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A mediterranean model of democracy? The

Southern European democracies in comparative

Arend Lijphart , Thomas C. Bruneau , P. Nikiforos Diamandouros & Richard


To cite this article: Arend Lijphart , Thomas C. Bruneau , P. Nikiforos Diamandouros &
Richard Gunther (1988) A mediterranean model of democracy? The Southern European
democracies in comparative perspective, West European Politics, 11:1, 7-25, DOI:

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Published online: 03 Dec 2007.

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Download by: [Aristotle University of Thessaloniki] Date: 31 December 2015, At: 00:52
A Mediterranean Model of Democracy? The
Southern European Democracies in
Comparative Perspective

Arend Lijphart, Thomas C. Bruneau, P. Nikiforos

Diamandouros and Richard Gunther
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The four Southern European democracies - Italy, Spain, Portugal

and Greece - have a number of important cultural, social,
economic, and historical characteristics in common, and their
political systems are also often seen as similar, representing a
'Mediterranean model of democracy'. However, when these four
democratic regimes are compared with the world's other democ-
racies in terms of the contrasting majoritarian and consensus
models, they turn out not to form a distinctive and cohesive
cluster. The concluding section suggests several explanations for
this unexpected finding.

The transition from dictatorship to democracy in Spain, Portugal, and Greece

in the mid-1970s has stimulated a strong interest in including these countries
in comparative studies. The striking contemporaneity of their return to
democracy, their Southern European geographical location, and their many
cultural, social, economic, and historical-developmental similarities have led
analysts to treat them - often together with Italy - as a basically similar and
cohesive group.1 This perspective has further led to the implicit but
widespread assumption that, as Geoffrey Pridham notes, 'the occurrence of
parallel and similar development leads to equivalent regimes', and hence that
a distinctive 'Mediterranean model' of democracy can be discerned.2
In this article, we argue that the democratic regimes of Italy, Spain,
Portugal, and Greece are neither sufficiently similar to each other nor
sufficiently different from other democratic regimes to fit a distinctive model
of democracy, and hence that we ought to discard the notion of a special
Southern European democratic model. (We prefer the term 'Southern
European' to 'Mediterranean' since the latter appears to exclude Portugal.) At
the same time, we want to state emphatically that we do not disagree with the
proposition that these four countries have many other characteristics in
common and that they are therefore a particularly inviting set of cases for
comparative analysis. For instance, they have all suffered major failures in
sustaining stable democratic politics in the past, and as a result they have all
experienced authoritarian interludes; they are economically less developed
than most other European countries; Italy, Spain and Portugal have
agricultural sectors characterised by latifundia in the south and small farms in
the north - a division that has strongly affected politics in the past and present;

and these same three countries share a common religious cleavage - unlike
many other European countries, there was never a Catholic-Protestant split
but a powerful and politically very significant clerical-anticlerical cleavage.
The contrast between these similarities in background conditions and the
differences with regard to democratic regime strengthens the theoretical value
of our findings. Do political institutions and the basic rules of the game of
democratic politics have a life of their own or are they merely a 'super-
structure' that grows out of a socio-economic-cultural base? Our findings that
there are substantial differences among the four regimes clearly reveal the
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limitations of socio-economic and cultural reductionist arguments.

We shall systematically examine the similarities and differences between the
Southern European democracies and those elsewhere in terms of the basic
contrast between the majoritarian and consensus types of democracy set forth
in Arend Lijphart's 21-country comparative study Democracies.3 Italy is one
of the 21 countries analysed in this book, which focuses on regimes that have
been continuously democratic from approximately the end of the Second
World War. Since Spain, Portugal and Greece have now compiled a
democratic record of about ten years, we have sufficient evidence of their
democratic institutions and practices to compare them with the older
democracies. In the concluding section, we present several explanations of
why these four Southern European democracies fail to form a distinctive and
cohesive category among the larger group of democracies.


Defining democracy as 'government by and for the people' raises a
fundamental question that is answered in radically different ways in different
democratic regimes: who will do the governing and to whose interests should
the government be responsive when the people are in disagreement and have
divergent preferences? One answer is: the majority of the people. The
alternative is: as many people as possible. These two answers typify'the two
basic models of democracy: majoritarian and consensus. The majoritarian
model concentrates political power in the hands of the majority, whereas the
consensus model tries to share, disperse and limit power in a variety of ways.
Eight differences with regard to political institutions and practices can be
deduced from these two contrasting principles.4 Since the eight majoritarian
characteristics are derived from the same principle and hence are logically
connected, we would expect them to occur together in the real world. The
same applies to the eight consensus elements. Comparative empirical analysis
largely confirms these expectations - with one major exception: the
majoritarian as well as the consensus characteristics cluster along two clearly
separate dimensions. The first, referred to as the executives-parties dimension,
groups together five characteristics of the party and electoral systems and of
the arrangement of executive power. The second dimension has to do with the
three variables of government centralisation, constitutional flexibility, and
bicameralism versus unicameralism. Since these differences are commonly
associated with the contrast between federalism and unitary government, we
refer to the second dimension as the federal-unitary dimension.

Democracies discusses the eight differences between majoritarian and

consensus democracy at length. We confine ourselves here to a brief overview
and to a description of how the variables were operationalised. Table 1
presents the eight operational indicators for the Southern European
democracies as well as, for the purpose of comparison, the average values for
all 25 democratic regimes and those for New Zealand and Switzerland, the
prototypical examples of majoritarian and consensus democracy respectively.
The data for the 21 older democracies (treated as 22 cases since the French
Fourth and and Fifth Republics were regarded as separate cases) are based on
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the period from about 1945 until the end of 1980. In order to strengthen the
empirical basis for our analysis of the new European democracies as much as
possible, we extended our coverage of these three cases to the middle of 1986.
Our starting points were the first regular parliamentary elections after the
termination of authoritarian rule: November 1974 in Greece, April 1976 in
Portugal, and June 1977 in Spain.
The first, executives-parties, dimension of the majoritarian-consensus
contrast comprises the following five variables:
1. Concentration of executive power in single-party majority cabinets versus
executive power-sharing in broad coalitions. In operationalisingthis variable,
we gave predominant weight to the question of whether cabinets are bare-
majority cabinets - 'minimal winning' cabinets in the terminology of the
coalition theorists - or more inclusive 'oversized' cabinets in which one or
more parties are represented that are not necessary to give the cabinet a
parliamentary majority. Minority cabinets form an intermediate category,
and periods under minority cabinet rule (such as in Spain between 1977 and
1982) were divided equally between the other two categories. As Table 1

