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Chapter

Cover Comparative Politics

14. Party systems  

Daniele Caramani

This chapter examines how competition between political parties gives rise to different party systems. In liberal democracies, competition for power is based on popular votes. The shape and dynamics of party systems are determined by the electoral game, with parties as main actors. A party system is thus essentially the result of competitive interactions between parties. A party system has three main elements: which parties exist, how many parties exist and how big they are, and how parties behave. An obvious but important point is that party systems must be composed of more than one political party. The chapter begins with a discussion of the origins of party systems, followed by an analysis of the format of party systems, such as two-party systems and multiparty systems. It then considers the influence of the electoral system on party systems, before concluding with an assessment of the dynamics of party systems.

Chapter

Cover Comparative Politics

13. Party Systems  

Daniele Caramani

This chapter examines how competition between political parties gives rise to different party systems. In liberal democracies, competition for power is based on popular votes. The shape and dynamics of party systems are determined by the electoral game, with parties as main actors. A party system is thus essentially the result of competitive interactions between parties. A party system has three main elements: which parties exist, how many parties exist and how big they are, and how parties behave. An obvious but important point is that party systems must be composed of more than one political party. The chapter begins with a discussion of the origins of party systems, followed by an analysis of the format of party systems, such as two-party systems and multiparty systems. It then considers the influence of the electoral system on party systems, before concluding with an assessment of the dynamics of party systems.

Chapter

Cover Introduction to Politics

9. Political Culture and Non-Western Political Ideas  

Peter Ferdinand

This chapter begins by outlining the importance of poltical culture in structuring, but not determining, the behaviour of actors within individual political systems. It illustrates the persistence of its impact with the failure of Mao Zedong to eliminate traditional Chinese ways of thinking and create a wholly new political culture in the Cultural Revolution. On the other hand it cites fluctuations in Russian political culture over centuries to show that the perceived content of a particular political culture can be fundamentally contested and malleable, so that it does evolve. And it notes the recent claims of political leaders in Russia, China and India, amongst others, that their nations’ historical achievements raise them to the status of ‘civilization states’. One feature of a nation’s political culture is the recurring trends of issues and preoccupations in political thinking there. Then it goes on to examine issues in thinking in non-Western countries, that structure political attitudes and political behaviour differently from the West. It begins by looking at traditional notions of legitimate political authority in other regions of the world, particularly Asia, that preceded the arrival of Western colonialists. These often assumed more ‘organic’ and more segmented communities than would be associated with Western individualist ones influenced by the legacy of the French revolution. Then it considers more recent non-Western political thinking.

Chapter

Cover Comparative Politics

10. Elections and Referendums  

Michael Gallagher

This chapter focuses on the two main opportunities that people have to vote in most societies: elections and referendums. Elections are held to fill seats in parliaments or to choose a president, whereas referendums allow citizens to decide directly on some issue of policy. Elections are the cornerstone of representative democracy, and referendums are sometimes regarded as the equivalent of ‘direct democracy’. In practice, referendums are used only as an option in systems of representative democracy. The chapter first provides an overview of elections and electoral systems, focusing on electoral regulations and the main categories of electoral systems, namely single-member plurality, alternative vote, two-round system, and proportional representation. It then examines the rules under which elections are held, as well as the consequences of this variation. It also considers the use of the referendum and its potential impact on politics.

Chapter

Cover Democratization

15. Institutional Design in New Democracies  

Matthijs Bogaards

This chapter focuses on electoral systems and institutional design in new democracies. It first compares Maurice Duverger’s electoral laws with those of Giovanni Sartori before discussing the main insights from the literature on electoral systems in established democracies as well as evidence from new democracies. It then considers the impact of the electoral law on the type of party system and its role as intermediary between society and government in plural societies. It also examines the party system as an independent variable, along with dependent variables such as the number of political parties, social cleavages, and presidentialism. Finally, it discusses consociational democracy and how electoral system design can be used in managing ethnic conflicts.

Chapter

Cover Comparative Politics

11. Electoral systems and representation  

Orit Kedar

This chapter focuses on elections and representation. The first part focuses on electoral systems. It first presents the building blocks of electoral systems. Drawing on these building blocks, it then discusses the underlying principles of the two main families of electoral systems, namely majoritarian and proportional representation, and presents key variants within each family. The chapter then proceeds to discuss how different features of electoral systems affect the behaviour of both voters and politicians. The second part of the chapter addresses representation. It first lays out four different aspects of representation, followed by an elaboration on one particularly central aspect—substantive representation, which addresses the way representatives and government act for voters. Finally, the chapter’s third part analyses the trade-offs embedded in different electoral systems and discusses how different electoral systems promote some aspects of representation as well as other democratic values, and compromise others.

Chapter

Cover Comparative European Politics

1. Electoral Systems  

Jean-Benoit Pilet and Alan Renwick

This chapter examines the variety of electoral systems in Europe. Electoral systems lie at the heart of democratic politics, influencing who citizens’ representatives are and having profound effects upon politics at large. The authors start by presenting the variety of electoral systems used across Europe, focusing on three key dimensions: electoral formulas, district magnitudes, and ballot structures. Then they discuss some of the main developments in electoral systems in Europe since 1945, highlighting shifts towards limited proportional systems and more ‘personalized’ systems. Finally, they probe deeper into the consequences of electoral systems, looking at effects on the nature of competition both between and within political parties.

Chapter

Cover British Politics

5. Winning and Losing Elections  

This chapter assesses what politicians and members of political parties really care about: getting into office on the back of a successful election campaign. Rather than the general determinants of voting outlined in the previous chapter, this is about the choices voters and parties face within a particular system, so they can organize themselves to win. For that they need to play by the rules of the game, which includes developing strategies within electoral systems. The chapter then discusses the impact of electoral systems on that calculus, and how the number of parties is affected by the electoral system in place. It also looks at the factors that assist the winning of elections, and the extent to which the choices of parties and voters are affected by growing instability in the system. Overall, the chapter provides an overview of British political parties and party systems.

