Divided Government in Comparative Perspective

By Robert Elgie | Go to book overview

8 Divided Governance: The Case of Denmark

John Fitzmaurice

Naturally, the opposition should have influence . . .

(Poul Schlüter, prime minister, 1982-93)

Can the concept of divided government have any meaning in a parliamentary system like that in Denmark? Clearly, it is not present in its purest form, found in systems with a formal system of separation of powers or with some collegiate or proportional type of executive. The best known and clearest example is that of the United States. Here, the system is underpinned by a clear ideology of separation of powers that is clearly established in the Constitution itself. Executive and legislative branches have a distinct and independent existence. Congress cannot remove the president and the president cannot dissolve Congress. Each has its own clear and distinct function. Each too has its own electoral basis, independent of the other. The Congress does not elect the president. The people can and do elect a president and House of Representatives of differing political colour at the same time, as they did in 1996. The US is then the extreme, or control case. A less clear European example can be found in Switzerland. Here, the Federal Council (executive) is elected by Parliament, but on a proportional basis and is in long-standing practice immovable until the next elections. As a result, the Federal Council does not need or have a fixed parliamentary basis and must construct legislative majorities from issue to issue. Defeat in legislative votes cannot affect the life of the executive. Here political practice has created and effective separation of powers not dissimilar to the American model, though within what is still a parliamentary system.

In a parliamentary system like that of Denmark, there clearly cannot be a formal separation of powers on the American model, though there can be an some approximation to that situation, as there is in Switzerland. In Denmark, as we shall see, the executive (government) is in a permanent state of formal dependence on the Folketing (parliament), though it may, as we shall see, in

-146-

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Divided Government in Comparative Perspective
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Comparative Politics ii
  • Divided Government in Comparative Perspective iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents vii
  • List of Figures ix
  • List of Tables x
  • Contributors xi
  • 1: What is Divided Government? 1
  • 2: Divided Government in the United States 21
  • 3: Squaring Off 40
  • 4: Divided Government in Mexico's Presidentialist Regime 63
  • 5: Divided Government in Finland 86
  • 6: 'Cohabitation' 106
  • 7: Divided Government in Poland 127
  • 8: Divided Governance 146
  • 9: Divided Government in Germany 167
  • 10: Divided Government in Ireland 182
  • 11: Divided Government in Comparative Perspective 209
  • Bibliography 226
  • Index 239
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