ITALY (c. 1945-80), SPAIN, PORTUGAL, AND GREECE (c. 1975-86)

.o-ë OS •s
wage i

:w Zeal




cu o
1. Minimal winning cabinets (%) 68 100 0 35 69 88 100
2. Cabinet durability (months) 52 64 30 17 55 30 70
3. Effective number of parties 3.3 2.0 5.0 3.5 2.7 3.2 2.1
4. Number of issue dimensions 2.6 1.0 3.0 3.0 3.5 3.5 3.0
5. Electoral disproportionality (%) 3.9 6.3 1.5 2.2 7.6 3.3 7.6
1. Government centralisation (%) 78 93 41 96 86 95 96
2. Unicameralism-bicameralism 2.4 4 0 1 2 4 4
3. Constitutional flexibility 0.9 3 1 0.5 0 0 0
Source: Based on data in Arend Lijphart, Democracies: Patterns of Majoritarian and Consensus
Government in Twenty-One Countries (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1984),
Tables 4.2,5.3, 7.3, 8.1, 9.1, 10.2, and 12.1, and on additional data for Spain, Portugal
and Greece in the sources indicated in these tables.

shows, New Zealand cabinets were minimal, winning 100 per cent of the time
in the 1945-80 period, whereas the Swiss executive council was always
2. Executive dominance versus executive-legislative balance. This variable is
difficult to operationalise, but the best available method is to measure the
average cabinet durability. Cabinets that are durable - those that do not
change frequently in terms of party composition - tend to be much more
powerful vis-à-vis their legislatures than less durable executives. For the few
countries without a straightforward parliamentary government, subjective
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scores were assigned: 60 for a high degree of executive dominance (as in the
French Fifth Republic) and 30 for a balanced executive-legislative relation-
ship (as in the cases of Switzerland where the executive is elected for a fixed
four-year term, and in Portugal which had a strong presidency until 1982).
3. Two-party versus multiparty systems. The best method for operationalising
the number-of-parties variable is the 'effective number of parties' measure
proposed by Markku Laakso and Rein Taagepera.5 It counts the number of
parties weighted by party size. Table 1 presents the average effective number
of parties, based on the parties' shares of legislative seats following each
parliamentary election, for the six countries. New Zealand and Switzerland
with 2.0 and 5.0 effective parties respectively are again clear contrasting
4. One-dimensional versus multidimensional party systems. In the pure
majoritarian model, the two major parties differ from each other program-
matically on only one dimension: socio-economic policy. The consensus
model assumes differences among the major parties not only on this left-right
issue dimension but also on one or more of the following: the religious,
cultural-ethnic, urban-rural, regime support, foreign policy, and post-
materialist dimensions. We gave one point toa dimension of high salience and
half a point to those of only medium intensity. New Zealand's score is 1.0 (one
issue dimension, socio-economic issues, with high intensity), while the Swiss
score is 3.0 (high salience socio-economic and religious dimensions and
medium-salience cultural-ethnic and urban-rural ones).
5. First-past-the-post elections versus proportional representation. The
plurality or first-past-the-post method is the typical majoritarian electoral
system, whereas PR is the typical method of consensus democracy. In
practice, however, not all plurality (or majority) systems are equally
disproportional and not all PR systems are equally proportional. For this
reason, we measured the actual disproportionality in all elections in the
respective periods, and we defined disproportionality as the average deviation
between the vote and seat shares of the two largest parties in each election. The
New Zealand and Swiss cases again exemplify the contrast very well.
The second, federal-unitary, dimension comprises the following three
1. Centralised versus decentralised government. We operationalised this
variable as the central government's share of total central and non-central tax
receipts, excluding social security taxes. The data we used were OECD
statistics for the late 1970s and early 1980s for Spain, Portugal and Greece,
and for the mid-1970s for the other countries. New Zealand and Switzerland

provide good examples of the range of variation.

LUnicameralism versus strong bicameralism. We used scores from 4
(unicameralism) to 0 (strong bicameralism). The latter denotes a two-chamber
legislature in which the two houses are roughly equal in power but differ from
each other in composition, usually as a result of being elected by different
methods. Scores between 0 and 4 reflect weaker forms of bicameralism.
Unicameral New Zealand and strongly bicameral Switzerland are at opposite
ends of the scale.
3. Constitutional flexibility versus rigidity. The optimally majoritarian
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constitution is an unwritten one because it does not impose any formal

limitations on the parliamentary majority at the central level. At the other
extreme is a written constitution protected by judicial review and difficult to
amend (for instance, approval by extraordinary majorities or, somewhat
weaker, by a popular referendum may be required). We used scores from 3 to
0. New Zealand with its unwritten constitution receives the highest score, but,
for once, Switzerland is an imperfect example of the opposite characteristic: it
has a written constitution that cannot be easily amended, but it lacks judicial
Figure 1 presents the positions of the 25 democratic regimes on the two
dimensions of majoritarian versus consensus government. Since the eight
variables were measured on different scales, they were all standardised (so as
to have a mean of 0 and a standard deviation of 1). The values on the two
dimensions are the averages (again standardised) of the relevant five and three
variables. As expected, New Zealand and Switzerland occupy the extreme
positions in the top right-hand and bottom left-hand corners. The clearest
example of majoritarianism on the executives-parties dimension but consensus
- or federalism - on the second is the United States, surrounded by three other
federal systems: Australia, Canada and Germany. Israel is the lone example of
the combination of strong consensus democracy on the first dimension and
strong unitary government on the second.
Most of the other countries - including Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece -
are more in the middle of the graph. The Southern European democracies are
not at extreme distances from each other, but they clearly do not form a
distinctive cluster of countries either. It is also worth noting that each is
located in a different quadrant.
Let us examine the characteristics of their democratic systems, in terms of
the majoritarian-consensus contrast, more closely. Since Italy is already
treated in Democracies, we shall focus on the three newly democratic
countries. On the executives-parties dimension, Italy is a fairly straight-
forward example of the consensus model: mainly oversized and short-lived
cabinets, a multidimensional multiparty system, and PR. The main reasons
why it is closer to the centre than the Netherlands, Finland, the Fourth
Republic, Israel and Switzerland are that the large sizes of the Christian
Democratic and Communist parties make for a relatively modest effective
number of parties and that the disproportionality of its electoral outcomes is
relatively high for a PR system. On the federal-unitary dimension, Italy is
very close to the centre. While it has a very high index of centralisation (even
exceeding New Zealand's), it also has a written and fairly rigid constitution


