Traditionally, European politics is characterised by a two-headed executive. The head of state and the government share executive power in many European countries. However, in most countries the role of the head of state is just a formality.
This chapter seeks to examine the two different patterns of government within Europe (majoritarian and consensual), comparing and contrasting different countries, many of whom have a mixture of two patterns.
It also analyses the growing phenomenon of the presidentialisation of the office of the Prime Minister.
Questions for Revision:
• Compare the main features of majoritarian and consensus governments. Use
examples of at least two different countries.
• What are the main differences between government in the United Kingdom and in Germany?
• What is understood under a ‘semi-presidential’ political system and how widespread is it in Europe? Discuss using examples of at least two different countries.
• Is ‘presidentialisation’ of government in Europe an old or a new phenomenon? Discuss using two different countries.
• Explain the main steps in the formation of coalition government in the Netherlands and/or Belgium.
Lijphart, Arend (1999), Patterns of Democracy: Government Forms and Performance in
Thirty-Six Countries.New Haven: Yale University Press.
Blondel, Jean (1995), Comparative Government: An Introduction. London: Prentice Hall.
Blondel, Jean and Maurizio Cotta (eds) (2001), The Nature of Party Government.
Gallagher, Michael, Michael Laver and Peter Mair (2007), Representative Government in
Modern Europe: Institutions, Politics and Governments. Boston: McGraw-Hill, chapters 3,
5 and 12.
Blondel, Jean and Ferdinand Müller-Rommel (1997), Cabinets in Western Europe. 2nd
edition. Basingstroke: Palgrave.
Central and Eastern Europe
Blondel, Jean and Ferdinand Müller-Rommel (eds) (2001), Cabinets in Eastern Europe.
Blondel, Jean, Ferdinand Müller-Rommel and Darina Malova (eds) (2007), Governing New
European Democracies. Basingstroke: Palgrave.
Divided government/semi-presidential governments
Elgie, Robert (2001), Divided Government in Comparative Perspective. Oxford: Oxford
Müller,Wolfgang and Kaare Strøm (eds) (2001,2003), Coalition Governments in Western
Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Presidentialisation of government
Poguntke, Thomas and Paul Webb (eds), The Presidentialization of Politics: A Comarative
Study of Modern Democracies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Delegation and accountability
Müller, Wolfgang, Kaare Strøm and Torbjörn Bergman (eds) (2003), Delegation and
Accountability in Parliamentary Democracies. Oxford: Oxford University Press [rational
choice approach, but very useful in terms of data richness].