Does the Czech Republic Need a Majoritarian Voting System? One of the More Radical Options for Electoral System Reform Is the Transition to a Majoritarian, or Majority, System

By Brunclik, Milos | The New Presence: The Prague Journal of Central European Affairs, Winter 2009 | Go to article overview

Does the Czech Republic Need a Majoritarian Voting System? One of the More Radical Options for Electoral System Reform Is the Transition to a Majoritarian, or Majority, System


Brunclik, Milos, The New Presence: The Prague Journal of Central European Affairs


The Czech voting system is rightly criticized for its inability to deliver a stable majority government that is capable of making decisions. One of the more radical options for electoral system reform is the transition to a majoritarian system. As with proportional voting systems, a wide range of majoritarian systems exist, and so it is more accurate to talk about majoritarian voting systems in the plural. Let us therefore try to summarize the positive aspects of such a system: (1) it has the ability to deliver a majority government that is both stable and capable of decision-making, (2) creates a clear delineation between the government and opposition, and their respective responsibilities, (3) parliamentary elections often determine not only the composition of the legislative branch, but also reflect the public opinion of the Prime Minister, (4) creates a closer relationship between elected representatives and the voter, (5) encourages political parties on the extremes to move towards the centre. The most well known majoritarian electoral system is the kind that has one round of voting (e.g., the USA and Great Britain), which is able to deliver a united majority government capable of decision-making decisions. But even this system is not immune to criticism.

A SINGLE MAJORITARIAN SYSTEM DOES NOT EXIST

There have been situations in which the party with the majority of votes has finished second (!) in terms of number of seats (e.g., Great Britain in 1974, and New Zealandin 1978 and 1981). Formerly, when New Zealand functioned under a majoritarian system, the state was thought to epitomize how a democracy functions in a majoritarian system. Dissatisfaction with their system did, however, lead them in 1993 to switch to proportional representation. Another variation of a majoritarian voting system is a two-round system, which is used in senate elections for the Czech Parliament. In most cases, it is indeed necessary to go to the second or run-off round, which can be challenging for the ordinary (comfort-seeking) voter. This system lends itself to producing low-voter turnout. The last variation of a majoritarian voting system worth mentioning is the Australian Alternative Vote, which closely resembles the aforementioned system, but differs because there is no need for a second-round of voting.

All majoritarian electoral systems are, however, criticized for creating a situation in which voter preferences may become distorted since a high number of votes can be ultimately wasted; this narrows the choice from the voters' point of view and leaves minority views underrepresented. Therefore, the transition to a majoritarian voting system in a state with particularly small and medium-sized parties could induce these vulnerable parties to artificially merge in an attempt to prevent the election of a majority. In the event of electoral success, the danger exists that such an alliance would disintegrate as the parties revert back to their previous factions. And in the end, the reason behind creating the majority voting system would become obsolete.

DEMOCRACY IN THE CZECH REPUBLIC

Determining which type of electoral system is right for a particular country is predicated on understanding the nature of that country's democratic system. One can, perhaps simplistically, differentiate between a fledgling democracy that emphasizes equal representation for all parties and a well-established democracy that is mostly concerned with making quick and efficient decisions. …

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