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Contact with East European policy-makers will provide a practical dimension, both in the conduct of the research and in its ability to make practical recommendations on the modification of electoral laws. The resulting database will constitute an important international resource for academics and practitioners. Author: Millard Date: 10 March Research summary. Author: Millard Date: 10 March Full research report. The research catalogue is an archive of ESRC-funded grants and outputs. Electorates wanted electoral systems to work to limit and aggregate the upward flow of demands; they did not want to see the Hobbesian fishbowl of their own societies reflected at the elite level.

Public opinion in most states the Czech Republic and Hungary being among the exceptions increasingly showed a desire for stronger government, still elected democratically but capable of solving outstanding and critical issues. At the same time, elites who won majorities in the first postcommunist governments began to think of political reform that would extend and deepen their own grip on power. Once again, a convergence of interests set the backdrop for the next, Burkian, phase in which the principles of gradualism, governance, and delegative democracy would take precedence.

The results these reforms actually achieved have not, however, always been in line with their intentions. Looking first at thresholds, in eight countries thresholds were increased with an eye to decreasing the impact of minority and extremist parties, magnifying the influence of centrist groups, and reducing the number of parties actually represented in parliament.

So an increase in the percentage of votes a party requires in order to have any representation in parliament a threshold was favored and supported by Western specialists in many postcommunist countries as a way of moving the polity toward a more stable, centrist competition among a small number of parties, any of which might over time form a government and all of which have an imbedded interest in playing by the rules.

Between the first and second parliamentary elections, the average for thresholds increased from 3. For example, pure proportionality would require that a party winning twenty-five percent of the vote receive twenty-five percent of the seats. Therefore, it is surmised that these formulae will both create stronger governments in the short-run and make them more centrist in the long-term. Thus, among the seventeen states utilizing proportional representation to elect some or all representatives to parliament, in the first postcommunist elections, nine used formulae that were more proportional, while eight from the beginning put in place systems that would give a disproportional number of seats to the winning parties.

By the second round, only five states allocated seats using proportional formulae St. The introduction of systems in which a percentage of the seats would be chosen through FPTP elections was also designed to increase the power of parties with a strong field of locally well-known candidates who could command majorities in their districts. Smaller ethnic groups would be disenfranchised unless they held a majority in geographically concentrated districts, as would minority political interests, both of which could still find a voice via the seats chosen through PR, but here parties that could field a list of nationally known candidates also could do well under PR.

Clearly the dilution of PR was designed to decrease the influence of minority political and ethnic opinion and further stabilize the center. Indeed in several of these republics presidents actually manipulated this resentment to roll back democratic gains. To be sure, the introduction of thresholds decreased the number of parties represented in parliaments. The introduction of electoral formulae to strengthen winning parties in parliament did work to provide more seats to those parties.

The use of mixed systems has indeed rewarded various kinds of parties, ensuring a diversity of representation.

Between Past and Future

But then postcommunists came to power in Poland in , and analysts had to reevaluate their forecasts. Did voters go to the booth and decide that they wanted to vote for the noncommunist communists? And if that was their preference, why not vote for any one of the centrist or social democratic alternatives? The answer is simpler: The electoral system had been reformed by the government with support of western policy makers to strengthen governance and ensure the emergence of strong centrist parties, but instead, the communists were the unintended victors.

This occurred not because voter preferences changed that much; what did change were the rules that raised thresholds ensuring that fewer parties gained seats in parliament , gave more seats to the winning parties the postcommunists and their agrarian partners , and introduced a mixed system, which favored parties that had both a strong central organization and regional clout the postcommunists. The postcommunists lost the next election in Poland under the same rules and gave up power, but the point here is that these and similar electoral reforms throughout the area have had the unintended consequence of stabilizing and institutionalizing postcommunist parties.

Electoral competition has indeed pulled them away from the extreme left but also into the ideational space where new independent and liberal-minded social democratic parties might otherwise have arisen.

