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Foundations of European PoliticsA Comparative Approach

Foundations of European Politics: A Comparative Approach (1st edn)

Catherine E. De Vries, Sara B. Hobolt, Sven-Oliver Proksch, and Jonathan B. Slapin
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date: 18 July 2024

p. 896. Electoral Systems and Direct Democracylocked

p. 896. Electoral Systems and Direct Democracylocked

  • Catherine E. De Vries,
  • Sara B. Hobolt,
  • Sven-Oliver Proksch
  •  and Jonathan B. Slapin


This chapter starts off with an overview of the institutions that decide how citizens cast ballots, firstly, in elections, and secondly, directly for policy. The former is related to electoral systems and the latter to direct democracy. The chapter considers the implications of these institutions for party systems and political representation from the view point of the principal–agent framework. There is a large variety of electoral systems used in Europe. Most elections are held using the system of proportional representation. However, there are important institutional differences that need to be remembered. The chapter then goes on to examine the effects of electoral systems on the party system. This is carried out with electoral change over time in mind. Finally, the chapter turns to direct democracy and analyses the use of referendums, specifically with regard to the question of the European Union (EU).

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