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A Synoptic View of the Party System

K.K. Kailash

Edited by E.Sridharan
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2012, pp. xii 285, Rs. 750.00


Coalition Politics and Democratic Consolidation in Asia highlights the experience of four Asian countries, namely India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Japan with coalition politics. This book edited by E. Sridharan intervenes in three distinctive sub-disciplines of political science, coalition studies, parties and party systems and the literature on democratic consolidation. The central question that the book asks is whether coalition governments and politics provides space for the development of power sharing systems that are more accommodative of small parties and minorities. It specifically examines whether the inclusion of minority voices and preferences in governance and policy making could consolidate and improve the quality of democracy.   This contribution is unusual on at least three counts. First, the general propensity in the literature has been to focus on the successful. Failure and/or works in progress are rarely given attention except to highlight the negative and the bizarre. Coalition studies have likewise traditionally focussed on consolidated party systems. This study is unique because it focuses on coalitional systems that are works in progress and are taking place in countries where the party systems are yet to be institutionalized. This could probably be the first multi-state volume examining coalition politics outside continental Europe.   Second, the topic of study is uncommon. The relationship between coalition politics and the consolidation of democracy or to the improvement in the quality of democracy has probably not been examined either in democratization literature or in coalition studies.   Third, the differences between the countries studied, are striking. Three of them are parliamentary democracies and one is a semi-presidential system. Two are federations. Three are ethnically diverse while the other is homogenous. One of them could be called developed, whereas the other three are at various stages of development. Notwithstanding the variations, as a set of countries, they provide a range of conditions to examine theoretical propositions and empirical generalizations from coalition studies which are largely based on experiences of consolidated party systems in the unitary countries of Europe. This also happens to be another contribution the editor hopes the volume would make.   The book uses the case-study method to examine the individual country experiences. E. Sridharan in his introduction examines key issues from the literature on democratic consolidation, political parties and coalition studies to map out the broad markers for the country studies that follow. Some of the key framing questions raised include whether stable coalitions can be expected ...

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