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•POR • .5

Executives- NOR .SWE
parties —
dimension 1.0 1.5


• -.5




•swi •US


Note: AUL means Australia, AUT Austria, FR4 the French Fourth Republic, and FR5 the
French Fifth Republic.
(amendable by a majority but only by means of a referendum), which is
protected by judicial review. Its bicameralism is strong in one respect (the two
chambers have equal powers) but weak in another (the chambers are elected
by similar methods and are virtual carbon copies of each other).


Spain today is more majoritarian than consensual on the executives-parties

dimension. At first sight, this is surprising especially because the Spanish
political leaders explicitly rejected majoritarianism and wholeheartedly

embraced consensual practices during a particularly crucial period in the

transition to democracy. During the constituent process of 1977-79, these
practices were referred to as 'the politics of consensus',. While these
consensual practices were most central to the drafting of a new constitution,
they were also applied to economics and labour relations (culminating in the
Pacts of Moncloa of 1977), as well as to the first stage of the political
decentralisation process (contributing to agreement over autonomy statutes
for the Basque and Catalan regions). The basic features of this variety of
consensual politics were the active participation in the decision-making
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process of representatives of those groups most directly affected by the issue in

question, more or less proportional representation of those affected interests
within the decision-making arena, the conducting of negotiations in private,
and a commitment by all key participants to the objective of securing an
agreement which would not be totally unacceptable to any significant group in
Despite this important period of consensual politics, Spain emerges from
our analysis as relatively majoritarian on the executives-parties dimension.
There are several reasons for this. First, these consensual practices were only
temporary. Following endorsement of the Constitution and enactment of
autonomy statutes for Euskadi and Catalunya (in 1979), partisan interactions
became more majoritarian and more overtly conflictual. And ever since the
Socialists secured an absolute parliamentary majority in 1982, inter-party
negotiations over the enactment of basic legislation simply have not taken
place. One of our indicators (the operational rule of apportioning minority
cabinet time equally to minimal winning and oversized cabinets) accurately
reflects this change over time. Accordingly, over the entire period analysed
here, Spain emerges with an intermediate ranking: its 69 per cent under
'minimal winning coalitions' virtually coincides with the 68 per cent that is the
average value for all 25 democratic regimes. This intermediate score reflects
the averaging of scores before and after the watershed 1982 election. The
country started out with five and a half years of Union of the Democratic
Centre (UCD) minority cabinets. This was a period of considerable
consensualism - most visible in the constituent negotiations of 1977-79, but
also because the UCD needed the support of at least one other parliamentary
group for the enactment of legislation. Followingthe Socialist victory in 1982,
single-party majority cabinets have held office.
It should be borne in mind that a majoritarian ranking on the executives-
parties dimension does not depend solely on the value of the first variable, but
is an average of five characteristics. When we examine the other four
variables, it becomes clear why Spain is more majoritarian than consensual on
this dimension. Its cabinet durability was also close to the average for all of the
democracies - 55 compared with 52 months - but its party and electoral
systems have been strongly majoritarian.7 The average effective number of
parties (2.7) is well below the 3.3 average for all democracies, and this low
number has been quite stable in spite of the upheaval in the centre and right of
the Spanish political spectrum: the Union of the Democratic Centre won near-
majorities of the seats in Parliament in the 1977 and 1979 elections (47.1 and
48.0 per cent) and was the governing party in a one-party minority cabinet

until 1982, but it collapsed in the 1982 elections, and was replaced as the major
party to the right of the Socialists by the Popular Alliance. The highest
effective number of parliamentary parties, 2.9, occurred in th'e 1977 elections,
while a low of 2.3 parties was reached in 1982 when the Socialists won a huge
Moreover, the Spanish electoral system has produced very disproportional
results in spite of the fact that it is formally a PR system. The main reason is
that PR is applied in small districts - the average district elects fewer than
seven representatives - and that there are no regional or national supplemen-
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tary seats to make the overall seat distribution more proportional. As a result,
the index of disproportionality is much more like those of countries with
plurality and majority systems than those of other PR countries. It is also
worth noting that two of the four Spanish parliamentary elections (in 1982
and 1986) have yielded what Douglas W. Rae calls 'manufactured majorities':
a party winning a majority of the parliamentary seats with only a minority of
the popular votes.8 Such manufactured majorities are quite common in
plurality and majority systems but rare under PR.
While the party and electoral system variables pull Spain in a majoritarian
direction, the fifth variable to be considered - the issue dimensions of partisan
conflict - pulls in the opposite direction. Table 2 shows the issue dimensions in
the party systems of the Southern European democracies and also, as in Table
1, of New Zealand and Switzerland. On this variable, the four Southern
European democracies are actually quite similar to each other; although the
particular dimensions vary from country to country, the total number of issue
dimensions is higher in all four cases than the average in our universe of 25
democratic regimes. Of the basic characteristics of democratic regimes, this is
the most difficult and potentially controversial one to determine. For Spain,
Portugal, and Greece, the difficulty is increased because we have only a short
time-span on which we can base our judgements.
We gave Spain high ratings on the socio-economic, religious and cultural-
ethnic dimensions and a medium rating on foreign policy. The party system
has a clear left-right division.9 Religion presents more of a problem for the
analyst, because Spain differed from the usual continental European pattern
PARTY SYSTEMS (ca. 1975 to 1986)




.S» >.


