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Minoritarianism or more commonly, the tyranny of the minority, is most often applied disparagingly to processes in which a minority is able to block legislative changes through supermajority threshold requirements. For example, if a 2/3 vote in favor is required to enact a new law, a minority of greater than 1/3 is said to have "minoritarian" powers.
Even in the case where minority control is nominally limited to blocking the majority with veto power (whether as a result of a supermajority requirement or a consensus process), this may result in the situation where the minority retains effective control over the group's agenda and the nature of the proposals submitted to the group, as the majority will not propose ideas that they know the minority will veto.
Critics of this use of minoritarianism argue that the ability to block legislation is substantially different from the ability to enact new legislation against the will of the majority, making the analogy to unpopular "dominant minority rule" examples inappropriate.
Minoritarianism is sometimes used to describe rule by a dominant minority such as an ethnic group delineated by religion, language or some other identifying factor. Historical examples included Rhodesia (now called Zimbabwe) under Ian Smith and South Africa under apartheid rule.
Minoritarianism may also be used to describe some cases where appeasement of minorities by votebank politics is practiced. Examples include, but are not limited to, Indian Muslims, African Americans, Tamil Christians, Jewish Americans, and Francophone Canadians.
Minoritarianism in small deliberative groups
Supermajority decision threshold requirements are often found in small deliberative groups where these requirements are sometimes adopted in an attempt to increase protection of varied interests within the group. The requirements may be formally stated or may be unstated (for example, when an organization is described as having a "consensus culture").
A common criticism of consensus decision-making is that it can lead to a situation wherein a minority can block the will of the majority. Consensus advocates argue that this is a good feature — that no action is preferable to one without the consensus support of the group.
Attempts to resolve the dilemma through formal supermajority standards are generally discouraged by parliamentary authorities:
- Some people have mistakenly assumed that the higher the vote required to take an action, the greater the protection of the members. Instead the opposite is true. Whenever a vote of more than a majority is required to take an action, control is taken from the majority and given to the minority. ... The higher the vote required, the smaller the minority to which control passes. (from "The Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure" by Alice Sturgis)
- Absolute majority
- Consensus democracy
- Dominant minority
- Majoritarianism (Majority rule)
- Minority (philosophy) (Gilles Deleuze)
- Liberum veto