Matt Yglesias has returned from vacation in Spain where “they have this interesting political system (“democracy”) wherein if your party loses the election, the other party gets to make policy until they lose an election.”
Well . . . it’s a wee bit more complicated than that. Leaving aside that the country was run by a military dictator within my memory, the system is rather messy thanks to the wonders of proportional representation. Here’s the Wikipedia description of the last decade:
Prime Minister Aznar and the PP won reelection in March 2000, obtaining absolute majorities in both houses of parliament. This mandate allowed Aznar to form a government unencumbered by the coalition building that had characterized his earlier administration. […] However, in the aftermath of the March 11 terrorist bomb attacks in Madrid, the PP lost the 2004 elections to the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) and its leader José Luis RodrÃguez Zapatero. RodrÃguez Zapatero was appointed Prime Minister after having secured the support of a few minor parties.
So, in Spain, as in the United States, losing parties can have substantial influence on policy. Worse yet, fringe parties can hold the keys to decisionmaking.
As an aside, for some reason, I recall Matt and other center-left bloggers being bigger fans of separation of powers and checks and balances when the Republicans were in charge. Perhaps I’m mistaken?