Chapter 9

Chapter 9
Comparative Politics: Structures and Choices 2e
By Lowell Barrington
Political Parties and
Electoral Systems
Learning Objectives
 Describe how political parties differ from interest
 Differentiate among the types of party systems.
 Characterize the alternative electoral
arrangements used in democratic elections, and
explain the relationship between electoral
systems and party systems.
 Describe the party systems and key electoral
outcomes in the Topic in Countries and Spotlight
on countries.
Political Parties and Party
 The Value of Political Parties
 Party Identification
 Party Systems
 One-party systems
 One-party dominant systems
 Two-party systems
 Two-and-a-half party systems
 Multiparty systems
Political Parties and Party
 Advantages of a Large Number of
Political Parties
 Better representation of the masses
 Better representation of minority interests
 Disadvantages of a Large Number of
Major Political Parties
 Political instability due to fragile coalitions
 Undue influence of small and extreme parties
 Difficulty in holding political parties
Elections and Electoral
 Types of Electoral Systems
 Proportional representation (PR)
 Open list proportional representation (open list PR)
 First past the post (FPTP)
 Single-member districts versus multi-member districts
 Hybrid systems
Elections and Electoral
 Advantages of PR Electoral Systems
 Minority interests are represented
 Women are more likely to be elected to office
 Emphasis on ideas over personalities
 Disadvantages of PR Electoral Systems
 Too many small parties with disproportionate
 PR facilitates extremist parties
Think and Discuss
Does a PR system’s advantages, such as
doing a better job of representing the interests
of minority groups, outweigh its disadvantages,
such as potentially giving small parties the
ability to hijack the process of creating and
maintaining a ruling coalition? Why?
Topic in Countries
 The United Kingdom
 Generally considered a two-and-a-half party system
 Labour Party has controlled the government since
1997; the main opposition party is the Conservative
Party (“Tories”); the third largest party is the Liberal
Democratic Party
 FPTP for House of Commons elections; tends to
produce a majority party (which then controls the
prime minister position)
Duverger’s Law and British
 Maurice Duverger believed that electoral
systems have two basic consequences:
psychological and mechanical
 Believed FPTP systems encourage two-party
 Electoral results in the United Kingdom cast
doubt on Duverger’s law
Think and Discuss
Does the existence of regionally strong third
parties in the United Kingdom have
implications for the United States?
Could American third parties be successful if
they adopted a regional strategy rather than
trying to run as national parties?
Topic in Countries
 Germany
 Multiparty system with two main parties: Christian
Democrats (CDU/CSU) and Social Democrats
 Electoral system for the Bundestag combines PR
and FPTP; PR seats distributed to create overall
totals as if a pure PR system
In Theory and Practice
Realignment Theory and Germany
 Realignment Theory
 Developed by scholars of American politics
 Claims “critical elections” remake a country’s
political landscape
 Germany and Realignment Theory
 Some see Germany as experiencing a realignment
following 2005 elections
 The 2005 Bundestag election produced no clear
winner; result was a CDU/SPD grand coalition
 Aftermath included a new party, the Left Party
Topic in Countries
 India
 Multiparty system (six national parties); Congress
Party (INC) dominated for much of early
independence period and heads the ruling coalition at
present; BJP is INC’s main rival
 SMD/FPTP system for Lok Sabha; majorities are hard
to come by, so coalitions between national and
regional parties are common
Topic in Countries
 Mexico
 The Institutional Revolution Party (PRI) dominated
for much of the 20th century; multiparty system
today with the National Action Party (PAN)
controlling the presidency but the PRI regaining
 The Congress is elected through a combination of PR
and FPTP (presidential winner comes from a FPTP
national vote); Senate elections include a “second
past the post” (SPTP) rule
In Theory and Practice
Party Organization Theory and
 Party Organization Theory
 Associated with Joseph Schlesinger
 Highlights the collective action problem of political parties;
why should individuals work for the party?
 Party “entrepreneurs” are willing to work hard because they
may gain personally through winning political office
 Mexico’s Party of Democratic Revolution
 PRD founded by the son of a former PRI leader
 He was a party entrepreneur, but formed the PRD as much
or more because of policy differences with the PRI as he did
because of a desire to hold office
Topic in Countries
 Brazil
 Very large number of parties gain seats in the
legislature; four are the most important, including
the Worker’s Party (PT), the party of President
 Lower house chosen by PR (but senators by
FPTP and president by majority vote); lower house
uses “open list” PR
Topic in Countries
 Nigeria
 Emerging one-party dominant system (PDP
dominates the executive and legislature)
 Senate and House of Representatives elections are
SMD/FPTP; PDP has dominated elections since
democracy was restored in 1999
Topic in Countries
 Russia
 Weak party system after collapse of USSR; turned
into one-party dominant system under Putin
 Used to be a hybrid system; President Putin
pushed to change it to PR only; 2007 legislative
elections and 2008 presidential elections sparked
claims of irregularities
Topic in Countries
 China
 Classic one-party system; CCP continues to
dominate Chinese politics
 No real national elections; but, local elections
have some genuine competition; candidates in
village elections not always those preferred by the
 Some believe these local elections are an
experiment in democracy–like the special
economic zones that were an experiment with
capitalism before it spread across the country
Topic in Countries
 Iran
 A few main political parties after 1979 Revolution;
parties later replaced by loose electoral coalitions;
today, a “no party system”
 Guardian Council can block candidates from running
for office; in Majles elections, some districts are singlemember while others are multi-member
Think and Discuss
The previous chapter discussed non-electoral
mechanisms for linking elites and masses.
This chapter focuses on political parties and
elections. Which of these sets of mechanisms
are more important for understanding mass
participation and how masses are linked to
elites? Why?