¿se Ss -a a .a ¿s

o o
o S u US 5 25
D •&s
«S £U. g.
Q. CU6 Z-3
New Zealand inHtu tí 1.0
Switzerland H H M M 3.0
Italy H H M M 3.0
Spain H H M 3.5
Portugal H H M H 3.5
Greece H M H M 3.0
Note: H indicates a dimension of high salience; M means a medium salience dimension.

in not having an explicit Christian Democratic party (in the period under
consideration, that is, until the middle of 1986). However, the Spanish
Christian Democrats were an identifiable faction within the Union of the
Democratic Centre as well as in the more recent Popular Coalition; following
the June 1986 election, they pulled out of the Popular Coalition, but this
happened after the end of the period we are examining. Several studies,
however, have revealed that the Spanish electorate is divided along religious
lines, and that this division is clearly reflected in the structure of partisan
preferences.10 Moreover, partisan conflict has erupted over religious issues
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such as legalisation of divorce and abortion, and financing of the private

sector of education.
Spain also received a high rating on the cultural-ethnic dimension. Even
though the Basque and Catalan nationalist parties have been rather small
when measured on the national scale, they occupy important if not dominant
positions within their respective regions. Indeed, one cannot speak of a single
system of political parties in Spain: the dynamics of partisan competition in
Euskadi and Catalunya are so distinctly different from that of the rest of the
country that these regions must be regarded as having their own party
systems. There is no question that cultural-ethnic differentiation has had a
high degree of political salience and has been the source of considerable
violence in Spain. The main foreign policy issues in the new Southern
European democracies have been NATO and European Community member-
ship. The latter was not a contentious issue in Spain, but NATO was extremely
controversial from 1981 until the 1986 referendum which confirmed Spanish
On the second or federal-unitary dimension of the majoritarian-consensual
contrast, Spain's position is more federal than unitary. This dimension
comprises the three variables of government centralisation, the organisation of
Parliament, and the degree of constitutional flexibility. The last of these
characteristics is the second variable - in addition to the number of issue
dimensions, noted above - on which the Southern European democracies are
strikingly alike. In fact, Spain, Portugal and Greece receive the highest possible
consensual ratings: all three have written and completely rigid constitutions
that can only be amended by extraordinary majorities and that are protected by
judicial review. Unlike Portugal and Greece, Spain has a bicameral parliament.
In terms of formal powers, the senate is clearly subordinate to the first
chamber: negative votes of the former can be over-ridden by the latter. The fact
that the vast majority of the senators are directly elected by the voters - the
regional legislators choose the remaining few - increases the senate's
•democratic legitimacy and hence its political importance, but we still believe
that the power relationship between the two chambers should be described as
highly asymmetrical. On the other hand, the two chambers are obviously quite
different in their composition: in the senate the smaller provinces are greatly
over-represented and the electoral method is not PR but the so-called limited
vote - a semi-proportional system which, in the Spanish case, tends to give
very unproportional results.11 The combination of asymmetrical power and
incongruent composition assigns Spain to the category that is exactly halfway
between unicameralism and strong bicameralism.

While Spain is formally a unitary state, it is in the process of becoming a

regionalised, if not a federal, state. Table 1 shows that its degree of
government centralisation is considerably lower than those of the other three
Southern European democracies but still well above the average for all 25
democracies. However, the 86 per cent centralisation figure does not do full
justice to Spain's more decentralised character in two respects. First, the 86
per cent is an average for the years from 1979 to 1983 and does not reflect the
trend toward greater decentralisation. In the predemocratic year 1973, the
centralisation figure was 93 per cent; by 1980 (by which time regional
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government institutions had been created in two regions) it had gone down to
90 per cent, and in 1983 (when the first steps were taken towards founding
regional government institutions in most of the country's 17 Autonomous
Communities) it was less than 83 per cent. Further gradual decreases are likely
in the future, as jurisdiction over numerous government functions are
transferred from the central government to the newly emerging regional
administrative agencies.
A second reason why these figures underestimate the full degree of political
decentralisation in Spain is that they measure the share of revenues collected
at the regional and local level, while Spanish decentralisation most extensively
involves the expenditure side of government activity. With the exception of
Euskadi and Navarra (two regions which do collect their own revenues), most
regional government activities are financed by funds transferred from
revenues collected by the central government. By 1985,24 per cent of the total
state expenditure had been transferred to the various regional communities.12
Thus, if our comparative data had dealt with government spending rather
than taxation, the centralisation figure for Spain would have been substantially
lower than the 86 per cent shown in Table 1.
While the overall level of regional government activity has been evolving
throughout this period, so too has the basic model of the state itself. At the
outset of the démocratisation process, it was widely acknowledged that
autonomy would be promptly granted to those regions with historic claims to
self-government (Catalunya and Euskadi, with the exact status of the partially
Basque province of Navarra open to some question), as well as to Galicia,
which is also culturally and linguistically distinct from the rest of the country
and had made some progress towards the attainment of autonomy before the
civil war of 1936-39. But beyond the widely perceived necessity of restoring
self-government rights to the Basques and the Catalans, there was no
consensus among political elites over what model would be appropriate for
the post-Franco Spanish state. Not even the constitution adopted in 1978
clearly resolves this matter: unlike most federal constitutions, which clearly
delineate the functions to be performed by central and regional government
bodies and which grant equal levels of authority to all of the component states,
the Spanish constitution merely established procedures by which various
regions might secure autonomy, and it lists policy spheres which may be
transferred from central to regional government jurisdiction. The process of
decentralisation was based on the principle of voluntarism; each prospective
region was to initiate the procedures by which it would secure autonomy and
negotiate its own terms of self-government.

