Respond to 2 Peer responses
Question #1: What are the major differences between majoritarian and proportional electoral systems?
A majoritarian electoral system is one in which candidates need to receive a majority of votes to be elected, whether it be in a runoff election or in a final round of voting. A proportional electoral system is one in which divisions in the electorate are reflected proportionally in the elected body. Most countries use a form of the PR electoral system. The proportional electoral system stresses the concept of proportionality which deals with numerical accuracy regarding the votes cast for parties and their translations into seats ultimately won in parliament. In the PR system, “if a party receives 25% of the votes, it can expect to win 25% of the seats” (Gallagher, Mair, and Laver, 2011, pg. 372). Majoritarian systems do not actively set out to disregard proportionality, but do prioritize other aspects that they accept a certain degree of disproportionality as inevitable.
Majoritarian electoral systems are seen in places like the United States, Canada, Egypt, etc. It is a system that emphasizes the “winner-takes-all” ideology and where the country is subdivided into distinct districts and politicians compete for the district seats. The higher vote wins the seat. Proportional electoral systems are more so seen in places like Denmark, Finland, Bulgaria, etc. This system uses a collective approach being as the votes are being given towards a distinct party, not individual. Both of these systems work in their own ways, providing the governments in these countries with a variety of advantages and benefits. Although this is all true, criticisms and issues arise as well that affect the governance of the countries.
Under the plurality system, some of the advantages include simplicity, stability, and constituency. It’s a system that makes it easy for a voter to understand, it creates strong and stable governments, and strong territorial constituency by an individual legislature. Each representative has the support of most if not all its constituents. Some of the issues that arise with this system though are those pertaining to geographical concentration where even if parties don’t manipulate district boundaries for political gain, this system can lead to over-representation of a specific party at the expense of others. Another criticism is that there tends to be less political parties in places with this system. There are usually only two. Various other criticisms arise such as redistricting and others.
Under the proportional system, the advantages include a greater degree of representation for smaller/minority parties. More constituents are represented so there are less “wasted” votes and encourages voter turn-out. Some disadvantages are the systems capability of providing extremists with lee-way into politics in which they force their ideas onto the public. It can also produce weak coalition governments rather than strong untied majority governments which leads to negative outcomes like compromisation. Just like the majoritarian system, there are advantages and disadvantages, but the major differences are the representation and unity they produce.
Question #3: What are mixed electoral systems? What countries use a mixed system? Why do you think this particular type of system was adopted by the countries that use it?
Some countries instead of having proportional representation of plurality government have a mixture of both. These countries figure that this will create a balance between the two systems and will enable them to have the best of both worlds, and while it is true that each system has its own flaws that are addressed by the other, it is not necessarily true that combining the hem will retain the best of both worlds. Some have even said that the product is the worst of both worlds.
Proportional representation systems have the benefits of providing a more accurate level of representation for the public as it is easier for small parties to find representation in the legislature. Proportional representation systems have been shown to more closely represent the interests of the average voter than majoritarian systems. But PR systems also have their drawbacks. For one, they can be volatile and unstable. Examples of this could be found in Denmark and eastern Europe. The PR system without proper institutionalization of parties like in eastern Europe can result in quickly fluctuating party dominances and parties that pop in and out of existence from one election to the next. In the case of Denmark party affiliation has become so polarized that some parties are not willing to even work with each other, threatening the success of coalition government. PR systems have also been associated with the development of welfare states, higher budget deficits and greater government spending, which has been seen as a negative characteristic of PR. The countries that have mixed systems have thought that the less flexible nature of majoritarian systems could help prevent this type of volatility and that a mixed system would have less public spending than PR systems.
Majoritarian governments have been said to have the advantage that they provide a greater ability for a party to affect exactly the types of changes it wants to implement. This is bourn out of the fact that majoritarian systems effectively have two party government and that the government in power is made up of one of those parties. This enables them to act without having to compromise with other groups, which allows them to put more of their platform into effect and would theoretically please more voters. But the downsides of Majoritarian government would also stem from this. The dominance of the two main parties would preclude smaller groups from having much of an affect on policy at all. The inclusion of PR in a mixed system would supposedly balance this out. Another strength of the majoritarian system is that geographic communities have representation from one specific representative. The mixed system is intended to provide this type of local representation as well as representation for national issues.
Despite the theoretical benefits one study has noted that mixed systems have “lower levels of accountability, government effectiveness, control of corruption, representation of women in parliament and voter turnout” (Gallagher)