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16. Electocracies and the Hobbesian Fishbowl of Postcommunist Politics

The result therefore is both that postcommunist parties are not disappearing from the scene and that they are preventing the emergence of a genuine social democratic alternative in most postcommunist countries. Additionally, the failure of postcommunist parties to disappear from the political scene and even their resurgence in some—especially post-Soviet—states has had the dialectic effect of keeping parties of the right on the map longer than expected.

And finally, because postcommunist parties are not declining in power, other parties— including both ethnic and right wing parties that are ideologically arrayed against them—are also not disappearing, even though their vote percentages might not be increasing. Rival parties calculate that if communist elites could succeed in destroying the brick-like wall of interlocking structures that made up communist rule through their sustained abuses, they could certainly undermine what is widely seen as a more benign and straw-like set of democratic electoral rules.

And in addition, few elites believe that under all circumstances communists and, for that matter, parties of the right would necessarily give up power if parties of the opposite ideological persuasion won an election. The multidimensionality of the challenge that the postcommunists present socioeconomic, secular versus religious, nonethnic versus ethnic, illiberal versus liberal, anti-West versus pro-West, pro-Russian versus anti-Russian also ensures that there is no single, stable, or even coherent outcome of the challenge that can satisfactorily be predicted in the longer term in many of these states.

Yet the legacy of oppression by the communists ensures that as long as they exist, no amount of theorizing by western political scientists will produce the desired tendency toward a reduction in the number of political parties. Indeed, contrary to predictions based on democratic development in the West, in some of the postcommunist states the number of registered parties has actually increased and not decreased between elections; in the Czech Republic, for example, the number of parties increased from seventeen to twenty, in Georgia from forty-seven to fifty-four, in Lithuania from seventeen to twenty-four, and in Hungary the number of registered political parties has remained very high at nineteen.

However, in postcommunist elections the average to date has been almost seventeen percent; in other words, when citizens cast ballots in elections using proportional representation, there is an almost one in five chance that they will vote for a party that does not gain a single seat in parliament.

The figure is alarming because there is obvious concern that voters may not be willing to change their preference by voting for parties that have a better chance of winning like the postcommunists ; rather, they will either continue to vote for splinter parties that fare poorly in elections or lose faith over time in the power of the process altogether while the average turnout for elections has declined slightly over time, it is still well above western averages. The seventeen percent of wasted votes, moreover, applies only to PR elections, or that portion of the legislature chosen by PR in mixed systems.

In FPTP elections, many more votes are cast for candidates who are not elected, but voters regard the system as legitimate since, while any given candidate may not be elected, parties in most western democracies do normally gain some representation. But in postcommunist states, where large numbers of parties also contend for seats in FPTP elections, many parties end up without a single seat in these elections as well.

Consequently, the total percentage of votes wasted is far in excess of seventeen percent. Two examples suffice to illustrate the point. In in Poland, elections were held using no thresholds; thus no votes were wasted.


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The electoral formula used—the St. Lague—did not give more scats to winning parties sixty-nine were registered , so that when the Democratic Union won the most votes with twelve percent of the vote, it received only thirteen percent of the seats. By , however, the electoral laws changed: a five percent threshold was in place eight percent for coalitions that led fully thirty-five percent of the votes cast to be wasted. And the electoral formula had been changed from St. The Peasant Party received sixteen percent of the vote and twenty-nine percent of the seats, ensuring that with the DLA they were able to form a government even though they received fewer votes between them than the total votes that were wasted.

The Communist Party of the Russian Federation CPRF received only twenty-two percent of the total vote, but thirty-five percent of the seats were distributed through proportional representation. Over time, therefore, rational choice theory suggests that voters will stop voting for parties with little chance of winning, and parties at the margins will increasingly decrease their share of the votes as candidates vie for votes at the center.

In a two-party system, any voter knows that a third party is an irrational vote, even though it may be undertaken for perfectly good reasons protest, etc. But in a thirty-four or forty-three party system, what is an irrational vote? How can voters know in advance how to structure their preferences? If they cannot know, given the number of votes that will be wasted, at what point does it become truly irrational even to vote at all? And if the median voter is a communist voter, or a Serbian or Croatian nationalist voter, is a rational candidate well-advised to move toward that median in order to capture votes?

