Electoral Systems and their Impact on Women’s Representation

Electoral Systems and their Impact on Women’s Representation

In formal democracies, people elect representatives who best reflect their ideals and purport to defend their interests. A state’s electoral system determines how often elections may be held, who is eligible to vote, who is eligible to run for office, as well as the structure of the ballots and how votes are translated into seats won by candidates or political parties. In short, electoral systems are the means by which the idea of a democratic system is operationalized. Cross-national research has identified electoral systems as the most important influence on the recruitment of women candidates for legislatures. Thus, understanding a given electoral system is of utmost importance for those interested in bringing gender parity to the political system.

 

The degree to which an electoral system is perceived as truly representing the views of the electorate and as translating votes into government policies and legislation reflecting the wishes of the majority greatly influences the degree of public support for the democratic system itself. If the public perceives that policy, government programs and legislation do not in fact represent its choices following an election, voter-turnout, support for the government, and respect for elected representatives and politicians declines (O’Neal 1993). Thus, a fair electoral system that fulfills the expectations of the public is important for the maintenance of democracy and political stability.

 

Different types of electoral systems allow for different degrees of direct representation; some allow citizens more of a voice than others. Reform of a given political system is difficult, but in some cases may be instrumental to increasing true democratic representation. This is because the particular electoral system in place is the most important factor influencing the development existence of political organizations, the party system, and the ways in which citizens may engage in political activities. In fact the type of electoral system adopted by a state impacts a wide range of elements that make up the political character of that society, including for example whether emphasis is on regional or national concerns, how political parties operate, and who may stand as a candidate.

 

For example in some electoral systems the nation is treated as one united entity, and representatives do not necessarily represent a particular riding or district; other systems divide the country into political districts and elected members of parliament represent the interests of their particular ridings within a national framework. These two systems represent very different characteristics of democracy, and civil society strategies for bringing concerns to parliament will differ greatly from one system to the next. As well, in countries that function with a majoritarian electoral system – that is where winning an election is based on 50% + 1 of the votes – a two-party system tends to dominate the political scene, with little chance for smaller parties or independent candidates (those not allied with any party) to successfully compete and break in to the political structure. This is evident in the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States where smaller parties have not managed to break into the political system except through alliance with larger parties. In practice such systems limit the options of voters whose views do not align with either dominant political party to influence the decision-making process. On the other hand, electoral systems based on proportional representation – whereby parties win parliamentary seats relative to the percentage of votes they received – tend to encourage multi-party systems, in which members from multiple parties are commonly elected to the parliament. However it is also true that representatives may feel more accountable to their respective political parties than to their constituencies. The majority of European and Nordic countries is multi-partied, and functions under the proportional representation system, including Sweden, Italy, and Austria.

 

The complexities of electoral systems vary, and each system has implications for women’s political representation. Here we will examine the three most common democratic systems currently operating in the world and their respective influence on women’s representation. Although there is variation within a given type of system from country to country, a review of the general characteristics of each will help to identify why and how each systems supports or obstructs the degree to which women are able to access the formal political structure, and will allow us to examine the experiences and strategies of women activists in different countries working for change. This chapter also outlines the debates around current quota systems as they relate to particular electoral systems, along with suggestions of a best-fit approach.

 

Along with the given electoral system, other elements play a role in a state’s democratic practices. Political parties, the primary political bodies in most countries, campaign for votes on the basis of platforms of action, national policy proposals, and effective candidates who will best represent the nation. Aside from the role that party politics plays in operationalizing an electoral system, three other key elements that shape an electoral systems are: 1) district magnitude, or how many representatives from each district are elected; 2) the formula for how seats are allocated; and 3) the ballot structure, which determines what a ballot looks like and how voters vote for a party or candidate. All of these elements directly impact the successful implementation of a quota system to improve women’s political representation. For instance, the way a ballot is structured is critically important, since candidates who appear at the top of a party list have a higher chance of getting elected than those – often including women candidates – ranked lower by the party. Below we touch on each of these elements of electoral systems, and their impact on the election of women, before we resume our discussion on various electoral systems and explore them in more detail concerning women’s political representation.

