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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: May 2010

PART II - Elite majority imposition


Part I analysed the many building blocks of electoral reform. I now consider how these building blocks link together to generate overall reform processes. As I explained in Chapter 1, I focus on two very different types of electoral reform process that have taken place in recent decades in established democracies: here I consider reforms by elite majority imposition; in Part III, I turn to reforms by elite–mass interaction. My focus is on electoral reform and attempts at electoral reform in France, Italy, Japan, and New Zealand since 1945.

Where reform occurs by elite majority imposition, a group of politicians with the capacity to change the system consider that electoral reform would serve their power interests and therefore adopt change. Cases that fall clearly within this type include reforms in France in 1951, 1985, and 1986, Italy in 1953 and 2005, and Japan in 1947. In several further cases – France in 1991–1992, Italy between 1994 and 2001, and Japan in 1956 and 1973 – reforms by elite majority imposition have been attempted or mooted but not enacted. Reforms implemented during regime transformation in these countries – in France in 1945–1946 and 1958, Italy in 1946, and Japan in 1945 – also exhibit aspects of elite majority imposition, though they shade also towards elite settlement or elite–external interaction. Finally, France experienced pressure for bargained reform in 2007–2008, which, had it been successful, would likewise have occupied an intermediate position. I explore all of these episodes in detail in the following chapters.