Parliamentary democracy is the most common regime type in the contemporary political world, but its the quality of governance depends on effective parliamentary oversight and strong political parties. The Nordic countries of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden have traditionally been strong examplesa stronghold of parliamentary democracy. This culturally coherent region has been characterized by a combination of centralized and cohesive political parties and with parliaments capable of controlling the policy process. In recent years, however, some observers have asked whether it is still true that the Nordic states have strong political parties and parliaments. Critics have argued that new challenges such as weakened popular attachment, the advent of cartel parties, the judicialization of politics, and the democratic deficits of European integration have , in fact, weakened the institutions of parliamentary democracy in the Nordic region.
The Madisonian Turn (2011) examines these claims and their implications for the Nordic countries. It investigates the current state of Nordic parliamentary democracy with the help of comparative data collected by the contributors. The authors find that the Nordic states have moved away from their previous resemblance ofto a Westminster model with consensual traits, towards a form of parliamentary democracy with more separation-of-powers features – a Madisonian model. These features are evident both in vertical power relations, for example relations with the European Union and with sub-national levels of government, and horizontal ones, as reflected in increasingly independent courts and central banks. However, these developments are far from uniform. Whereas Norway and Sweden have moved notably away from the classic features of parliamentary democracy, Finland has shifted in the opposite direction. Denmark exhibits less change, while the Icelandic party system now is now more unstable than ever. These developments help increase our understanding of five diverse countries that have long been considered bastions of democracy and welfare. The book also shows that there may be different responses to the political challenges faced by contemporary western democracies.