 

Political Parties

Some early proponents of democracy envisioned a non-partisan parliament where election resulted solely from merit, and the legislature was a nonpartisan institution functioning to represent the true needs of the public rather than representing any organized institution or ideological platform. However, except for the first few US Congresses under the first president of the United States, George Washington (1789 to 1797), this system has never been implemented.1 In the case of the United States voluntary networks linked by ideals soon evolved into organized political parties. Within most current democracies political parties are the key players in galvanizing public participation in electoral politics. Political parties generally articulate and advocate a particular ideology, policies and platforms of actions for running the state, promoting what they view as the priority issues of the nation. Party members work to gain the support of the electorate and if elected work to influence the laws and policies of the country.

 

Political parties aim to influence politics directly by promoting some of their most influential supporters or members to political decision-making positions, and indirectly by appealing to the public for support, such as by engaging in public awareness-raising activities or campaigning on various issues and reforms. To be successful in acquiring public support as well as attaining and maintaining political power within the government, parties have to clarify their mandates and goals in the form of a party platform, and then participate in electoral campaigns, educational outreach or protest actions. In this regard, parties are important in democratic regimes as they provide a channel through which ideas are discussed in the public sphere and then brought to the governmental level. Often as the number of political parties increase, the political system is considered to be more democratic as it allows more diverse political positions to be represented.

 

However, research on institutionalized parties indicates that their nominees are often powerful individuals and/or members of the elite; nominations are thus not necessarily merit and/or platform commitment-based (Ballington 2004). One of the reasons for women’s underrepresentation in party politics, particularly in high ranking positions, is due to class/power based discrimination; such practices impede women’s (and often minorities’) access to powerful positions, prioritizing the rise of elite males to power within party structures (Kittilson 2006).

 

Thus, political parties can be both instrumental in political democratization through their manifestation of diverse views, and at the same time can stifle the voices of certain groups, in particular women and minorities, who are often considered potentially risky choices for higher positions by their parties. Candidates considered “safe” nominees for leading positions are generally well-connected, male, middle-class individuals. Since a party’s main goal is to achieve power and win seats, potentially “risky” candidates are often over looked regardless of merit. This rationale is often a convenient way for male leaders to justify their hold on power through the exclusion of women. However, history has shown that in fact the public has often chosen to elect women and individuals from minority groups who are put forth as candidates, as is illustrated by the various female presidents and prime ministers that have come to power, despite party reluctance to nominate them in the first place.

 

One example of this is Eva Peron of Argentina, whose popularity surprised the Peronist party, matching if not exceeding that of her husband, Argentinean president Juan Peron. In the mid-1900s, at a time when women in Argentina did not even have the right to vote, the First Lady began addressing the public and advocating for female suffrage, which was achieved in 1947. In the first elections following female suffrage, in 1951, Juan Peron ran for re-election and a crowd of more than 2 million mostly working-class people gathered in front of the presidential office calling for Madame Peron to run for Vice president, chanting “Evita, Vice-Presidente!” and then “Ahora, Evita, ahora!” (“Now, Evita, now!”). Clearly there can be a significant gap between the practices of political elites and the readiness of the public to elect a female politician, as this incident illustrates. But such incongruities are gradually changing across the world as increasing numbers of minorities are able to access key political decision-making positions, due to political activism, lobbying, and the implementation of quotas.

 

To reiterate, while political parties can potentially collaborate with civil society, they can also operate in such a manner as to limit the representation of diverse views and interests. Larger and more established parties can and often do act as gatekeepers to exclude minorities or non-organized groups, mostly through the process of nominating particular members for specific political positions. The bottom line is that the people who run for office in any election are candidates by virtue of being selected to run by their party. This selection process has not generally been favorable to women party members. Proponents of gender parity in political systems need to have a clear understanding of party structures and operations in order to target party reform and see how parties can be made more receptive to women candidates.

