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It's Parties That Choose Electoral Systems (or, Duverger's Laws Upside Down)

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  • Josep M. Colomer

Abstract

This article presents, discusses and tests the hypothesis that it is the number of parties what can explain the choice of electoral systems, rather than the other way round. Already existing political parties tend to choose electoral systems that, rather than generate new party systems by themselves, will crystallize, consolidate or reinforce previously existing party configurations. A general model develops the argument and presents the concept of 'behavioral-institutional equilibrium' to account for the relation between electoral systems and party systems. The most comprehensive dataset and test of these notions to date, encompassing 219 elections in 87 countries since the 19th century, are presented. The analysis gives strong support to the hypotheses that political party configurations dominated by a few parties tend to establish majority rule electoral systems, while multiparty systems already existed before the introduction of proportional representation. It also offers the new theoretical proposition that strategic party choice of electoral systems leads to a general trend toward proportional representation over time.
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Suggested Citation

  • Josep M. Colomer, 2005. "It's Parties That Choose Electoral Systems (or, Duverger's Laws Upside Down)," Political Studies, Political Studies Association, vol. 53, pages 1-21, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:polstu:v:53:y:2005:i::p:1-21
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    File URL: http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1467-9248.2005.00514.x
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Carles Boix, 1999. "Setting the rules of the game: The choice of electoral systems in advanced democracies," Economics Working Papers 367, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
    2. Rein Taagepera, 2003. "Arend Lijphart's Dimensions of Democracy: Logical Connections and Institutional Design," Political Studies, Political Studies Association, vol. 51(1), pages 1-19, March.
    3. Rein Taagepera, 2001. "Party Size Baselines Imposed by Institutional Constraints," Journal of Theoretical Politics, , vol. 13(4), pages 331-354, October.
    4. Daniel Diermeier & Keith Krehbiel, 2003. "Institutionalism as a Methodology," Journal of Theoretical Politics, , vol. 15(2), pages 123-144, April.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Stefan Voigt, 2011. "Positive constitutional economics II—a survey of recent developments," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 146(1), pages 205-256, January.
    2. Carey, John M. & Masoud, Tarek & Reynolds, Andrew S., 2015. "Institutions as Causes and Effects: North African Electoral Systems during the Arab Spring," Working Paper Series rwp16-042, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    3. Xefteris, Dimitrios & Matakos, Kostas, 2009. "An Economic Model of Strategic Electoral Rule Choice Under Uncertainty," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 917, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
    4. Konstantinos Matakos & Dimitrios Xefteris, 2015. "Strategic electoral rule choice under uncertainty," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 162(3), pages 329-350, March.
    5. Camille Bedock & Peter Mair and Alex Wilson, 2012. "Institutional Change in Advanced European Democracies: an exploratory assessment," EUI-RSCAS Working Papers 11, European University Institute (EUI), Robert Schuman Centre of Advanced Studies (RSCAS).
    6. Camille Bedock & Peter Mair and Alex Wilson, 2012. "Institutional Change in Advanced European Democracies: an exploratory assessment," EUI-RSCAS Working Papers 11, European University Institute (EUI), Robert Schuman Centre of Advanced Studies (RSCAS).
    7. Le Maux, Benoit & Rocaboy, Yvon, 2012. "A simple microfoundation for the utilization of fragmentation indexes to measure the performance of a team," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 116(3), pages 491-493.
    8. Maria Manuel Pinho, 2008. "The political economy of public spending composition: evidence from a panel of OECD countries," FEP Working Papers 295, Universidade do Porto, Faculdade de Economia do Porto.
    9. Christian Walter Martin & Nils D. Steiner, 2016. "Economic globalization and the change of electoral rules," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 27(4), pages 355-376, December.
    10. Selim Ergun, 2010. "From plurality rule to proportional representation," Economics of Governance, Springer, vol. 11(4), pages 373-408, November.
    11. repec:kap:ejlwec:v:44:y:2017:i:1:d:10.1007_s10657-015-9486-z is not listed on IDEAS
    12. Cusack, Thomas R. & Iversen, Torben & Soskice, David, 2007. "Economic interests and the origins of electoral systems," Discussion Papers, Research Unit: Institutions, States, Markets SP II 2007-07, Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB).
    13. repec:gig:joupla:v:1:y:2009:i:1:p:123-141 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. Josep Colomer, 2014. "Equilibrium institutions: the federal-proportional trade-off," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 158(3), pages 559-576, March.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H10 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - General
    • H79 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - Other

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