This article addresses the debate over electoral rules by analyzing changes in the electoral system of the French Fifth Republic, contrasting the "governability" argument which advocates a majoritarian system with the "fairness" argument which supports a more proportional system of representation. In addition to these normative considerations, strategic aspects of the debate over electoral rules are discussed and linked to the perceived legitimacy of the state. The central argument of this analysis is that these differing positions can be reconciled with the adoption of either a d "Hondt system of proportional representation using districts of relatively small magnitude or a dual system of representation.
Riker (1982) may have argued that all social summaries are inevitably flawed, but this rather dismal conclusion has not prevented either academics or political leaders from arguing about the optimal way to translate votes into seats. This article uses the previous three French elections to the National Assembly to illustrate the dimensions of this debate and to assess its various arguments and positions within the context of French politics. The purpose of this analysis to recognize the validity of each position and to reconcile these conflicting values and goals by developing a compromise that could be more optimally utilized in France and elsewhere.
RECENT NATIONAL ASSEMBLY ELECTIONS IN FRANCE
If a casual observer were to take a quick glance at the results of the 1988 and 1993 National Assembly elections, as presented in Table I, the following analysis would probably result: Between the two elections, the Socialist bloc lost considerable support; the two rightist parties held steady; the Communists declined slightly; the National Front picked up a few more supporters; and the two ecologist parties emerged with modest support among the electorate.
This analysis of the electoral outcome in 1993 -- would be basically sound, but only because it is based on first ballot results. The truly remarkable aspect of this election is the contrast between these first ballot votes and the subsequent allocation of seats in the National Assembly.1 Although the RPR and the UDF's combined vote was only 37.6% of the total first ballots, they managed to obtain 77.8% of seats. An underrepresentation of the PCF and PS vote resulted, and the FN and the ecologist parties received no seats in the National Assembly.
Any explanation of this "distortion" of the popular vote would include a number of contributing factors, not the least of which would be the formation of the UPF (Union pour France) alliance between the two rightist parties. However, the major cause was clearly the two-ballot majoritarian electoral system.2 For this reason, the debate over the "rules of the game" has reemerged in French political life. The purpose of this research is to identify and analyze the various arguments in defense of either the current two-ballot system or a more proportional one, as was used in the 1986 National Assembly elections and in most other regional and European elections in France.
THE ISSUE OF FAIRNESS AND SUPPORT FOR PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION
In presenting the proposed change to proportional representation to his cabinet ministers in 1985, Francois Mitterrand defended this system as a more equitable and fair way of representing the diversity of political views in the country. This position mirrors the main argument presented by advocates of PR -- a democratic legislature should be representative of all the interests and viewpoints of the electorate. (See Rose, 1983; Criddle, 1992; Lakeman, 1984; Lijphart and Grofman, 1984.)
Almost by definition, proportional representation is fair, since this electoral formula is intended to give each party a share of the seats that is more or less equal to its share of the votes (Blais, 1991).3 Most PR systems are found to fare much better than plurality and majority systems in allocating seats to parties proportionally to the popular vote (Lijphart,1990; Rae, 1969). …