Minority Governments

Though political spin can make us believe that the downturn to proportional representation is that not the majority of the voters' wishes, but the minority of the voters' wishes delivers the outcome of who governs. In reality, however, district elections is the system of the two that sets out to not have the majority of voters govern.

First of all, minority governments do not occur often at all — the news hit the newspapers mainly because it is such a rarity — and these governments are not able to stay in place unless the majority of representatives agree to have a minority government in place. Without the majority supporting this rare occurance, no minority government can exist. This option is chosen only when the parties cannot agree to a majority-based government. And instead of having new elections right away, a minority government tries to deliver what the majority of the representatives can agree upon.

Second to be mentioned here is that district elections do not elect representatives who are fully representative of the exact voters' wishes, because the elected representatives were winners 'only,' and can therefore never fully represent the entire set of the voting population that includes the voters who lost out getting their representatives. As such, the term minority government is more applicable to district elected officials. For more details on how district elected governments are based on a smaller percentage of the voters than proportionally elected governments, see democratic engines as well.

A clear functional difference between governments based on districts elections and on proportional elections is that in the latter format the long term results swing less from left to right to left, and back again. Coalition parties tend to have negotiated amongst themselves about the important differences before cooperating together in a government, a process often resulting in refined middle-ground solutions that satisfy both parties making up the government. Often, other parties agree on these solutions as well, so when they become part of a next government the issues are adjusted mainly in smaller ways. A system of winner-takes-all, however, tends to jerk the nation into a clear left or right direction, a behavior that has the appearance of being strong, but one that needs correction after one or two governments — by a new government of the opposite side.

Cooperation means that larger segments of the representatives were involved with the solution. Larger segments of voters are therefore also happier with the outcome — at least to a degree — while unilateral governments can more easily anger a larger segment of society, stimulating the electoral desire to undo the other party's work. An American expression, "when trying to get to the middle, politicians cross the street," rings more true in elections based on districts than in elections based on proportionality for that very reason. Having learned how to cooperate in difficult political settings involving multiple stakeholders, unilateral mistakes on the international stage also tend to be avoided.


Though Canada sometimes has minority governments, Canada is not a nation with proportional representation. While Canada has more than two parties, this nation North of the U.S.' border elects its representatives the exact same way we do: in districts. Therefore Canada does also not have a representative body reflecting the voters' exact wishes. However, there is a strong systematic difference compared to the United States in that Canada does not have a separate election for its leader; rather its leader is the direct result of the process of electing all representatives. For that reason, Canada's system with a prime-minister appears to be much like most democratic nations in Europe (except for France and Russia who also have fully empowered presidents).

Canada has more than two parties for three good reasons: not only is it a nation with a strong bilingual division, it is also geographically stretched with a population living mainly right North of the border — both aspects support the creation of more location-dependent political bulwarks. The third reason was already mentioned: Canadians do not elect a president in a separate election, and the top seat is therefore not confined to a single party; the prime-minister is the manager of the coalition parties, seeing to it that all involved contribute well to the whole. A manager not holding on to its coalition cabinet will most likely not be asked for that position again. With a presidential position, and when only one party can win the top spot, the result is that a district will be stacked up behind just a winner and just a runner-up. Because, in the long run, third parties are never the winner nor the runner-up for the ultimate seat, and will receive for that reason mainly insignificant support — even at the lower levels of government.


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