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It's parties that choose electoral systems (or Duverger's Law 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.

Suggested Citation

  • Josep M. Colomer, 2005. "It's parties that choose electoral systems (or Duverger's Law upside down)," Economics Working Papers 812, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
  • Handle: RePEc:upf:upfgen:812
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    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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    Cited by:

    1. Bishop, Matthew Louis & Corbett, Jack & Veenendaal, Wouter, 2020. "Labor movements and party system development: Why does the Caribbean have stable two-party systems, but the Pacific does not?," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 126(C).
    2. Camille Bedock, 2017. "When Electoral Competition Determines Disproportionality Majority Bonus and Regional Elections in France and Italy," CEVIPOL Working Papers n°1 / 2017, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
    3. 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, WZB Berlin Social Science Center.
    4. Selim Ergun, 2010. "From plurality rule to proportional representation," Economics of Governance, Springer, vol. 11(4), pages 373-408, November.
    5. Stefan Voigt, 2011. "Positive constitutional economics II—a survey of recent developments," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 146(1), pages 205-256, January.
    6. 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.
    7. 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).
    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.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Elections; electoral systems; political parties; institutional equilibrium;

    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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