 

Key Elements of Electoral Systems

As mentioned earlier, district magnitude, which refers to the number of seats up for election in a given district, is significant in that it directly affects the strategies that parties and candidates adopt in an election. District magnitude directly impacts the chances that may be afforded to women to be nominated as candidates. Single-member districts are represented by one parliamentarian, whereas multi-member districts are represented by more than one parliamentarian – which is to say they have a higher magnitude than single-member districts. Scholars argue that women have higher rates of nomination and election in multi-member districts (Rule and Zimmerman 1994). In other words, when parties can nominate more than one person, they are more likely to nominate a balanced slate in terms of sex. In fact, in contexts where gender equality has more currency, inclusion of a woman may be a party strategy to attract more votes. Conversely, research suggests that in single-member districts, parties tend to nominate male candidates due to assumptions of electoral liability of women candidates as discussed above. Also, male incumbents – MPs wanting to run for re-election – are often privileged over new female candidates, especially in single-member districts, where it is unlikely for a party to nominate a female candidate to run against a male incumbent. The higher the district magnitude, the more candidates fielded by each party for the district, the greater the likelihood that women may be put forward as candidates for attractive positions.

 

Related to district magnitude is party magnitude. This simply means that smaller, weaker parties may not be able to run candidates for all the available seats, while bigger, stronger parties have a better chance of winning more of the seats up for election in a given district and are thus less reluctant to field women candidates. Smaller parties that expect to win only a few seats tend to nominate leaders and high ranking party members, typically men, since women are considered risky candidates who may cost them even those few votes.

 

The formula used to allocate parliamentary seats, and the ballot structure, which defines how voters can express their choice, are the other elements of concern to us in the discussion of influences on women’s access to formal politics in democratic systems. Modern electoral systems use various formulas to allocate seats to parties; one is the simple-majority formula (used in so-called majoritarian systems) whereby the candidate who receives 50%+1 of votes (an absolutely majority) wins a parliamentary seat.

A more complex formula is one that establishes a quota of votes per seat, whereby for example the candidate that receives 35% of total votes allocated for that seat is directly elected to parliament, while a second round of elections is held between the remaining candidates until all of the seats in that district are filled.

 

Finally, the ballot structure defines how voters can express their choice. The way the ballot is structured shapes the level of choice given to the electorate and the degree of information provided to enable an informed vote.  Different types of ballots are associated with the various types of electoral systems. While some electoral systems require voters to vote for parties (and not individual candidates from within parties), others require voters to vote for individual candidates within parties. Thus, voters may be presented with a ballot that requires them to merely vote for a party with no choice on individual candidates, or one that allows them to vote for one or more individual candidates across parties. For instance, in the majoritarian system used for elections in the United States, voters choose one candidate from the few presented to them on the ballot (these candidates may be either a party nominee or an independent), while in Indonesia, since 2008 voters have the choice of either voting for a party, or for an individual candidate within a party list, or for both. Although voters are encouraged to vote for individual candidates rather than parties, the freedom to vote for a party instead allows less educated voters, who are often less familiar with individual candidates and more familiar with party platforms, to also express their wishes.

 

As is now clear, electoral systems comprise various elements and structures, all of which influence the degree of access women have to political representation. Gender quota advocates must pay close attention to these variable elements in order to achieve a “best-fit” quota system that works with a given electoral system and addresses the features that hinder women’s political representation. For example, in France, where the candidate with the absolute majority of the votes (50%+1) wins a seat, it is not effective to adopt a gender quota system that applies to party lists (or tickets), requiring half the candidates on a party’s lists to be female, since in France’s majoritarian system voters elect individuals rather than a party ticket. Unfortunately in France the women candidates put forth by their parties under the quota system were for districts that their parties considered unwinnable, as party leaders felt otherwise they risked losing seats.

