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Is Choice Enough? Elections and Political Authority

  • Richard Rose

Abstract

Electoral choice is not the only political institution of value, nor is choice an unambiguous good to be pursued at all times and by all means. Just as subjects of a one-party state can complain of too little choice when they troop to the polls, so citizens of Denmark or the Netherlands may complain of too much choice, when they learn that their collective ballots have returned ten to fourteen parties to their national parliaments. Multi-party competition carried to this extreme is alleged to produce weak government through a coalition of parties so numerous that they can have few positive policies or goals in common. Yet there are also times when a two-party system can be criticised for offering the ‘wrong’ choice, as in the First Austrian Republic between the wars. Its two-party system offered the alternatives of a clerical and authoritarian Christian Social Party or an embattled Austro-Marxist Social Democrat Party — with Pan-German Nationalists a small and even more extreme third party. Sometimes, both faults — ‘too much choice’ and the ‘wrong’ choices — can be combined, as in the Fourth French Republic, where half a dozen or more parties could claim seats in the National Assembly, and at times the anti-regime Gaullists and Communists were the two largest parties.

Keywords

Political Authority Proportional Representation British Government Legitimate Authority Free Election 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    Richard Rose, ‘Dynamic Tendencies in the Authority of Regimes’, World Politics, xxi, no. 4 (1969) 602–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Richard Rose and Derek W. Urwin, ‘Social Cohesion, Political Parties and Strains in Regimes’, Comparative Political Studies, 11 no. 1 (1969) esp. 31–44.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    R. Rose ‘On the Priorities of Citizenship in the Deep South and Northern Ireland’, journal of Politics, xxxviii, no. 2 (1976) p. 257ff.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    T. T. Mackie and R. Rose, The International Almanac of Electoral History (London: Macmillan, 1974).Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    See G. Lehmbruch, Proporzdemokratie: politisches System and Politische Kultur in der Schweiz and in Österreich (Tübingen: Mohr, 1967)Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    See A.J. Peaslee, Constitutions of Nations, 2nd edition (The Hague: M. Nijhofl, 1956).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 8.
    V. O. Key Jr, Southern Politics in State and Nation (New York: Knopf, 1949).Google Scholar
  8. 10.
    See Mildred A. Schwartz, Trends in White Attitudes toward Negroes (Chicago: National Opinion Research Centre, 1967) p. 22ff.Google Scholar
  9. C. V. Hamilton, The Bench and the Ballot (New York: Oxford University Press, 1973) p. 43.Google Scholar
  10. 17.
    See Ian McAllister, The 1975 Northern Ireland Convention Election, University of Strathclyde Occasional Paper no. 14 (Glasgow, 1975) p. 25.Google Scholar
  11. 18.
    See Robert Fisk, The Point of No Return: The Strike which Broke the British in Ulster (London: Andre Deutsch, 1975).Google Scholar
  12. 19.
    Cf. James Callaghan, A House Divided: The Dilemma of Northern Ireland (London: Collins, 1973).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Richard Rose 1978

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard Rose

There are no affiliations available

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