Return to: Search Page or to: Table of Contents Vol. 17, Issue 3

Jih-wen Lin. "The endogenous change in electoral systems: The case of SNTV," Party Politics, 17 (May, 2011), 365-384. [Available at http://ppq.sagepub.com/content/vol17/issue3/ ]

First paragraph:
The relationship between electoral systems and party systems has attracted a large number of studies with a high level of theorization. Most notably, Duverger's hypothesis on the impact of electoral systems on party systems is so well received that some scholars regard it as evidence that politics can be studied scientifically (Riker, 1982). Duverger himself claims it to be sociological law that 'the simple-majority single-ballot system favors the two-party system' (1963: 217). A related proposition posits that 'the simplemajority system with second ballot and proportional representation (PR) favors multipartism' (Duverger, 1963: 239). To explain his theory, Duverger points out the mechanical factor - that the threshold of exclusion is high under the simple-majority single-ballot system - and the psychological factor - that voters are tempted to forsake candidates nominated by the minor parties. It follows the same logic that multipartism emerges easily under PR because its low winning threshold gives voters less incentive to sacrifice minor parties. One can make a general statement that electoral systems, by generating a particular kind of strategic choice, are exogenous determinants of party systems.

Figures and Tables:
Figure 1. The LDP's vote-shares and seat-shares
Figure 2. The KMT's vote-shares and seat-shares
Table 1. Determinants of the shifts in the LDP's vote-share

Last Paragraph:
By uncovering the endogenous dynamics of electoral system change, this article also sheds some light on the relationship between electoral systems and party systems. SNTV is peculiar in that it allows one-party dominance to persist, even though it also favours the representation of minor parties. The proportional nature of SNTV implies that, as soon as the dominant party is unable to satisfy the majority of voters, one-party dominance will be superseded by multipartism, followed by a reform of the electoral system. Voters' choices and the party system they created can be endogenized to explain why other electoral systems appear to be self-reinforcing. Under the majoritarian systems, voters are motivated to forsake the challengers of the status quo electoral system; under the proportional systems, parties attempting to reduce the proportionality of the electoral system often face the opposition of smaller parties. The prevalence of majoritarian or proportional systems around the world probably explains why the interactive relationship between electoral systems and party systems is rarely treated as a single issue.

Last updated April 2011