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Vital DemocracyA Theory of Democracy in Action$
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Frank Hendriks

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199572786

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199572786.001.0001

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Pendulum Democracy

Pendulum Democracy

The Winner Takes All

(p.49) 3 Pendulum Democracy
Vital Democracy

Frank Hendriks (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Pendulum democracy refers to the model of democracy in which political power alternates between two competing political parties or protagonists. Power follows the movement of the pendulum, and the pendulum follows the movement of the electorate every so many years. The winner of the last election ‘takes all’. The best‐known manifestation of pendulum democracy is the so‐called Westminster model, but its logic – a combination of indirect and majoritarian democracy – goes deeper and travels further, not only to the British Commonwealth and the Anglo‐American world but also to countries in Latin America and ‘Latin Europe’. In pendulum democracy, leadership is written with a capital L. Ideal‐typically, citizens operate as voter‐spectators in an ‘audience democracy’. The strengths of pendulum democracy are associated with electoral sensitivity, clarity, and decisiveness, which may however backslide into over‐commitment, oversimplification, and alternating one‐sidedness.

Keywords:   Westminster, majoritarianism, power concentration, winner takes all, bipartisan politics, district‐based elections, mass democracy, spectator, gladiator, (quasi‐)presidentialism, interest‐group pluralism, decisiveness, fixation

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