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new leaders of Iraq have just read Lijphart's Patterns of Democracy and have decided to adopt a majoritarian form of government. What are the advantages of this form of government? Are there any drawbacks? Would you advise them to adopt the majoritarian form? Note 1: You should mention basic details about Iraq's situation, but this question is not testing your knowledge of Iraqi politics. Note 2: Don't spend too much time on describing individual institutions and their effects. This is a big picture question.
In his text, Patterns of Democracy Arend Lijphart states that consensual as opposed to majoritarian democracies ultimately create more responsive and democratic governmental institutions, even though consensual democracies are not run on a strictly 'majority rules' system of decision-making. Lijphart believes that consensual democracies are better able to address such concerns as the need for social welfare, environmental destruction caused by unethical practices such as over-drilling of oil fields, the need for an impartial criminal justice system in a once near-lawless society, as well as addressing foreign aid issues and appeals to international authorities. While the majoritarian model concentrates political power in the hands of a bare majority, in a consensus democracy, the objective is that as many people as possible take part in the governing process and come to an agreement amicable to all involved. Simple majority rule is less important than achieving a broad, civic participation in government and broad agreement on the policies that the government should pursue. (Lijphart, p.2)
For instance it is not enough that the majority of the Iraqi population might believe that further oil drilling would be necessary to secure its immediate economic future. Rather, all groups -- including environmentalist groups and groups living near the areas to be drilled -- must decide collectively what would be better for Iraq as a nation. Thus, civic responsibility, a value much enthused about in Robert Putman's text on America, Bowling Alone, is the key to the creation of a modern, functioning consensual democracy. In the scenario presented above, the new leaders of Iraq may feel attracted to the majoritarian form of government, given the perceived ability of majoritarian rule to foster individual independence and autonomy within the citizenry, independence apart from the control of the government. It may seem that a majoritarian system would better able to facilitate economic development at a quick pace, as well. Also, the totalitarian regime Iraq has just cast off might makes such values of autonomy additionally attractive to its new leadership.
But the new leadership must also take into consideration Iraq's particular configuration of ethnic and religious tensions. The nation's pluralistic ethnic and religious structure makes such a majoritarian system inherently unwise for the government to adopt. Ethnic or minority factions that are excluded from government might adopt violent means to make themselves heard, contrary to the establishment of a stable system of government or a free and fair discourse in the media. Or, conversely, the majority will might oppress important minority voices.
Lijphart states that consensual systems such as Switzerland and Israel are able to stimulate economic growth, control inflation and unemployment, and limit budget deficits at least equally well as majority systems. However, even if this were not the case, the example of Israel is particularly instructive, and ironically an apt parallel for Iraq, because Israel too is a state with many competing interpretations about its civic mission. These interpretations come from both religious and secular factions. Israel is also highly pluralistic in ethnic composition. In truth, the notion of a majority will means little in any nation, both Iraq or Israel, that is really made up of many minority factions and desires rather than one popular will. In contrast, the consensus model of a democracy is characterized by a lack of concentration of power in the hands of any one faction, and thus there is a sharing of power and division of power. (Lijphart, p.153)
Because of this sharing of power, Lijphart states that consensual systems foster political equality, women's representation, citizen participation in elections, and proximity between government policies and voter preferences -- all challenges Iraq must meet if it is to succeed in the future. Furthermore, its fostering of civic responsibility to all citizens is especially critical if Iraq is to create a nation of people who feel a sense of obligation to one another, rather than merely feel an obligation to their particular religious or ethnic fashion, or to the mere brute ethic…[continue]
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