An electoral system is the most fundamental element of representative democracy, translating citizen's votes into representatives' seats. It is also the most potent practical instrument available to democratic reformers. This systematic and comprehensive study describes and classifies the 70 electoral systems used by 27 democracies - including those of Western Europe, Australia, Canada, the USA, Costa Rica, India, Israel, Japan, and New Zealand - for
384 national legislative and European Parliament elections between 1945 and 1990. Using comparative and statistical analyses of these systems, Arend Lijphart demonstrates the effect of the
electoral formula used, the number of representatives elected per district, electoral thresholds, and of five other key features of electoral systems on the proportionality of the election outcome, the degree of multipartism, and the creation of majority parties. In the process he reveals that electoral systems are neither as diverse nor as complex as is often assumed. Electoral Systems and Party Systems represents the most definitive treatment of the subject
since Rae's classic study in 1967, based as it is on more accurate and comprehensive data (covering more countries and a longer time-span), and using stronger hypotheses and better analytical methods. The unique
information and analysis it offers will make it essential reading for everyone working in the field.
'in Lijphart's book we have a work which extends the data base and refines and retests a range of hypotheses ... After this study there can be no doubt that this is one area of political activity where institutions do matter a great deal'
Michael Moran, Government and Opposition, Vol. 29, No. 2, Spring 1994
`An incredible amount of detail has been packed into a relatively slim volume, and, as a result, this is one to be savoured slowly ... There is a wealth of material which this review can only begin to touch upon ... his ... recommendations warrant close reading, not only, as he suggests, in the newly democratising countries of Eastern Europe, but also by the `reformers' in Italy, Japan, and New Zealand and by `would-be-reformers' everywhere else.'
West European Politics
`There is a wealth of material which this review can only begin to touch upon. The book ends with a series of recommendations for "electoral engineers" ... This and his other recommendations warrant close reading.'
West European Politics
`...this is a truly excellent book...Lijphart's book is necessary reading for anyone interested in the mechanics and consequences of the electoral systems.'
1: Introduction: Goals and Methods
2: Electoral Systems: Types, Patterns, Trends
3: Disproportionality, Multipartism, and Majority Victories
4: Changes in Election Rules Between Systems in the Same Country
5: Bivariate and Multivariate Analyses
6: Four Other Potential Explanations
A: Proportional Representation Formulas
B: Indices of Disproportionality and Party System Characteristics
C: Data: Sources, Additions, corrections, Clarifications