Electoral System Design in New Democracies

John M. Carey

in The Oxford Handbook of Electoral Systems

Published in print April 2018 | ISBN: 9780190258658
Published online May 2017 | e-ISBN: 9780190258689 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Electoral System Design in New Democracies

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  • Comparative Politics
  • Politics and Law


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Elections in the wake of dramatic transitions from authoritarian regimes to democracy may confront voters with choices that are unattractive or bewildering, or both. This chapter examines the conditions that produce tractable sets of party options for voters, presents cross-national data on the choice sets and competitiveness in elections after dramatic transitions, and examines how the electoral formula used in proportional elections can affect electoral outcomes. The chapter argues that, in transitional contexts characterized by high uncertainty, electoral rules that reward economies of moderate scale, such as the Hare quota formula, can encourage the development of attractive choice sets. As democracies and party systems develop, however, the case for electoral rules that confer representational bonuses on winning parties gains traction.

Keywords: Elections; electoral systems; democracy; transitions to democracy; accountability; proportional representation

Article.  9234 words. 

Subjects: Comparative Politics ; Politics and Law

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