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For the sake of the argument, the "Western" countries should include all Member States of the EU, and countries conventionally understood to be part of the "West".

Any time after World War II.

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    What's a "coalition"? Arguably every constitutional amendment ever passed in democracies involved a coalition to pass it, even if informal and short-lived. Aug 25 at 14:01
  • It is typically reserved not simply for “people”, as you allude, but rather “groups of people”, and in this context parties. It’s not that hard to define since parties typically are required to be registered, have for e.g. a charter or other incorporating documents, preferably bylaws. Further. Some countries regulate the cooperation of coalitions differently as a single party. So they have a statutory meaning. Aug 25 at 18:28
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    One complication to watch out for is "parties" that aren't actually cohesive. For example, in 1820s United States, the Federalists collapsed as a viable party, leaving virtually all federal elective positions filled by Democratic-Republicans. In 1822, 189 out of 213 Representatives and 43 of 48 Senators were Democratic-Republicans. Looks like a solid supermajority, but actually, it was split between three similarly-sized factions: the Adams-Clay faction, the Crawford faction, and the Jacksonian faction, none of which had even a simple majority.
    – Mark
    Aug 25 at 22:21
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    @EmilioMBumachar One might guess by "coalition" OP is referring to the narrower definition of "government coalition". So an ad hoc alliance of 2/3 majority may not count since not all members of the temporary alliance are in the same government. Aug 26 at 4:51
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    Do you include the communist/one-party states? In practically all of them the constitution was changed only by the ruling party. Arguably those countries were not considered part of "the West". But maybe Portugal (Estado novo) of Franco's Spain was? I can't be bothered to look up the details, but I'm sure if Salazar or Franco wanted to change something in their constitution[s], they could do it.
    – Fizz
    Aug 29 at 13:15

7 Answers 7

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1. Hungary

Hungary is one of the most prominent examples of a Western country with a single party holding two-thirds majority of parliamentary seats.

The governing coalition, Fidesz-KDNP, led by Prime Minister Viktor Orban, has held a two-thirds majority for over a decade. That includes the election in 2010, 2014, 2018, and 2022.

This supermajority was used to push through high-profile constitutional amendments with mixed responses from international communities.

It should be noted that this is not without controversey as Orban's governing coalition has been criticized for eroding Hungary's democratic institutions to the degree that elections have essentially become non-competitive.

Freedom House currently ranks Hungary as only "Partly Free" with a score of 69/100. A very unusual score for a EU member state.

2. Barbados

Barbados is a Western country with a single party holding all of the seats in Parliament.

The Barbados Labour Party, led by Prime Minister Mia Mottley, has held a total domination of the country's Parliament since 2018. That includes two consecutive elections in 2018 and 2022.

This supermajority was used to amend the Barbados constitution in 2021 for the purpose of transitioning from a constitutional monarchy to a republic. Essentially removing Queen Elizabeth II as head of state and making the incumbent Governor-General (a Barbados citizen) as the President.

Unlike Hungary, Barbados does have a functional democratic system, which makes Labour Party's total dominance all the more unusual in Western world. The situation was so unusual that one of the MPs crossed the floor as independent after the 2018 election to be the sole opposition, citing concerns for democracy.

Freedom House currently ranks Barbados as "Free" with a score of 95/100.

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    Also in Hungary, between 1994-1998 there was another supermajority coalition government formed by the parties MSZP (Hungarian Socialist Party) and SZDSZ (Free Democrat Alliance). These were left side parties; SZDSZ does not exists anymore while MSZP is currently in the opposition. They also made constitutional changes, although much less controversial than the FIDESZ recently. Aug 25 at 6:29
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    At this point it is subject to debate whether Hungary should be deemed a "Western" country with its "Eastern opening" "policy" at all. Is it 2 decades though? It's the fourth term, for sure, I mean, it has, indeed, entered into its second decade of rule. Hungary is a unique example of a trifecta — it doesn't have a bicameral legislation so Orbán probably thought it'd be a good idea to embrace the judiciary in his arms. The power is single and undivided. (I also found this: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Landslide_victory in the meantime, though it may not be reliable for all countries, see HUN) Aug 25 at 6:36
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    @SilvassyPetrirov The definition of "Western" is pretty emorphus so we have to take some liberty in its interpretation. I would say Hungary is still part of the West so long as it is part of EU, as its government is directly invovled in EU policies. Aug 25 at 6:53
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    @Adam Gyenge let's not make the usual error. MSZP was (still is) socialist, SZDSZ was liberal (in the European sense, not the US meaning). Calling both simply as left is factually wrong. Although done very frequently inside Hungary, an international audience deserves a better understanding.
    – Gábor
    Aug 25 at 19:41
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The United Kingdom...well...sort of...

