New Thinking in Political Economy series
Edited by Francisco Cabrillo and Miguel A. Puchades-Navarro
Chapter 9: Party competition and electoral turnout: Downs’s calculus in a multiparty system
Democratic government presupposes a reasonable consonance between the governmental policies and the opinions of the electorate. In direct democracy the consonance is achieved through public debate and electoral involvement in decision making concerning policies to be adopted. In representative forms of government the electoral input is limited to electing representatives whose task is to make or control the policy decisions. Either way, a link is supposed to exist between popular opinion and government decisions. In many Western democracies the link has been weakened over the past decades, not because of the governments’ unwillingness to respond to popular opinions, but due to the apparent lack of interest of the electorate to express their opinions. The overall trend in electoral turnout has been declining in many countries of Western and Northern Europe. In fact exceptions to this are mainly to be found in countries where voting is compulsory.
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