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  • Print publication year: 2001
  • Online publication date: June 2012

Preface and Acknowledgments

Summary

In the short space of less than a decade the political landscape of the world has changed dramatically. The fall of the Berlin Wall has brought into being many states with strong desires but little experience with democracy. In addition, the political climate in many of the world's democracies has been far from still. Italy, New Zealand, and Japan have all undertaken major changes in their electoral systems. Many experts describe the political landscape in the United States as being the most polarized in living memory.

In the former Soviet Empire and in many former authoritarian states, there is the widespread desire to roll back the power of the state and implement the popular will. Simultaneously there is the wish to utilize the second-mover advantages of starting with a clean slate to pick and choose the best system, learning from the experiences of the democratic world. The collapse of the centrally planned economies has also undermined the authority of governments in the democracies of the world. This has led to calls for a re-definition of the core functions of the state. Furthermore, electorates in the democracies are becoming increasingly critical of their political establishments as globalization makes life more and more uncertain. These critiques have fueled demands for changes to limit the powers of political agents and to make them more accountable to their constituents.