 

The Three Dominant Electoral Systems

Having discussed the three main elements of electoral systems – the district magnitude, seat allocation formula, and ballot structure – it is now time to further discuss the three dominant electoral systems and some of their variations. As noted in the introduction to this chapter, electoral systems are broadly divided into three types, adopted either wholly or in some combination by contemporary representative democracies. These basic systems are:

 

Proportional Representation (PR):

This system generally applies to multimember districts represented by more than one Member of Parliament. In this system citizens often vote for political parties rather than individual candidates. Following an election, parties receive seats in proportion to the overall share of votes they obtained – for example a party that receives 20 percent of the vote in a given riding/district is allocated 20 percent of the parliamentary seats for that riding or district, and so on. Thus more than one party may have members of parliament elected in a given riding, with the party with the most votes holding most of the seats for that riding. Generally in these types of systems the party with the largest percentage of seats forms the government. Countries that use this system include Sweden, Argentina, and Indonesia.

 

Majoritarian/Plurality Systems:

These systems mostly apply to single member districts (SMD), which elect only one representative per district and where the candidate with the most votes wins the parliamentary seat for that district. This parliamentary system often leads to large numbers of citizens feeling that their views are not represented in parliament. Research from various countries indicates that this system gives less opportunity for women to run as candidates since parties tend to put forward well-connected middle and upper-class male candidates to maximize the perceived odds of winning the seat. Countries that use this system include the United States, the United Kingdom, and India.

 

Mixed System:

This is a system which mixes the features of both proportional representation and majoritarian/plurality systems. For instance, this could include allotting half of the parliamentary seats to be filled using the proportional representation system, while the other half is filled using the majoritarian/plurality system. Some of the countries that use mixed systems are Germany, Mexico, and Philippines.

 

It is important to keep in mind that within each of these three basic systems there are variations. As stated earlier, each system – proportional representation, majoritarian/plurality, and mixed – has implications for women’s political representation. A more detailed discussion presented below of their general characteristics will help to identify why and how each systems supports or obstructs the degree to which women are able to access the formal political structure.

 

Proportional Representation (PR)

Under the proportional representation (PR) system, each party presents a list of candidates for a multi-member district to the electorate (though there may also be non-aligned independents running for seats). Within the most common form of PR, seats are allotted to each party relative to the percentage of the total votes that they receive. The principle is that the parliament will accurately reflect the choices and preferences of the electorate – in other words, mirror the various groups, interests, and demands of the citizenry. This system is considered to be the most favorable to women’s representation in parliaments, because the associated electoral elements (namely, district and party magnitudes, the formula used in allocation of seats, and the ballot structure) are more responsive to increasing women’s access to political participation. For instance, district magnitude is largest in PR systems, increasing women’s chances for nomination as they are less likely to be considered “risky” candidates by their parties. Perhaps more significantly, in this system parties are more likely to include gender-balanced lists of candidates as a strategy to appeal to women (who make up at least 50% of the electorate). Since PR means that parties run more than one representative per riding, they can “afford” to include women candidates.

 

Often, in response to increased activism on the part of more marginalized social groups, a political party will attempt to appeal to a wider spectrum of voters than a competing party by nominating candidates whose profiles accord with the gender, class, or ethnicity of a particular constituency. For example, in the 1970s in Norway and the 1980s in Germany, Green and Leftist parties voluntarily adopted gender quotas. The parties’ successes in elections encouraged the more main-stream and conservative parties to adopt similar policies in order not to lose votes. Therefore, by the mid-1980s, party quotas became increasingly common in these two states as a strategy to attract women’s votes.

 

Within the PR system, voters are not forced to choose “either/or”, as they do in a single-member constituency, but can vote for multiple representatives, which decreases competition between female and male candidates. Statistically the adoption of the PR system correlates with a relatively high proportion of women in the legislatures of Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands, while its termination in France in 1958 may have contributed to the decline in women’s representation in the French National Assembly. In fact, political scientists point to France as an illustration of the impact of a proportional representation system on women’s representation. The level of elected women parliamentarians in France dropped from 5.7 to 1.5 percent when in 1958 the electoral system changed from a PR system to a majoritarian system. Scholars agree that the modification of the electoral system was among the main factors that led to this drop, as parties were unwilling to nominate many women under the majoritarian system.

