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Lecture 5

POLI 212 Lecture 5: Chapter 5

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McGill University
Political Science
POLI 212
Anthony Imbrogno

Electoral Systems and referenda Electoral Systems Elections are calculations for political parties - translate votes into parliamentary seats - different formulas shape political behaviour, strategies, policies, individuals In liberal democracies, one person has one vote overall turnout is perhaps the most important calculation => declining in recent yrs Europe is usually higher in Europe than North America which is explained by important role of political parties Two major types of electoral systems: SMP (single member plurality) - District represented by one person in parliament - winner takes all (most votes) - Problems: - Wasted votes:(there can be a mismatch between % of votes and % of seats) - skew favours large parties, disadvantages smaller parties (unless they are regionally concentrated) - Benefits: - Forces a party to expand beyond narrow interests (moderating effect; =>caveat: stability only if voters are themselves moderate) - encourages more stable system (2+ party system) - prevents extreme parties from entering parliament - regions provided with voice in parliament - majority gov are stable SMP in UK: - House of commons: 650 seats corresponding to constituency/district/riding - 650 separate elections on voting day, held together by political party branding and campaigns with party leaders (go to other districts than theirs) - winner receives the most votes within their district (the plurality) - national election won by the party with the most seats France is also SMP, with two ballot voting. 85’, change to PR but then change back PR (proportional representation): - % of total parliamentary seats should equal %of vote that the party obtained in the election - individuals chosen via party lists PR in the Netherlands: - House of reps: 150 seats in one district - Parties submit party lists - Voters choose one party at the ballot box - All votes are counted - % of total vote for a party= % of total seats in parliament - Minimal cut-off - Once votes are counted, party lists decide individuals sitting in House of representatives - one district for a small country may work, but what about a larger country - Allows party to favour loyal members and punish disloyal - allows fringe parties in parliament Germany: - Bundestag: 631 seats divided into 299 districts, 331 decided by party lists (called mixed member proportional) - 299 districts works like Uk, PR seats works like in the Netherlands - prevents fringe parties PR in Swiss Confederation: - Swiss cantons are very diverse - National council: 200 seats divided by canton, with distribution according to canton pop (zurich has the most at 35) - Each canton has a party list - Voters don’t just choose a party, they also write their own list - Parties submit names, but not in any order - voters choose the order individuals appear on their ballot - makes for interesting campaigns PR in Ireland: - Called single transferable vote - watch STV video - electorate ranks the candidates, the most unpopular candidate is cut off and votes transferred to 2nd choice until all seats are filled - more democratic system, no wasted votes - takes a long time to count Changing electoral systems: -Not usually in the constitution so can be changed. -Key factor: party interest comes first, disregard values. (Parties in third place like liberals do it) -Italy sought political stability and electoral change was solution, switched to MMP in 1993. After WWII, was v unstable. From 45 up until 1993, gov was reformulated once a year. -Results: continued fracturing of parties despite formation of party alliances using elections but collapsed when in chamber of deputies -Changed cus of Christian democrat so that communists wouldn’t take power. When Communists were no longer a threat, christian democrat coalition fell apart. Italy: -Electoral system switched back to full PR in 2005 -Change was on
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