Given the great variations in language, culture, level of economic

development, and other social characteristics which distinguish one region of
Spain from the others, it is not surprising to find significant differences
between regions concerning the exact nature of their self-government
functions and the speed with which they were acquired. In the aftermath of the
abortive coup of February 1981, concern over these regional inequalities and
the uncoordinated manner in which the decentralisation process was
unfolding led the Union of the Democratic Centre government and the largest
opposition party, the Socialists, to attempt to standardise the decentralisation
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process through enactment of the Organic Law for the Harmonisation of the
Autonomy Process. While much of this law was invalidated by the
constitutional court in 1983, it represents an important watershed, following
which the Socialists (the ruling party since 1982) have consistently pushed for
a more uniform distribution of self-government rights among the regions.
Their defacto embrace of a federal model for Spain, however, has been firmly
opposed by Basque and Catalan nationalists, who fear that a standardisation
of the decentralisation process would result in a reduction of their own rights
and privileges.
In one respect, the Spanish political structure appears to approximate the
federal model: in the senate, each of the mainland provinces is entitled to equal
representation (four senators) regardless of population size - similar to the
equal representation of the states or cantons in federal Australia, Switzerland,
and the United States. However, as discussed earlier, the senate is a very weak
second chamber, and the new Autonomous Communities have a stronger
claim than the provinces to being regarded as the principal geographical units
of the Spanish state. Unlike the provinces, these Autonomous Communities
have a highly unequal representation in the senate, which is not at all based on
population size.
Is Spain's position on the majoritarian-consensual contrast likely to change
in the near future? Current trends indicate that its positions on both
dimensions are likely to be strengthened. The continuation of the one-party
Socialist majority cabinet as a result of the 1986 elections, the continued
domination of this cabinet over the legislature, and the end of serious foreign
policy disagreements will all make Spain more majoritarian on the first
dimension. On the second dimension, the process of régionalisation is bound
to move Spain in the federal direction. Hence we can conclude that, on the
basis of its first nine democratic years, Spain can be classified as majoritarian
and federal, and that it is likely to become more so.


In Figure 1, Portugal is located in the diagonally opposite quadrant from

Spain: instead of majoritarian and federal, it is consensual and unitary. When
we examine the five variables comprising the first dimension, we see that
Portugal has been clearly majoritarian on only one: the percentage of time
under minimal-winning cabinets. However, these minimal-winning cabinets
have tended to be coalitions. Unambiguous examples are the coalitions that
the Socialists formed with the Social Democratic Centre party in 1978 and

with the Social Democratic party from 1983 to 1985, but even the Democratic
Alliance cabinet from 1980 to 1983 can properly be regarded as a coalition
(mainly of the Social Democrats and the Social Democratic Centre). Because
the Alliance presented a single list of candidates in the 1979 and 1980 elections,
it technically qualifies as one party. However, its unity was neither strong nor
lasting: the Alliance collapsed in late 1982, and its members resumed their
separate partisan identities. The only cabinets that were not minimal-winning
occurred at the beginning and end of our period: a Socialist minority cabinet
from 1976 until late 1977 and a Social Democratic minority cabinet from the
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end of the year 1985 onwards.13

On one of the variables, Portugal is in an intermediate position between
majoritarianism and consensus: its effective number of parties (3.2) is close
to the average of 3.3 for all 25 democratic regimes. However, this figure
seriously understates Portugal's multipartism. Four parties have been the
dominant forces in Portuguese party politics: the Socialist and Communists
on the left and the Social Democrats and Social Democratic Centre party
on the right. As a result of the 1985 election, they were joined by a fifth
party of comparable size consisting of supporters of the outgoing President
Ramalho Eanes. The main reason why we get the low figure of 3.2 effective
parties for a basically four-party configuration, apart from the fact that the
parties have been unequal and fluctuating in size, is that the two parties of
the right presented themselves as one party list in the 1979 and 1980
elections: the average effective number of parties emerging from these
elections was only 2.5, whereas the average in the 1976, 1983 and 1985
elections was 3.7 parties.
It is difficult to assign Portugal a reliable score to executive-legislative
relations, because a major change took place in 1982. In the 1976-82 period,
Portugal had a kind of presidential or semi-presidential government similar to
that of the French Fifth Republic and Finland - a strong president combined
with a cabinet dependent on the legislature's confidence - although with a
relatively less dominant president. The constitution gave the president very
extensive powers, and his popular election added to his political stature.
However, the president's powers were severely reduced in the 1982 consti-
tutional revision and, although popular election was not changed, Portugal
reverted to a more conventional parliamentary system of government.
Average cabinet durability in the period under consideration was only 24
months, but this does not adequately reflect the relationship between
executive and legislature. Because the president added strength and stability
to the executive in the 1976-82 period, we raised it to 30 - an artificial number
of 'months' also assigned to other non-parliamentary systems characterised by
executive-legislative balance such as Switzerland. It should also be noted that
Portuguese cabinets have become more durable since 1980.M
With regard to the issue dimensions of partisan conflict, Portugal appears
to resemble Spain: the number of dimensions is identical and they overlap to
some extent. As in Spain, the party system has a clear left-right division as well
as a religious cleavage in spite of the fact that Portugal does not have an
explicit Christian Democratic party either. However, it can be argued, as Juan
Linz does, that the Social Democratic Centre party 'comes c l o s e . . . to being a

Christian Democratic party'.15 Linz 's judgement is supported by the fact that
the party's representatives in the European Parliament have joined the
Christian Democratic party group. As in Spain, the abortion question was a
tense partisan issue; the Social Democratic Centre party was strongly opposed
to the law liberalising it. Mainly because of its strong Communist party,
Portugal receives a medium-salience rating on the regime support dimension,
similar to the ratings for France, Italy, and Finland, and a high-salience rating
for foreign policy. The Portuguese Communists oppose NATO, and voted
against entry into the European Community in 1985. Hence, although
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Portugal has as many dimensions of partisan conflict as Spain, it differs in

that it does not have a cultural-ethnic cleavage and that it does have a regime
support problem.
Portugal's index of disproportionality is below the average for all 25
democracies (see Table 1). Unlike Spanish PR, Portuguese PR can be
regarded as basically proportional, although the index of disproportionality is
slightly higher than those of the other PR countries in Europe. It is also worth
noting that the two Democratic Alliance victories in 1979 and 1980 entailed
manufactured majorities: both times the Alliance failed to win popular vote
majorities, but it did collect enough votes to gain majority control of the
Portugal's position on the federal-unitary dimension does not require an
extensive commentary. Portugal is a formally unitary state which is also
unitary and centralised in practice - accurately reflected by the high
percentage of government centralisation (95 per cent) in Table 1. It also has a
straightforward unicameral legislature. Its only 'federal' characteristic is its
completely rigid constitution. The military Revolutionary Council exercised
judicial review in the early years, but the council was abolished and its review
function taken over by a civilian constitutional court in 1982.
It also appears that, on this second dimension, Portugal's position is firm
and unlikely to undergo any major change. With regard to the first dimension,
its consensualism is likely to be strengthened in the near future because a
system with at least four large parties now appears to be firmly entrenched and
party mergers appear highly unlikely. The continuation of minority cabinets
will have the same effect. Moreover, in the Portuguese case the number of
issue dimensions is less likely to decrease than in Spain.


