“Extreme” Electoral Systems and the Appeal of the Mixed‐Member Alternative

Matthew Soberg Shugart

in Mixed-Member Electoral Systems

Published in print February 2003 | ISBN: 9780199257683
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191600241 | DOI:

Series: Comparative Politics

 “Extreme” Electoral Systems and the Appeal of the Mixed‐Member Alternative

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This develops an argument applicable primarily to reform in established democracies, but potentially offering insight into choices in new democracies as well: that there are certain electoral systems that may be seen as extreme on one (or both) of two dimensions—interparty and intraparty. The interparty dimension refers to the degree to which, on the one hand, a single party forms a majority government on well under a majority of votes, or, on the other hand, coalitions are formed among several parties; the intraparty dimension refers to a continuum of electoral systems from those in which legislators depend exclusively on their own personal votes to those in which votes are given exclusively to parties such that legislators have no direct ties to voters. Suggests that electoral systems that are extreme on one or both of these dimensions are inherently prone to reformist pressures, and also shows that much of the appeal of mixed‐member systems derives from how they appear to balance the extremes on each of these dimensions: the trade‐off on the interparty dimension, which is between majoritarian and proportional forms of representation; and the trade‐off on the intraparty dimension, which is between ‘strong candidates’ and ‘strong parties’. Brief studies are presented of five cases of reform from extreme electoral systems to mixed‐member systems: New Zealand (formerly a pluralitarian system); Italy and Israel (formerly hyper‐representative systems); Japan (formerly a hyper‐personalistic system); and Venezuela (formerly a hyper‐centralized system). The ideas presented in the chapter form the basis for the set of key questions presented to the authors of the country chapters in Part II of the book.

Keywords: electoral reform; electoral systems; extreme electoral systems; hyper‐centralized systems; hyper‐personalistic systems; hyper‐representative systems; interparty dimension; intraparty dimension; Israel; Italy; Japan; majoritarian representation; mixed‐member electoral systems; New Zealand; pluralitarianism; proportional representation; strong candidates; strong parties; Venezuela

Chapter.  11706 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Comparative Politics

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