Consensus democracy[1] is the application of consensus decision-making and supermajority to the process of legislation in a democracy. It is characterized by a decision-making structure that involves and takes into account as broad a range of opinions as possible, as opposed to majoritarian democracy systems where minority opinions can potentially be ignored by vote-winning majorities.[2] Constitutions typically require consensus or supermajority.[3]

A consensus government is a national unity government with representation across the whole political spectrum. A concordance democracy is a type of consensus democracy where majority rule does not play a central role. Optional referendums and popular initiatives correspond to consensus democracy.[4]


The 2019 Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories is an example of consensus government: all MLAs are non-partisan and together elect the Premier and Cabinet.

Consensus democracy is most closely embodied in certain countries such as Switzerland, Germany, Denmark, Lebanon, Sweden, Iraq, and Belgium, where consensus is an important feature of political culture, particularly with a view to preventing the domination of one linguistic or cultural group in the political process.[5] The term consociational state is used in political science to describe countries with such consensus based political systems. An example of such a system could be the Dutch Poldermodel. Many parties in Lebanon call for applying consensus democracy, especially at times of crisis.

Consensus government chiefly arises in non-partisan democracies and similar systems in which a majority of politicians are independent. Many former British territories with large indigenous populations use consensus government to fuse traditional tribal leadership with the Westminster system. Consensus government in Canada is used in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, as well as the autonomous Nunatsiavut region, and similar systems have arisen in the Pacific island nations of Fiji, Tuvalu and Vanuatu, as well as the ancient Tynwald of the Isle of Man.[6]

See also


  1. ^ McGann, Anthony J., and Michael Latner. "The calculus of consensus democracy: Rethinking patterns of democracy without veto players." Comparative Political Studies 46.7 (2013): 823-850.
  2. ^ Kasuya, Yuko, and Benjamin Reilly. "The shift to consensus democracy and limits of institutional design in Asia." The Pacific Review 36.4 (2023): 844-870.
  3. ^ King, Brett W. "The Use of Supermajority Provisions in the Constitution: The Framers, The Federalist Papers and the Reinforcement of a Fundamental Principle." Seton Hall Const. LJ 8 (1997): 363.
  4. ^ Vatter, A. Consensus and direct democracy:Conceptual and empirical linkages. European Journal of Political Research 38, 171–192 (2000).
  5. ^ Lijphart, A., Patterns of Democracy: Government Forms & Performance in Thirty-six Countries. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999. ISBN 0-300-07893-5
  6. ^ Graham White (2011). Cabinets and First Ministers. pp. 58–63. ISBN 978-0774842143.