Finally, let us take a closer look at our third new democracy, Greece, which, of
course, was chronologically the first of the Southern European new
democracies, and which also experienced a much shorter authoritarian
interlude: a mere seven years, compared with more than a third of a century in
Spain and almost half a century in Portugal. Greece's position on the two-
dimensional majoritarian-consensual contrast of Figure 1 is the most
surprising of the four Southern European democracies because it is literally
the most eccentric. Italy, Spain, and Portugal are all relatively close to the
centre of the graph where roughly half of our cases are located. Greece is not
only one of the outliers but also, after New Zealand and the United Kingdom,

the closest approximation of the majoritarian model.

On four of the five variables comprising the first dimension, Greece is
clearly majoritarian. In fact, with regard to the composition of its cabinets,
Greece has been a perfect example of majoritarianism. It had minimal
winning cabinets during the entire 1974-86 period, and each cabinet was
composed of members of only one party with majority support in Parliament:
the New Democracy party from 1974 to 1981 and the Socialists (PASOK)
since 1981. Of all the other democratic regimes, only New Zealand matches
this 100 per cent majoritarian record. It is obviously easier to set such a record
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in a relatively short 12-year time span than, as New Zealand did, in the entire
post-war era, but it is worth noting that Greek cabinets were highly
majoritarian before the authoritarian interlude, too. If we focus on the period
from the 1950 elections, the first after the end of the civil war, until the crown's
intervention in party politics in 1965, minimal-winning cabinets governed 92
per cent of the time. The only exceptions were the cabinets of Sophocles
Venizelos and of George Papandreou, which were minority cabinets for a few
months in 1950-51 and 1963 respectively.
Greece has also had very durable cabinets, indicating a high degree of
executive dominance over the legislature. This executive stability and strength
must be explained mainly in terms of the party and electoral systems; very
little can be attributed to the constitution-writers' attempt, inspired by the
French model, to create a strong presidency combined with a cabinet
dependent on the legislature's confidence. The main reason is that they failed
to adopt a vital element of the strong presidency exemplified by France:
popular election. The Greek president was given strong executive powers but
he was elected by parliament instead of the voters. President Constantine
Karamanlis's great personal prestige could compensate only partly for this
lack of popular legitimation. Moreover, a series of constitutional amendments
passed in 1986 eliminated almost all of the special powers of the president -
making the regime unambiguously parliamentary. In fact, the post-1986
Greek presidency looks very much like that of the Fourth French Republic
and unlike that of the Fifth.
The fact that the Greek political system was never genuinely presidential is
also the reason why we do not regard the 'cohabitation' of President
Karamanlis of theNew Democracy party with a Socialist cabinet from 1981 to
1985 as an oversized power-sharing government. Hence this period, like the
entire 1974-86 period, is characterised by a minimal-winning executive. It
cannot be compared with the cohabitation of the much stronger President
Mitterrand with a conservative cabinet after the 1986 election in France -
which does have a close resemblance to executive power-sharing.
Greek party politics has been dominated by New Democracy and the
Socialist PASOK. Other parties, particularly the two major Communist
parties, have played a role of some importance, but they have not been able to
influence the composition of the government. New Democracy and PASOK
have governed with the support of absolute majorities of their own supporters
in Parliament: the former until 1981 and the latter since then. The average of
2.1 effective parties places Greece in the company of the United States, New
Zealand, the United Kingdom, and Austria, which have effective numbers of

parliamentary parties between 1.9 and 2.2 - and which are also commonly
described as having two-party systems. In the eight elections from 1950 to
1964, the average effective number of parliamentary parties was 2.7 - higher
than the post-1974 number but still low by comparative standards.
Probably the most important explanation of the emergence of this near-
two-party system is the Greek electoral law. Although it uses a PR formula, it
has produced results that are far from proportional. As Table 1 shows, the
index of disproportionality is a high 7.6 per cent, identical to Spain's. In many
PR countries, supplementary seats are allocated at the regional or national
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level in order to make the overall seat distribution more proportional. Such
seats are available at both of these levels in Greece, but parties have to meet
very high thresholds to qualify for them. Hence only the large parties benefit,
and proportionality is effectively decreased. This system is called 'reinforced
PR', but what is being reinforced is the large parties rather than proportionality.
All four Greek elections have yielded parliamentary majorities for one party;
all but one of these were manufactured majorities. In the eight elections from
1950 to 1964, the electoral disproportionality was an even somewhat higher
7.9 per cent.
Only with regard to the issue dimensions of partisan conflict does Greece
deviate from straight majoritarianism. In addition to the usual left-right
issues, three other issue dimensions are of some importance. On the strength
of its Communist parties, Greece, like Portugal, was given a medium-salience
rating of the regime support dimension. With regard to foreign policy,
PASOK was initially committed to withdrawal from the European Com-
munity and was strongly opposed to NATO, but since its rise to power it has
already softened its stand on both issues a great deal. Finally, the kind of
issues classified as religious in the Spanish and Portuguese cases have played a
role in Greek politics, too, but more as PASOK's emphasis on social renewal,
including equality of men and women, than with any religious connotation;
we classified them under the post-materialist label.
On the federal-unitary dimension, Greece's position is virtually identical to
Portugal's. It is unitary and centralised with a government centralisation
percentage of 96 per cent (compared with 95 per cent for Portugal). It also has
a straightforward unicameral parliament and a completely rigid constitution.
For a while, it seemed likely that the latter characteristic would change:
PASOK intended to make the constitution amendable by a parliamentary
majority vote. However, this proposal ran into such strenuous opposition that
it did not become part of the 1986 constitutional revision.
Can we expect Greece to maintain its strikingly majoritarian style of
government? The variable on which a change appears likely is the number of
issue dimensions. Since PASOK's assumption of government responsibility,
the policy differences between the two main parties have become less sharp.
After the 1985 elections, in particular, foreign policy issues have become less
divisive; hence the high rating on the foreign policy dimension may well have
to be changed to a medium rating in the next few years. Such a change would
move Greece into an even more strongly majoritiarian direction.

