Mixed-Member Electoral Systems: The Best of Both Worlds?

Mixed-Member Electoral Systems: The Best of Both Worlds?

Mixed-Member Electoral Systems: The Best of Both Worlds?

Mixed-Member Electoral Systems: The Best of Both Worlds?

Synopsis

Mixed-member electoral systems may well be the electoral reform of the 21st century, much as proportional representation (PR) was in the 20th century. In the view of many electoral reformers, mixed-member systems offer the best of both the traditional British single-seat district system andPR systems. This book seeks to evaluate: why mixed-member systems have recently appealed to many countries with diverse electoral histories; and how well expectations for these systems have been met. Each major country, which has adopted a mixed system thus, has two chapters in this book, one onorigins and one on consequences. These countries are Germany, New Zealand, Italy, Israel, Japan, Venezuela, Bolivia, Mexico, Hungary, and Russia. In addition, there are also chapters on the prospects for a mixed-member system being adopted in Britain and Canada, respectively. The material presented suggests that mixed-member systems have been largely successful thus far. They appear to be more likely than most other electoral systems to generate two-bloc party systems, without in the process reducing minor parties to insignificance. In addition, they are more likelythan any other class of electoral system to simultaneously generate local accountability as well as a nationally-oriented party system. Mixed-member electoral systems have now joined majoritarian and proportional systems as basic options which must be considered whenever electoral systems are designed or redesigned. Such a development represents a fundamental change in thinking about electoral systems around the world.

Excerpt

In the last decade of the 20th century a diverse set of countries adopted a form of electoral system known as the mixed-member system. Such a system combines both the traditional British- or American-style vote for individual candidates in single-seat districts and the typical continental European election of legislators by proportional representation from party lists. This mixture of electoral-system principles has now become so common that what once was an unusual variant now holds out the promise of being the electoral reform of the 21st century. In the view of many electoral reformers, mixed-member systems offer the best of both worlds—the direct accountability of members to the districts in which they are elected, and the proportional representation of diverse partisan preferences.

This book seeks to evaluate: 1. why these systems have recently appealed to many countries with diverse electoral histories; and 2. how well expectations for these systems have been met. Each major country which has adopted a mixed-member system thus has two chapters in this book, one on why a mixed-member system was adopted and one on its consequences thus far. We have also included one chapter each on prospects for a mixed-member system in Britain and Canada, respectively.

Most of the chapters in this volume were originally presented at a conference we organized in Newport Beach, California, in December 1998. We posed a set of common questions for participants long in advance of the conference, hence establishing a core set of areas to be addressed. Although not every contributor was able to answer every question we posed, we believe that they have all done a splendid job of addressing whichever questions were relevant to the country for which they were responsible.

When we first conceived of this project, we had a general impression that countries were gravitating to mixed-member systems in an attempt to have the best of both electoral worlds. Our contributors have largely confirmed that this was the case in country after country. Our expectations regarding the consequences of these systems were cautiously optimistic, i.e., that they would turn out, at least partially, to remedy whatever were seen as the drawbacks of the previous electoral system. Again, the results conformed nicely to our expectations, leading us to conclude optimistically in Chapter 25 that the advantages offered by mixed-member systems will most likely lead more countries to follow this world-wide trend.

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