Respond to Peer response (minimum 150 words)
The authors of the text reference three modes of lawmaking employed by European countries: inter-party, cross-party and non-party. These modes operate in either majoritarian (Westminster) or consensus democratic regimes, which differ from presidential regimes in that, most European legislation is initiated by the executive branch. The inter-party mode of lawmaking is prevalent in a majoritarian model, where the executive’s party sets the parliamentary agenda for a legislature that is comprised of party loyalists, unwilling to jeopardize their political careers by casting votes against their party. Thus, the government’s party, who holds the majority in a Westminster model can expect rubber-stamp approval of any legislation presented before parliament. However, if the government proposes a universally unpopular bill, such as Prime Minister Thatcher’s poll tax, rejection of the legislation can transcend party lines (Higham 2016). When this happens, it is not unheard of for the prime minister to either resign, face a vote of no confidence or (if permitted by the country’s constitution) dissolve parliament and call for a general election. Outside of these extraordinary circumstances, given the typical “cabinet dictatorship” attitude of governments of an inter-party majoritarian model, it is common for minority or opposition members of parliament (MPs) to begrudgingly accept their roles as critics of government, who have no tangible input into legislative decision-making.
The cross-party mode of lawmaking is typically found in consensus model democracies where, due to the country’s political culture, collaboration is encouraged, while cabinet dictatorship is discouraged. Another factor that contributes to the cross-party mode is when, due to proportional representation, no single party has a clear majority in parliament, thereby requiring cooperation in order to function. Even in majoritarian models, there are circumstances when cross-party negotiation is mandatory, for example, when a country’s parliamentary rules require a super majority in order to ratify particular types of legislation, such as, constitutional amendments. Also, majoritarian regimes may experience cross-party negotiation when backbench MPs use their cumulative political strength and leverage access to the lawmaking process. While the government sets the legislative agenda in an inter-party majoritarian model, in a cross-party consensus regime, parliamentary party groups (PPGs) play a key role in setting the agenda. Additionally, while the inter-party mode, gives the government control over crafting legislation, in a cross-party mode, committees debate and, if necessary, amend bills prior to introducing them to parliament.
The non-party consensus model of lawmaking recognizes that the government (executive office and cabinet) is a separate entity from parliament, with each having independent roles that are unencumbered by political allegiances. Similar to the cross-party mode, non-party lawmaking encourages MPs from different parties to support legislation and even debate the merits of government-backed bills. This enables the cabinet to enjoy “a genuine give-and-take relationship with parliament” absent of the competitive and politically charged atmosphere of inter-party majoritarian models. This non-party, conscientious approach to lawmaking enables diverse members of parliament to meaningfully contribute their ideas to the legislative drafting process, creating a culture that reduces the likelihood of the grandstanding by opposition MPs typically witnessed in an inter-party majoritarian environment. Although party loyalty will continue to dominate European politics, it can be argued that the ability of MPs to cross or negate party lines in consensus democracies, enables those parliaments to pass more meaningful legislation, thereby better serving their constituents’ needs.
When discussing the three modes of lawmaking, one can readily identify the United Kingdom as an inter-party majoritarian regime, where parliamentary theatrics distract from the reality that, at least until the next election, legislative power is controlled by the government. Germany provides a solid example of cross-party lawmaking where, as long as the opposition does not prevent the passage of bills, it is afforded a voice when debating the details of new legislation. It is interesting to note that, although Germany’s legislature is controlled by PPGs, much of the legislative work begins in committees, where “there is a good deal of negotiation and compromise between government and opposition”. For a working model of non-party lawmaking, Scandinavian parliaments, with their emphasis on the meticulous crafting of quality legislation in nonpartisan government commissions, provide an example of legislative procedures eclipsing party politics. Although it may be tempting to be critical of the strident party affiliations found in an inter-party mode, while touting the benefits of collaboration found in cross and non-party modes, in reality, the discipline and cohesion offered by PPGs can instill a unifying loyalty in MPs that works to stave-off the in-fighting and resulting chaos that could potentially undermined a government’s stability.
Gallagher, Michael, Michael Laver, and Peter Mair. 2011. Representative Government in
Modern Europe (5th Edition). New York: McGraw Hill.
Higham, B. N. (2016, December 30). National Archives: Thatcher’s poll tax miscalculation. BBC News. Retrieved January 19, 2022, from https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-38382416
Europe is a place that advocates for parliamentary systems much more than presidential systems. We see many instances of parliamentary systems put in place, such as in Germany, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Sweden, and more. The United States has three different branches that make up one government. Europe has more instances of parliamentary systems which is “a set of institutions that gives a particularly important role to political parties and parliamentary elections” (Gallagher, Laver, & Mair, 2011). In Europe, the executive branch is the president of the European Commission. The president has control over the commission which results in the initiation of the European legislation and holds major responsibility on it being applied. The president deals with getting files to members of the commission and determining the policy agenda and all its legislative proposals produced. None of the policies can be produced without the president signing off on it. In the United States, the president is the head of states, chief in command, which holds the majority of power over policy and decision making.
With the Legislative area of the European Parliament, this is the only body of government elected directly. It is comparable to that of the United States congress. The court of justice is the most important court in Europe and deals with European law. It is similar to the supreme court in the United States and deals with disputes between members of government, cases, states, etc. One thing that is different in parliament than in the U.S. presidential system is the distribution of power.
In Europe, Parliament holds greater importance than the typical executives of courts we see in countries like the United States. The European Parliament holds power over important decisions and comes with many advantages. In this system of governance, the head of the government is chosen by parliament itself which results in a prime minister. The prime minister is the head of cabinet and leader in the executive branch of government. Parliament does everything when it comes to the government which results in it being more important than executives or courts. They elect the executives and determine the head of government (prime minister), in some instances the president is elected by parliament, and the parliament can hold governments accountable for their actions and decisions and ensure control over the executive branch which provides it with less of a need for courts.
The U.S. system is much more different than this one because the people can elect the officials in office. The president is elected by the people, representatives, senators, etc. are all put in place by the citizens of the country. The U.S. also provides the greatest authority of power to the president and has systems like the supreme court and house of representatives to have a better distribution of power and not so much concentrated power onto one commission or union. The courts in the United States regulate law making and decisions made and are able to hold individuals or even groups of individuals responsible for the decisions made on the consequences that follow. The executive of state and government is the president who works with congress in law/policy making and more. While the parliamentary system does have advantages that the presidential system doesn’t (such as the ability to pass laws easier) but it also carries its disadvantages (such as the people being unable to elect the head of government). “The institutions of politics in most modern European states share some fundamental similarities and are collectively quite distinct from those to be found in the United States” (Gallagher, Laver, & Mair, 2011).
Gallagher, Michael, Laver, Michael, and Mair, Peter. 2011. Representative Government in Modern Europe (5th Edition). New York: McGraw Hill.