The four Southern European democracies may share a common geographical
area and several other important background characteristics, but they do not
practise a common form of democracy. Moreover, the changes that seem
likely to occur in Spain, Portugal, and Greece will all have the effect of
reinforcing the majoritarianism of already majoritarian regimes (on either or
both of the dimensions) and, similarly, of reinforcing the consensualism of
already consensual systems (again on one or both of the dimensions). This
means that, in the two-dimensional space of Figure 1, the four countries are
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much more likely to move farther away from each other than to draw
Before trying to explain this absence of a distinctive Southern European
cluster of democracies, we should note two minor qualifications - both having
to do with individual characteristics subsumed under our two majoritarian-
consensual dimensions. One is the relatively large number of issue dimensions
in all four Southern European democracies (see Table 1). For the three new
democracies, this pattern can be explained at least partly by the very newness
of their democratic institutions. As we have already noted, the trend is one of
decreasing partisan differences. Especially the foreign policy and regime
support issues are likely to become less salient as these democracies mature
and as the major parties gain governing experience. Of course, this trend will
also make the Southern European democracies less different from the other
democracies even with regard to this one characteristic - that is, this
qualification is likely to disappear before too long.
The second qualification concerns the high degree of constitutional rigidity
of the four Southern European democracies; in fact, the three new
democracies all have the highest score in this respect (or, in the terms of Table
1, the lowest score on constitutional flexibility). Their emergence from
dictatorial rule accounts for much of this similarity. Of the other democracies,
only seven have equally rigid constitutions and three - Austria, Germany, and
Japan - have similar backgrounds of authoritarian rule.
These two qualifications do not alter the overall pattern of divergence
among the democratic regimes of the Southern European countries, shown in
Figure 1. We shall offer an explanation of this pattern in four steps. In the first
place, it is important to note that, with one major exception, cultural and
regional affinity is not a strong influence for the other democracies either. The
one exception is the set of countries with a strong British cultural heritage: the
United Kingdom, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and the United
States all have high majoritarian scores on the first dimension, but they vary
widely on the second. Two other regional-cultural groups that might be
expected to form cohesive clusters of democracies, the Nordic and the
Benelux countries, turn out to be only weakly connected. Sweden and Norway
are very close to each other, but Denmark is farther away, and Finland and
Iceland are outliers. Belgium and the Netherlands are reasonably close
together, but Luxembourg is at a considerable distance from both of them. If
we ignore Iceland and Luxembourg, the least populous of the Nordic and
Benelux countries, we have a fairly cohesive cluster of the remaining members
of these two groupings combined. However, they are still spread out on the

first dimension, and, while they are close together on the second, a few other
countries - notably the French Fifth Republic and Ireland - are equally close.
In other words, since, with the exception of the Anglo-American democracies,
we do not find stong regional-cultural clusters, there is no compelling reason
to expect one for the Southern European countries.
Secondly, we should not exaggerate the similarity of the other background
conditions mentioned in the beginning of this article. To be sure, the new
European democracies have all recently emerged from authoritarian rule and
Italy also has a, more distant, authoritarian past, but, as noted above, so do
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Austria, Germany, and Japan. Moreover, their authoritarian periods were of

widely different duration and came to an end as a result of different
circumstances: the defeat of the Axis powers in the Italian case, a combination
of internal crisis and foreign-policy adventurism in Greece, war and
institutional exhaustion in Portugal, and the death of the authoritarian leader
in the case of Spain. Also, the Southern European democracies may all be less
economically developed than most of the other European countries, but there
are substantial differences within the Southern European group - often
greater than those between some of the members of this group and other
individual countries in Europe. For instance, a comparison of the gross
domestic products per capita (measured in terms of real purchasing power,
that is, not dependent on fluctuating exchange rates) shows that in 1980 there
was a wide range in Southern Europe from a per capita GDP of $7202 in Italy
to only $3684 in Portugal, with Spain and Greece at intermediate levels of
$5840 and $4683 respectively. Moreover, Italy's per capita GDP, which was
almost twice as high as Portugal's, was only slightly below the $7629 of the
United Kingdom and only a bit more below Austria's $8372, the Netherlands'
$8614, and Belgium's $8724 - but well above Ireland's $5066.16 Similarly, the
three Roman Catholic countries in Southern Europe may share a politically
significant clerical-anti-clerical cleavage, but they also share this charac-
teristic with other Catholic countries such as France, Belgium and Austria.
The above two explanations argue that we should not have expected a
distinct Southern European cluster. The next two will argue that we, in fact,
should have expected not to find such a cluster. The reason in both cases is
that these countries differ in basic respects that have already been found to be
important explanations for the differential occurrence of majoritarian and
consensual patterns. For one thing, Democracies found that the federal-
unitary contrast is correlated with population size.17 Figure 1 also shows this
link quite clearly, although it is obviously not a perfect monotonie
relationship. As we go down on the vertical axis from majoritarianism
('unitary government1) to consensus ('federalism'), we find that population
size tends to go up. The main exceptions are the United Kingdom which, in
terms of this explanation, is placed much too high in the graph, and
Switzerland and Austria which are similarly placed much too low. The four
Southern European democracies display roughly the differences that we
would expect on the basis of their different population sizes: the two smaller
countries, Greece and Portugal, with populations of about ten million each,
are located higher than Spain and Italy, which have respectively about four
and six times larger populations.

Democracies also found a link between both dimensions on the one hand
and the degree to which the countries are plural societies on the other. Plural
societies are defined as 'societies that are sharply divided along religious,
ideological, linguistic, cultural, ethnic or racial lines into virtually separate
subsocieties with their own political parties, interest groups, and media of
communication', and Democracies used a threefold classification of the
countries into plural, semi-plural, and non-plural societies.18 As we move
from the upper right-hand corner to the lower left-hand corner of Figure 1, we
encounter plural and semi-plural societies with increasing frequency. This is
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again not a perfect relationship, and non-plural Japan and plural Luxembourg
are particularly striking deviant cases (although it is worth pointing out that
they are in the expected positions in terms of their population sizes).
Religiously and ideologically divided Italy, classified as semi-plural in
Democracies, and linguistically plural Spain are, as expected, below and to
the left of non-plural Greece and Portugal.
These explanations do not explain everything. For instance, they do not
account well for the relative positions of Italy and Spain nor for those of
Portugal and Greece. Italy and Spain should have traded places according to
both explanations, and Portugal and Greece's positions should have been
closer according to the plural-societies explanation. Nevertheless, these two
explanations work much better, both for the entire set of democracies and the
Southern European sub-group, than regional and cultural proximity. There is
no distinctive Southern European model of democracy, and the differences
that we find between Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece are differences that, on
the basis of a comparative analysis of democracies elsewhere, we should not
have been surprised to find.

