Peter T. Daniels
The possibility of not having a majority -- i.e., the insistence on more
than two parties -- in a legislature seems to be the single most deranging
aspect of government throughout Europe.
"Deranging" is a bit strong, I think. In Italy and Belgium, perhaps, but
in Denmark, a majority government is the (rare) exception, but they
seem to manage the business of governing quite well anyway.
Having many parties (and minority governments) is in Denmark seen as
a guarantee against majority dictatorship (forgetting the 49% who "lost"
the last election)
(I might call a number of the governments I have witnessed deranged,
but that would be in a quite different sense)
Post by Peter T. Daniels
(The US Senate has, at the moment,
two Independents, who "caucus with" the Democrats for the purpose of
determining which is the majority party and which is the minority party.)
We don't have these concepts; the closest I can come up with is that
there are a number of standing committees, but they are populated
proportionally by the parties and chairs on the various committees
are likewise distributed by some sort of proportionality.
Is your Executive a tool of the Legislature, i.e. a "Prime Minister" chosen
not by the people but by the party bosses?
We don't have an Executive in the sense of an American president.
What we do have is a government of around 20 ministers, which is headed
by a "statsminister" ("Prime Minister", but lit. "minister of state").
In Denmark there are multiple political parties, each chooses its own
leader by whatever means the party sees fit. The major parties often
have internal elections for this purpose; not unlike the US primaries,
except that only party members are allowed to vote.
The country elects Members of Parliament by a system which approaches
proportional representation. This typically (these days) results in
some 8-10 parties being represented.
Once (only), an independent candidate has been elected to parliament.
After an election (or, rarely, when the PM resigns without calling
a general election) each party is invited to state which person they
propose for PM; the candidate with the most backing then attempts to
negotiate a government. Repeat until succesful. The entire process
ususally takes on the order of a month, but may in complicated cases
take two or three.
Formally, the proposals are made to the monarch, who appoints
a conductor of negotiations, but in practice it is always the new PM.
Proposal of a party leader is expected; others are possible, but
I don't recall any recent instances.
Occasionally, there is a stalemate between two large parties, and
a PM from a third, minor party can result. This happened last in 1968.
Governments will usually be a coalition of several parties, but as
stated previously not often representing a majority; the only formal
requirement is that there is not a majority against, and in practice
that is ensured by some sort of compromise with what we call
"supporting parties". Such parties do not promise to vote with the
government, but only to not vote for a motion of lack of confidence.
Such promises may in principle be broken, but I cannot offhand
remember any such occurrence.
Brief summary: Our election of PM is a result of popular vote via some
indirection, just like the election of President by the Americans.
Post by Peter T. Daniels
We look at the troubles Merkel
has been having since the last election and wonder why they put up with it.
That is the price of having to take minority representation seriously.
The current situation is unusual, at least for Germany.
/Anders, Denmark (with thanks to Madrigal and Janet)