Chapter

Cover Introduction to Politics

11. Votes, Elections, Legislatures, and Legislators  

Peter Ferdinand

This chapter examines some of the central issues associated with voting and electoral systems, along with the functions of legislatures. It begins by discussing the two paradoxes of voting. First, the huge number of citizens in any modern state means that no individual’s vote is likely to make the difference between two or more choices, making it potentially ‘irrational’ for any individual to bother to vote at all. Yet votes make democracy possible. The second voting paradox concerns the difficulty of relying upon votes to determine the objective preferences of the public. The chapter proceeds by considering measures that aim to establish quotas to increase gender equality in legislative recruitment. It also describes different types of legislatures and the internal structure of legislatures. Finally, it analyses trends in the backgrounds of legislators in various countries, specifically focusing upon the criticism that they constitute a ‘political class’.

Chapter

Cover UK Politics

7. Elections and voting  

This chapter looks at how voting helps people to take a direct role in politics. The chapter discusses the rules by which the electoral system operates. It discusses the different types of electoral systems used in the UK. It connects General Elections and the formation of government at the national level. The chapter then offers a number of theoretical perspectives from which to consider voting in terms of fairness, mandates, and effectiveness. The chapter looks at the impact of the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act 2011 and how the integrity of elections is maintained. Finally, it looks at the plan to equalize the size and reduce the number of UK parliamentary constituencies.

Chapter

Cover Democracies and Authoritarian Regimes

4. Dysfunctional Democracies and Hybrid Systems  

This chapter evaluates those ambiguous systems that mix democratic characteristics with authoritarian tendencies. Since the end of the Cold War, there has been a substantial rise in the number of these hybrid regimes. In fact, hybrid regimes have proliferated to such an extent that scholars contend they are now ‘the modal type of political regime in the developing world’. The chapter then maps the terrain between democracy and dictatorship. The goal is to highlight the wide variety of political systems today and underscore the rather astonishing frequency with which contemporary authoritarian regimes possess seemingly democratic features. The chapter identifies the different types of hybrid systems that occupy this middle ground—focusing on electoral democracy, competitive authoritarianism, and hegemonic authoritarianism—and defines their key characteristics. It also examines why hybrid systems have become more common in the post-Cold War era.

Chapter

Cover Introduction to Politics

11. Votes, Elections, Legislatures, and Legislators  

Peter Ferdinand

This chapter examines some of the central issues associated with voting and electoral systems, along with the functions of legislatures. It begins by discussing the two paradoxes of voting. First, the huge number of citizens in any modern state means that no individual’s vote is likely to make the difference between two or more choices, making it potentially ‘irrational’ for any individual to bother to vote at all. Yet votes make democracy possible. The second voting paradox concerns the difficulty of relying upon votes to determine the objective preferences of the public. The chapter proceeds by considering measures that aim to establish quotas to increase gender equality in legislative recruitment. It also describes different types of legislatures and the internal structure of legislatures. Finally, it analyses trends in the backgrounds of legislators in various countries, specifically focusing upon the criticism that they constitute a ‘political class’.

Chapter

Cover Foundations of European Politics

6. Electoral Systems and Direct Democracy  

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).

Chapter

Cover Democratization

13. Conventional Citizen Participation  

Ian McAllister and Stephen White

This chapter examines the most visible and politically important act of conventional citizen participation: turning out to vote in a national election. Patterns of political participation are influenced by a variety of institutional factors, such as the type of electoral system and the number of political parties in a country, along with individual socioeconomic factors such as a person’s educational attainments or income. A particular problem in many previously authoritarian societies is the absence of a diverse civil society, so that the social trust upon which a healthy democracy depends is often absent. The chapter first considers various dimensions of political participation before discussing voter turnout in democratic countries. It then analyses the effects of institutional arrangements such as election rules, the type of electoral system, and the party system on political participation. Finally, it describes some of the factors that determine whether or not citizens participate in politics.

Chapter

Cover The Institutions of the European Union

15. European parties:  

a powerful caucus in the European Parliament and beyond

Tapio Raunio

The party system of the European Parliament (EP) has been dominated by the two main European party families: centre-right conservatives and Christian democrats, on the one hand, and centre-left social democrats on the other, which controlled the majority of the seats until the 2019 elections. In the early 1950s, members of the European Parliament (MEPs) decided to form party-political groups, instead of national blocs, to counterbalance the dominance of national interests in the Council. Over the decades, the shape of the EP party system has become more stable, and traditional levels of group cohesion and coalition formation have not really been affected by the rise of populism and the increasing politicization of European integration. National parties remain influential within party groups, not least through their control of candidate selection. Outside of the Parliament, Europarties—parties operating at the European level—influence both the broader development of integration and the choice of the Commission president.

Chapter

Cover Democracies and Authoritarian Regimes

11. Institutional Drivers of Democracy  

This chapter describes how the institutional design of new democracies affect their political evolution. By institutions, it refers to formal political institutions, including political parties, electoral systems, and state design (namely federal versus unitary states). In addition to the decision to create a federal versus a unitary state, some scholars and policymakers have advocated for a consociational approach to democracy in countries that feature significant ethnic, religious or other cleavages. Consociational democracy is essentially a democracy that allows for significant power sharing—or the ability to access positions of power—among the country's various factions. Ultimately, institutions can play a particularly critical role in the consolidation and sustainment of democracy because they structure and constrain political behaviour. The chapter then considers the relationship between institutions and democratization.