Types of Voting Systems - FPTP, Proportional Representation System

Does western policy favor reducing the number of parties to stabilize the system even if by doing so postcommunist parties and parties of power will further increase their share of the vote? Or is it not more likely that postcommunist politics in some countries may proceed not toward the center but away from the center, and candidates and voters group not around a unidimensional axis but around rather stable, yet multiple, groupings involving admixtures of ideology, regional identities, ethnicity, and religious affiliations—affiliations that are deeply rooted in the animosities and illiberal oppressions of the communist and precommunist eras and therefore are less negotiable than the socioeconomic status and associational identities more common in current western liberal democracies, but which emerged very slowly and with greater difficulty than is sometimes accepted even there.


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  • Such issues have to be dealt with by multiple means at both the elite and societal levels over long periods. In many postcommunist states, and particularly in the post-Soviet states, populations still hungry for revenge, lacking in basic tolerance and trust, and unable to make the economic transition to a market-based economy combine with elites to undermine democracy. Under such circumstances, the demands placed on the electoral system are excessive. The carrying capacity of elections is not sufficient; they can assist in building democracy, but not substitute for it. The prospects are truly frightening; if communist elites could organize elections without any pretense of building democracy in the Soviet era, so can postcommunists and other parties of power if they choose.

    Does the international community assist in building democracy in, for example, Armenia, Croatia, or Kazakhstan by sanctifying an electoral process whose result is foreordained? Or is it not more likely that setting the bar so low on our definition of a free and fair election in fact gives dictators a smooth ride to an electocratic authoritarianism? Could electoral fraud of the kind seen in St. Perhaps the question, therefore, is not whether or not elections will succeed in building democracy if other aspects of the transition fail, but why did we ever believe they could? Bawn, Kathleen.

    Brady, David and Jongryn Mo. Also as expected from H1, license requests decrease with district magnitude. Model 02 exploits a shock to district magnitude that can be presumed exogenous in a congressional absence regression. In , Congress enacted an electoral reform that replaced multimember districts by single-member winner-takes-all districts. Magnitude has no effect over congressional licenses for MCs elected that year.

    Electoral Systems and Political Transformation in Post-Communist Europe - Enlighten: Publications

    This finding increases our confidence in the fact that it is magnitude, and not unobserved provincial characteristics, which affects the probability of soliciting a license. The results support my theoretical expectations. MCs from farther districts must request licenses from Congress in order to gather local-level information. Accordingly, they can also rely on information provided to them by same-district allies, allowing them not to miss committee work and floor meetings. Information is most valuable before voting important electoral reforms.

    As I have argued, when deciding whether to support or oppose changes in electoral rules, MCs have to make an educated guess on the consequences of the electoral reform over their electoral competitiveness before voting.

    See a Problem?

    The bill intended to make the vote secret and mandatory for all literate citizens. It also proposed the modification of electoral rules from lista completa to lista incompleta. This modification would decrease the majoritarian bias of the old electoral rules, allowing for a minority party to win one-third of the disputed seats.

    In order to make strategic decisions, MCs needed local information about the predictable consequences of the reform on their electoral competitiveness. There were seven floor meetings before the lista incompleta was voted nominally on November 24, MCs were often absent from the plenary during the discussion of the bill.

    Eight MCs were on leave during all meetings. Others were present in some meetings and absent from others. Absences without being on license could be either notified in advanced con aviso or not sin aviso. In order to retest H1 and H3 under conditions of higher information demand, I built a dataset consisting of MC meeting observations. The dependent variable takes the value of 1 if the MC was absent in a given session either having notified in advanced or not.

    Absences were computed as they appear in the congressional minutes As independent variables, I include the logarithmic transformation of distance, and also district magnitude. To further test the importance of local information, I also include an interaction between distance and a dummy that takes the value of 1 if the MC had strong local ties. On average, MCs with stronger local ties should demand more local information than others.

    The proxy I use for local ties is having been elected in the election of As I mentioned before, MCs elected in had to compete in single member districts. I assume that having won in this election is a proxy for stronger alliances at the municipal level. Models were estimated by OLS and include fixed effects by previous legislative experience and congressional session. Results are presented in Table E, Ortiz and Revilla.