Democracy at the Polls: A Comparative Study of Competitive National Elections

Democracy at the Polls: A Comparative Study of Competitive National Elections

Democracy at the Polls: A Comparative Study of Competitive National Elections

Democracy at the Polls: A Comparative Study of Competitive National Elections

Excerpt

"General elections," wrote Sir Lewis Namier, "are the locks on the stream of British democracy, controlling the flow of the river and its traffic."1 His point can be generalized to the histories of all Western democratic nations. In each country's elections those who seek to direct its public affairs must defend their records and convince the voters that the policies they propose for the future are feasible, desirable, and best carried out by those who propose them. The office seekers try to show that their opponents' policies are ill conceived and that their past failures in office make them poor bets for managing:" the government in the future. The voters consider the competing cases and make their decisions. Their votes are cast and counted, the candidates elected take office, and a new government is formed or an existing one renewed.

As the election debate is fought out in the campaign and as the expectations it arouses are satisfied or disappointed after the winning candidates take office, the whole politics of a democratic nation is encapsulated. Thus the electoral process lies at the heart of democratic government, and the critical difference between democratic and nondemocratic regimes is to be found in whether or nor they hold elections and, if they do, what kind.

That, at any rate, is the major premise of the At the Polls volumes published by the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research since 1975 on the conduct and outcomes of general elections in selected democratic nations throughout the world. By mid-1980 two volumes had been published on elections in Australia, France, and Japan and one each on elections in Canada, West Germany, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, three of the four Scandinavian countries, New, . . .

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