Book

THE POWER OF OPPOSITION
HOW LEGISLATIVE ORGANIZATION INFLUENCES DEMOCRATIC CONSOLIDATION

Simone Wegmann
Forthcoming 2022, Routledge

“This is a path-breaking book about democratic consolidation. It shows that allegedly arcane details of legislative organization affect the opposition’s relative power in policy making, which in turn affects voters’ support for democracy. Wegmann connects two fields that have developed more or less independently: democratization and legislative studies. Her book is bound to open up important avenues for future research.”
José Antonio Cheibub, Mary Thomas Marshall Professor, Texas A&M University

This is an eye-opener on a topic of major political importance. The book demonstrates that successful functioning of democracy depends not only on the performance of the government but also on the political postures of the opposition, which are shaped in turn by the institutional prerogatives of the opposition in different political systems. The evidence is rich, the analysis is persuasive, and the conclusions are crucial for understanding the fate of democracies around the world. If you have time to read only one book, read this one.
Adam Przeworski, Carroll and Milton Professor Emeritus, New York University

Why do electoral losers accept defeats and continue to support democracy? In this important new study, Simone Wegmann emphasizes the role of legislative institutions, showing that voters in countries with strong opposition rights are more satisfied with democracy than elsewhere. This is an original, thought-provoking contribution both to comparative legislative studies and democratic consolidation research.
Radoslaw Zubek, Associate Professor of European Politics, University of Oxford


BOOK SUMMARY
Much of the research on institutional determinants of democratic consolidation has focused on broad regime categorizations such as the distinction between parliamentary and presidential systems or majoritarian and consensus democracies. In this book, I suggest that there are at least two reasons not to classify political systems in terms of the manner of government formation when analyzing questions of democratic consolidation. First, not all countries clearly match the ideal types of a parliamentary or a presidential regime, or consensus and majoritarian democracy. Second, such a classification does not consider the central role of electoral losers for the consolidation of democracies as they focus on the question of government formation (i.e. winners). Furthermore, I argue that research on the influence of institutions on democratic consolidation neglects the role of individual citizens, especially losers. This is surprising as the democratization literature repeatedly mentions this dimension of the individual in definitions of democratic consolidation. Especially the consent of losers of elections to democratic rules is of crucial importance for the functioning and the survival of every democratic system. Moving beyond a government-focused approach, I argue that failing to consider the specific organization of legislatures neglects an important differentiating feature of democratic regimes and excludes one of the most crucial groups for democratic consolidation: oppositions (i.e. losers of democratic elections). Therefore, I bring oppositions into focus as crucial actors of the democratic decision-making process and focus on the effect of legislative institutions that grant power to opposition players on democratic consolidation (i.e. public support for democracy).
In a first part, I present a theoretical argument how specific legislative organization influences public opinion about democracy of both winners and losers of democratic elections. In a second part, I present novel data of policy-making power of opposition players across a wide range of democracies in all regions of the world. Finally, I analyze the influence of specific parliamentary organization on public opinion about democracy as well as satisfaction with the democratic regime and the government more specifically. Results point to the importance of the institutionalization of opposition power for the overall level of satisfaction with democracy as well as the evaluation of the government performance.