The UK doesn't have a set of law that is called "The Constitution" or "Basic Law", instead there are a collection of statutes, traditions and conventions. Among these traditions is "Parliamentary Supremacy", which says that Parliament may pass or repeal any law, including changing the constitution. This it has done on several occasions since World War II:

  • It changed the basic composition of the upper chamber of Parliament
  • It changed, then repealed a law that fixed the length of a Parliamentary term.
  • It made significant changes to the judiciary, forming a Supreme Court.

The changes were made by majorities in Parliament, and all are clearly constitutional changes.

A constitutional change can be implemented by a simple majority in Parliament, which is the usual situation as a result of the FPTP electoral system. There is another tradition that significant constitutional changes must also be passed by referendum, but it is up to Parliament to decide what is "significant", and that determination is often political, not legal.

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    It can pass anything. But this is where the traditions and conventions come in. It doesn't pass just anything. Indeed, you can argue that nobody can change the traditions, as the only basis for Parliment having the power to change the constitution is traditional! As a result, the constitution tends to evolve. You should also understand the nature of common law, which is fundamentally different to the civil law systems found in continental Europe.
    – James K
    Aug 25 at 8:41
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    And unfortunately, it does devolve as well. (Most of the jurisprudential development based on TFEU establishing binding authority, law in the UK was thrown out like the baby with the water once the UK left — sad, sad) Aug 25 at 8:53
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    In the interests of nitpicking: the Fixed Terms Parliaments Act (now repealed, as you say) did not fix the length of a Parliament; that was done by the Parliament Act 1911. The FTPA moved the power to dissolve Parliament early from the PM to the Commons, and arranged for dissolution to be automatic if it wasn't done early. Aug 25 at 8:53
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    What exactly is the difference between "constitutional amendment" and "ordinary legislation" in UK? Because based on your description the two seem identical (only requires simple majority). Since you can't have constitutional amendment without a Constitution, in effect, the entirety of the statute law IS the Constitution. Do I understand this correctly? Aug 25 at 9:03
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    Not entirely. The constituion is comprised of elements of statute law, common law, traditions and conventions. However the traditions and conventions and common law can be modified by statute. As an example, consider the constitutional question of "Who is the Monarch and who is the Heir". Originally defined entirely by tradition, this was modified by the restoration, settlement act, and most recently succession act (2013). On the other hand, things like the Cabinet and Prime Minister are not defined by statute law. These are undoubtedly part of the "constitution"
    – James K
    Aug 25 at 9:28
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In my opinion the most prominent country that had this is

Germany

German coalitions are today generally CDU/CSU + FDP and SPD + the Greens. Though the current coalition contains SPD + the Greens + FDP. Prior to the rise of the Greens and the left there were only 3 parties in Parliament normally: CDU/CSU (technically two parties) SPD and FDP, with the FDP being the so called Kingmaker.

From 1965 to 1966 there was a coalition of CDU/CSU and FDP under Ludwig Erhard, which failed in 1966 leading to a coalition of CDU/CSU and SPD under Kurt Georg Kiesinger which held 468/518 or a bit over 90% of the seats of the Bundestag.The supermajority to change the Grundgesetz is 2/3.

There were 12 changes made to the Grundgesetz in that period, the most interesting ones were the establishment of the so called Notstandsgesetze and reformation of the financial system of the states and the federal goverment.

As @Jörg W Mittag pointed out in the comments, one needs both chambers of the german parliament to change the Grundgesetz, the other chamber being the Bundesrat.

Edit: Apparently one can't split the votes for one Bundesland in the Bundesrat. So my previous calculations weren't correct. I found that many votes in the Bundesrat were unanimously. I found only one abstain vote, though there could very well be more.

Interesting sidenote: This coalition was the first time since 1930 that the SPD was part of the Goverment.

