Democracy and Constitutional Innovation: Power to the Presidents

As the election campaign gets under way, the signs are that all is not well with British democracy. Turnout in the election expected in May is likely to drop even below the dismal 59 percent of the last national poll in 2001, itself the lowest response since 1945. Opinion polls put this down to electoral dissatisfaction with Prime Minister Tony Blair’s leadership and the alternatives on offer.

The World Today Updated 15 October 2020 Published 1 April 2005 4 minute READ

Petra Schleiter

Tutor and Fellow, St Hilda's College, University of Oxford

Edward Morgan-Jones

Lecturer in Politics, St Hilda's College, University of Oxford

Analysts and pollsters chart a picture of a disenchanted electorate that feels increasingly unable to hold its leaders accountable at election time. But there are alternatives and the semi-presidential systems of eastern Europe are showing the way.

This malaise with democracy is by no means peculiar to Britain, but forms part of a wider pattern of popular disengagement engulfing European parliamentary democracies. Electoral turnout in Germany, Italy and the Netherlands has dropped significantly in the last twenty years. At the same time, there has been a decline in popular identification with and trust in established parties and a rise of protest parties. In Denmark and the Netherlands the disconnect has been associated with the rise of the extreme right and a corresponding focus on anti-immigrant agendas.

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