The Nature of Party Government: A Comparative European Perspective

By Jean Blondel; Maurizio Cotta | Go to book overview

9
Conclusion: From the Simple World
of Party Government to a More
Complex View of Party –
Government Relationships

M.Cotta


The two faces of party government

At the end of a conceptual and empirical exploration of the relationship between executives and the parties supporting them, we need to draw some conclusions about this crucial aspect of contemporary democratic regimes. By relationship, as we have repeatedly pointed out, we mean a two-way process by which parties influence the executive and the executive influences the supporting parties. The inquiry in this volume has been restricted to parliamentary systems, while the 1996 volume ( Blondel and Cotta, 1996) also examined the case of the American presidential government ( Katz, 1996), which gave an opportunity to explore the ‘periphery’ of party government and to discover the limits of this concept in the context of a different institutional regime. As a matter of fact, by restricting the analysis to parliamentary systems, that is to say to systems where the link between governments and supporting parties is rather tight, we are likely to be able to better understand the nature of the reciprocal influence which exists between the two sides.

To begin with, a major surprise comes from the fact that the amount of research in the field is rather limited. Parties have been widely recognised as central features of contemporary democracy in political science and increasingly in legal studies, as can be seen from the vast number of empirical studies about the internal organisation, electoral roots, developmental trends, and patterns of competition among parties in democratic countries ( Bartolini, Caramani and Hug, 1998). On the basis of these studies the interpretation of democracy has been reformulated to incorporate party competition as one of its central features ( Downs,

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