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    Changing the Grundgesetz however also requires a 2/3 majority in the Bundesrat, which does not always along federal coalition lines. So, even if almost any state will have either the CDU/CSU or the SDP in its government that will not guarantee that those states vote the same way as the Bundestag. Although mostly they will. Aug 25 at 13:06
  • It alsmost never does, but all "Ministerpräsidenten" (=State governors) were either SPD or CDU/CSU back then, but I went ahead and checked the coalitions. If they split the seats 50/50 for coalitions (which is unlikely); There were 3 CDU/FDP coaltions, with 6 seats for the CDU and 4 for the FDP. 1 CDU/SPD Coaltion. 1 CSU goverment with 6 seats, 3 SPD/FDP coalitions with 7 seats for the SPD and 6 for the FDP, lastly there were two SPD goverments with 8 seats. 10 for the FDP and 33 for SPD and CDU/CSU.
    – SirHawrk
    Aug 25 at 13:23
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    To save people having to look it up, it might be worth briefly explaining what the Grundgesetz is (and linking to Wikipedia or similar); likewise for Notstandsgesetze. Aug 25 at 16:18
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    Note that the votes of each state in Bundesrat can't be split, but must be given in full. So it's a negotiation in the state-level coalition on how to vote for any proposal (and usually the default is to say "abstention" when they can't agree). So all coalitions with the FDP would abstain if it came to a question important for them. Going by your numbers, that would be 23 abstention votes, against 20 Yes, which would not be enough for a constitutional change. Aug 25 at 23:47
  • @PaŭloEbermann I did not know that, thanks! I just had a look at the protocol of the Bundesrat. For the 16th amendment to the Grundgesetz it just says that they accepted it and for the 17th only Berlin abstained, while all other states supported it. Also I must have made a mistake somewhere because apparently there were only 42 seats in the Bundesrat back then
    – SirHawrk
    Aug 26 at 5:25
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In France, a constitutional revision requires either a referendum, or a 3/5 super-majority in both chambers as a whole (ie. gather the National Assembly and the Senate in the same room, usually in Versailles, then 3/5th of all votes are required, without distinction.)

This majority has been achieved many times, for example, during the 12th legislature, between 2007 and 2012.

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  • Was it based on the informal cooperation of parties or a coalition or party previously won the election that way? If you look at the list in a Wikipedia link posted in the comments, it seems such majorities only occurred in the Gaullist party in 1968 and once sometime in the ‘90’s. Aug 25 at 18:30
  • @SilvassyPetrirov The constitutional reforms in France, at least the last three, got a vast majority of the pour (for) votes from the ruling party, with a minimum of 80% of the votes comming from the UMP (the ruling party), and one article in 2007 got 94% of the pour votes from the UMP Aug 26 at 19:18
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Portugal

The constitution of the Portuguese Republic of 1976 establishes in its article 286 that a constitutional revision needs a qualified majority of two thirds of the deputies to the Republic's Assembly.

All constitutional revisions since 1976 have needed the approval of the two largest parties, the Socialist Party (PS) and the Social-Democratic Party (PSD). There were 7 revisions, 1982, 1987, 1992, 1997, 2001, 2004 and 2005, but none of the constitutional revisions happened with both parties sharing the government.

Following the legislative elections of 1983 the PS got 101/250 (40.4%) MP's and the PSD 75/250 (30.0%) MP's. Combined they had 70.4% of the parliamentary seats and formed a government coalition with PS leader Mário Soares as prime-minister and PSD leader Carlos Mota Pinto vice-prime-minister and defense minister.

Though this was the only time a government majority could revise the constitution, it did not do so. A revision had been voted in the previous year and with strong opposition within the two parties, with factions objecting to a coalition with their natural rival, there was no reason why nor opportunity to revise the constitution.

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Netherlands

Fairly common; in 1956 the coalition even held a 127 seat supermajority (out of 150 seats total). The last time it happened was 1989, which happened to be essentially the same coalition (except that the three christian parties of 1956 had merged into the CDA party).

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Austria

Austria has had many coalitions after World War 2 between the main social-democratic party (SPÖ) and the main Catholic conservative party (ÖVP). Since those are not exactly similar ideologies, these coalitions do not usually get very much done; they usually have lots of public disputes between each other when they are in a coalition.

It used to be the case that relatively few people in Austria voted for anything other than these two, so they had the necessary two-thirds majority to change the federal constitution. However, various other parties have been getting more and more popular over the years, so that is unlikely to happen again any time soon.

From a quick lecture of Wikipedia, this happened most recently between 2006 and 2008, when the SPÖ got 68 seats at the election, the ÖVP 66, summing up to 134, more than the 122 that comprise two thirds.

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