This article is part of a larger project which also includes a comparative analysis of Spain,
Portugal, and Greece in our Las Democracias Contemporáneas: Un Análisis Comparativo,
Barcelona, Editorial Ariel, 1987. We should like to thank David Laitin for his helpful comments,
Laura M. Pilkington for her research assistance, and the Committee on Research of the Academic
Senate, University of California, San Diego, the Hoover Institution, and the Ohio State
University Professional Leave Program for their financial support.
1. See, for instance, John H. Herz (ed.), From Dictatorship to Democracy: Coping with the
Legacies of Authoritarianism and Totalitarianism (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1982);
Geoffrey Pridham (ed.), Special Issue on 'The New European Democracies: Regime
Transition in Spain, Greece and Portugal', West European Politics, Vol. 7, No. 2 (April
1984); Juan J. Linz, 'Europe's Southern Frontier: Evolving Trends Toward What?'
Daedalus, Vol 108, No. 1 (Winter 1979), pp. 175-209; Giovanni Arrighi(ed.). Semiperipheral
Development: The Politics of Southern Europe in the Twentieth Century (Beverly Hills:
Sage, 1985); and Dudley Seers, Bernard Schaffer, and Marja-Liisa Kiljunen (eds.),
Underdeveloped Europe: Studies in Core-Periphery Relations (Atlantic Highlands, NJ:
Humanities Press, 1979).
2. Geoffrey Pridham, 'Comparative Perspectives on the New Mediterranean Democracies: A
Model of Regime Transition?' West European Politics, Vol. 7, No. 2 (April 1984), p. 10.
Pridham does not endorse this view himself.
3. Arend Lijphart, Democracies: Patterns of Majoritarian and Consensus Government in

Twenty-One Countries (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1984). For more detailed
analyses of Spanish, Portuguese and Greek politics, see Thomas C. Bruneau, Politics and
Nationhood: Post-Revolutionary Portugal (New York: Praeger, 1984); Thomas C. Bruneau
and Alex Macleod, Politics in Contemporary Portugal: Parties and the Consolidation of
Democracy (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 1986): P. Nikiforos Diamandouros, 'Regime
Change and the Prospects for Democracy in Greece: 1974-1983', in Guillermo O'Donnell,
Philippe C. Schmitter and Laurence Whitehead (eds.), Transitionsfrom Authoritarian Rule:
Prospects for Democracy (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986), pp. 138-64; P.
Nikiforos Diamandouros, 'Transition to, and Consolidation of, Democratic Politics in
Greece, 1974-83: A Tentative Assessment', West European Politcs, Vol. 7, No. 2 (April
1984), pp. 50-71; and Richard Gunther, Giacomo Sani, and Goldie Shabad, Spain After
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Franco: The Making of a Competitive Party System (Berkeley: University of California

Press, 1986).
4. The 21 democracies in Democracies are also compared with regard to a ninth variable - the
incidence of referendums - but we shall not do so here, because this variable does not entail a
fundamental difference between the two models and because it is almost completely
unrelated to the other eight variables.
5. Markku Laakso and Rein Taagepera, '"Effective" Number of Parties: A Measure with
Application to West Europe', Comparative Political Studies, Vol. 12, No. 1 (April 1979), pp.
6. See Richard Gunther, 'Constitutional Change in Contempory Spain', in Keith G. Banting
and Richard Simeon (eds.), The Politics of Constitutional Change in Industrial Nations:
Redesigning the State (London: Macmillan, 1985), pp. 42-70.
7. Our coding rule of counting a cabinet as one cabinet if its party composition does not change
actually overstates the continuity of Spanish cabinets, since the change from Suárez to Calvo
Sotelo as prime minister of the UCD cabinet in 1982 entailed substantial changes of image
(into a more conservative direction) and of policies (on NATO and regionalism).
8. Douglas W. Rae, The Political Consequences of Electoral Laws (New Haven: Yale
University Press, 1967), pp. 74-7.
9. See Juan J. Linz, Manuel Gómez-Reino, Francisco Orizo and Darío Vila, Informe
Sociológico sobre el Cambio Politico en España. 1975-1981, IV Informe FOESSA, Vol. 1,
(Madrid: Editorial Euramérica, 1981); and Günther, Sani and Shabad, Spain After Franco,
Chapter 8.
10. See Linz, Gómez-Reino, Orizo, and Vila Informe Sociológico, Chapter 10, and Gunther,
Sani and Shabad, Spain After Franco, Chapter 6.
11. Arend Lijphart, Rafael López Pintor and Yasunori Sone, 'The Limited Vote and the Single
Nontransferable Vote: Lessons from the Japanese and Spanish Examples', in Bernard
Grofman and Arend Lijphart (eds.), Electoral Laws and Their Political Consequences (New
York, Agathon Press, 1986), pp. 154-69.
12. Data presented by Maria Izquierdo Rojo, Secretary of State for the Autonomies, Ministry of
Territorial Affairs, and published in Stanley G. Payne, Eusebio Mujal-León, Thomas D.
Lancaster and Richard Gunther, Spain's Prospects (New York: The Spanish Institute, 1985),
p. 38.
13. Portugal experienced almost a year and a half of non-political cabinets of 'presidential
inspiration' (1978-80). Because these cabinets cannot be classified according to our criteria,
we excluded them for the purpose of calculating the percentage in Table 1.
14. The three cabinets of 'presidential inspiration' (1978-80) were again excluded from our
15. Linz, 'Europe's Southern Frontier', p. 185.
16. 'Comparing Real Standards of Living', OECD Observer, No. 115, March 1982, p. 31.
17. Lijphart, Democracies, pp. 220-21.
18. Ibid., pp. 22, 43-45, 220.