Democratic Stability

             In his speech at Bayeux, General Charles De Gaulle spoke of how "the Greeks in earlier times used to ask the sage Solon, 'What is the best constitution?' He used to reply: 'Tell me for what people and at what epoch (Suleiman, 137).'" Can simply the organization of government help to stabilize democracy in a given country? "While no one particular constitutional arrangement ensures democratic stability and effective government, an institutional form of governance may exercise a strong influence on the whole political process (Suleiman, 137)." It is especially difficult to chose one specific institutional arrangement, given the broad differences that exist between different countries. However, in choosing the single most important factor that stabilizes democracy in Western European nations, the institution of the political party merits just as much attention as any constitutional arrangement.

             A democracy is a government "for the people," run "by the people." In representative governments, which all practical democracies are, political parties have become the primary forces in nominating, supporting, and electing candidates for office, drawing many to the conclusion that governments are for the parties, run by the parties. How can this system affect a nations democratic stability though? One needs only to look at Germany's through the twentieth century in order to see just how a nation's party system can stabilize and de-stabilize democracy. Hitler's rise to power was a result of the Weimar Republic's political parties becoming decentralized. Anywhere from ten to fifteen parties were represented under the Reichstag, leading to the prevail of extreme views. After World War II, much was done to ensure that democracy would not break down again, as it had done under Hitler. The concentrated party system that Germany has today, with only three or four parties, can be traced to the military governments licensing of political parties in 1945-1946.

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