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The Politics of Electoral Systems

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Electoral systems matter. They are a crucial link in the chain connecting the preferences of citizens to the policy choices made by governments. They are chosen by political actors and, once in existence, have political consequences for those actors. They are an important object of study for anyone interested in the political process, and in this book we subject them to systematic analysis.

In addition to some comparative chapters, the book contains full accounts of the operation of electoral systems in 22 countries: in addition to 11 from Western Europe, the book includes, Hungary, Russia, Australia, Canada, India, the USA, Japan, New Zealand, Israel, Chile and South Africa.

The book provides detailed analyses of the operation of a diverse set of electoral systems in their national context. Each chapter explains how the electoral system really works in the given country, examining the strategic incentives the system provides to voters, candidates, and parties. All country chapters have a common format and structure. Successive sections analyse: the institutional context; how each electoral system was chosen historically; how the current electoral system operates (the rules, mechanics, and ballot structure); and the political consequences of the current system (the impact on the party system, the internal life of parties, and the impact on parliament and government formation). Each country chapter then contains a final section which focuses on the politicization of electoral institutions. In recent years many countries have changed their electoral systems, either entirely or in part so there is a strong focus on the processes of electoral reform, both historically and prospectively. The book concentrates on the real world 'politics', as well as the 'political science' of electoral systems.

The book will be of interest to those concerned with the practical political business of electoral reform. The book contains a wealth of evidence about the performance of various kinds of proportional representation and of non-PR systems. This will be invaluable for anyone interested in the question: 'What would be the best electoral system for my country?

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"It is a treasure trove of information about electoral systems and comprehensively examines how votes get translated into seats across the democratic world"—Times Higher Education Supplement

"This is not just any book on the politics of electoral systems; it is probably the book on the politics of electoral systems ... The authors of these studies are all highly talented scholars, who usually know the comparative literature as well as their countries. In other words, they know what they are talking about, and they have been given reasonably generous space and good editorial guidance with which to do it. The result is truly impressive."—West European Politics

"This is a very useful book which, not only for its biblical proportions, could justly claim to be a bible of electoral systems"—Irish Political Studies

"Overall, this is a superb collection, produced by scholars who know their subject matter and can present it in a very accessible form...this is a book for which much praise is due."—Parliamentary Affairs

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199257560
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 2/23/2006
  • Pages: 698
  • Product dimensions: 9.30 (w) x 6.30 (h) x 1.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Gallagher is Professor of Comparative Politics at Trinity College, University of Dublin. He has also been a visiting Professor at New York University and at City University of Hong Kong. His research has covered various aspects of elections, electoral systems and political parties in a comparative context.

Paul Mitchell graduated with a PhD in political science from the European University Institute, in Florence, Italy. After teaching at University College Galway and Queen's University Belfast, he joined the LSE in 2000 where he teaches party competition and research methods. During 2000/01 Mitchell was a Fulbright Distinguished Scholar at Harvard University. He is currently working on an ESRC funded study of the 2003 elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly.

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Table of Contents

Foreword, Arend Lijphart
1. Introduction to Electoral Systems, Michael Gallagher and Paul Mitchell
2. Comparative Electoral Systems Research: The Maturation of a Field and New Challenges Ahead, Matthew Soberg Shugart
3. Why are There so many (or so few) Electoral Reforms?, Richard S. Katz
4. Australia: The Alternative vote in a Compliant Political Culture, David M. Farrell and Ian McAllister
5. Canada: Sticking to First-past-the-Post, for the Time Being, Louis Massicotte
6. France: Stacking the Deck, Robert Elgie
7. India: Two-Party Contests Within a Multi-Party System, Anthony Heath, Siana Glouharova, and Oliver Heath
8. United Kingdom: Plurality Rule Under Siege, Paul Mitchell
9. United States of America: Perpetual Campaigning in the Absence of Competition, Shaun Bowler, Todd Donovan, and Jennifer Van Heerde
10. Germany: Stability and Strategy in a System of Personalized Proportional Representation, Thomas Saalfeld
11. Hungary: The Politics of Electoral Reform, Kenneth Benoit
12. Italy: A Case of Fragmented Bipolarism, Roberto D'Alimonte
13. Japan: Haltingly Toward a Two-Party System, Steven R. Reed
14. New Zealand: The Consolidation of Reform?, Jack Vowles
15. Russia: The Authoritarian Adaptation of an Electoral System, Stephen White
16. Israel: An Unchanged Electoral System?, Gideon Rahat and Reuven Y. Hazan
17. South Africa: Maximum Inclusion through 'Perfect' Proportionality, Amanda Gouws and Paul Mitchell
18. Spain: Proportional Representation with Majoritarian Outcomes, Jonathan Hopkin
19. Austria: A Complex Electoral System with Subtle Effects, Wolfgang C. Müller
20. Belgium: Empowering Voters or Party Elites?, Lieven De Winter
21. Chile: The Unexpected (and Expected) Consequences of Electoral Engineering, Peter Siavelis
22. Denmark: Simplicity Embedded in Complexity (or Is it the Other Way Round?), Jørgen Elklit
23. Finland: Preference Voting and Intra-Party Competition, Tapio Raunio
24. The Netherlands: The Sanctity of Proportionality, Rudy B. Andeweg
25. Ireland: The Discreet Charm of PR-STV, Michael Gallagher
26. Conclusion
Appendix A - The Mechanics of Electoral Systems
Appendix B - Indices of Fragmentation and Disproportionality

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