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  A consociational (from Latin cum, ‘with’ + socius, ‘ally’) or power-sharing democracy is characterized by four traits: (1) executive power-sharing, incorporating representatives of the major groupings in a segmented (or divided) society; (2) proportional allocation of legislative, executive, judicial and bureaucratic posts according to the electoral strength of the major groupings; (3) community self-government on cultural matters (for example, language, education and religion); and (4) constitutional veto powers for minorities. The term consociationalism was invented by the Dutch political scientist Arend Lijphart to distinguish the optimum form of democracy in a segmented society from the majoritarian model of democracy.

The conditions required to achieve a stable consociational democracy are controversial. Among the factors which Lijphart claims are important are: a history of political accommodation among cultural élites; the absence of a majority segment; a small number of cultural communities (between three and five); a common enemy or shared external threat; and relative economic equality between or among communities. As a result of the restrictiveness of these and other qualifications examples of successful consociational democracies are limited. Consociationalism has been practised in Belgium and Switzerland since 1945 and 1943 respectively, and to a lesser extent in Canada and Malaysia, despite the existence of salient ethnic cleavages. It was successful in easing the transition to modern secular politics in the Netherlands from 1917 to 1967. However, in political systems where cleavages are deeper, and nationalist in character, attempts at consociationalism have failed, at least so far (for example, Cyprus, Northern Ireland and the Lebanon).

Critics of consociationalism focus on three alleged shortcomings: first, that it is ‘undemocratic’ because the majority must abdicate the right to govern on its own; second, that power-sharing is ineffective because of the inherent difficulties of government-by-committee; and finally, that it maintains or even deepens cleavages by institutionalizing them. Its proponents claim that consociationalism is nevertheless the most promising democratic method of resolving conflict in deeply divided societies, and less likely to provoke protracted conflict than other alternatives. They argue that in many parts of the world majoritarian democracy is the problem not the solution, and the real choice is between consociational democracy or no democracy. BO\'L

See also ethnicity.Further reading A. Lijphart, Democracy in Plural Societies: a Comparative Exploration.



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