 

Aside from higher district and party magnitudes, both of which enhance women’s representation, the PR system can also easily incorporate a gender quota into its structure. The two basic types of PR system are: List proportional representation (List PR) and single transferable vote (STV) systems (O’Neal 1993), both of which are discussed here. List Proportional Representation (List PR): Under proportional representation systems political parties present the electorate with either closed or open lists, and each has significant implications for the election of women. In closed party lists, political parties rank candidates, without input from the electorate. In this system, depending on the proportion of the votes received for the entire party in a given district, seats are allocated from the top of the list, moving towards the bottom. If for example a party receives 25 percent of the votes in a district, the highest ranked 25 percent of its candidates for that district get elected to the parliament. A major criticism of this system is that too much power lies in the hands of the political parties, which determine the ranking order and thus the order in which candidates’ names appear on the list. The candidates named at the top of the list, usually male, have better chances of acquiring seats – in a sense restricting voters’ choice and rendering the ballot less meaningful. However, closed lists can be argued to be more woman-friendly than open lists if parties abide by a gender quota in addition to a rank order rule, such as the provision that was temporarily adopted in Indonesia. In this case, parties are required to field a minimum number of female candidates, and to place them in winnable positions; this way a set number of women are

guaranteed seats in the legislature.

 

Open party lists or “free lists” are generally considered to be more democratic than closed lists since they allow individual voters to choose a specific candidate regardless of his or her party ranking. With open lists individual candidates receiving the highest percentage of votes in proportion to the total party vote in a given district are granted seats (O’Neal 1993). Depending on the specific allocation formula, voters cast ballots for candidates only, or for both a party and a candidate by voting twice. For instance, if a party receives 25 percent of the total vote in a district, 25 percent of the candidates that received the highest preferential votes will be elected. It is argued that under this system, elected representatives are more accountable to constituents, who directly select individual parliamentarians.

 

Single Transferable Vote System (STV):

The second type of PR system, or the single transferable vote system, emphasizes voting for the individual candidate rather than the party (although a party-list option is possible). Similar to open party lists, this system also grants voters freedom of choice in electing individual candidates, rather than entire parties, by enabling them to rank candidates according to their preference. Thus, if in a multimember district five candidates are running for a total of three seats, voters are asked to vote for three candidates according to their preference. Once a vote threshold is set, those candidates who receive the threshold in the first round are declared elected and all excess votes are redistributed or transferred to other candidates according to the percentage of second choice that the voters marked. This process continues, until three candidates are elected (O’Neal 1993).

 

The significant aspect of single transferable vote system is that it encourages the electorate to vote for any candidate of their choice, with little fear of wasting their vote if they vote for a female candidate. Wasted votes are votes that were cast for the losing candidate (individual or party). A desirable electoral system is one that systematically reduces the amount of wasted votes mostly through incorporation of rules that enable the voters to choose a candidate that he or she truly desires. The higher the amount of wasted votes the more the electorate loses confidence in the democratic process, since their votes made no difference. Under this system, voters mostly vote for candidates rather than party lists, although a party-list option is available. Due to such emphasis on individual candidates rather than party lists, particularly closed party lists, those elected according to STV system tend to be more responsive to the electorate than the party, since voters have much control over who specifically gets elected.

 

This pattern of preferential voting can also send a message to parties and the state by providing better indication the electorate’s likelihood to vote for a minority. Voters who might otherwise be reluctant to vote for women or minorities for fear they would not be elected in any case in this system are confident that in such an event their vote then goes to their second choice, then third choice, and so on. In other words, their preferences are ranked on their ballot and this information paints a picture of the views of the electorate. Women are thus more likely to get elected under an STV system. STV is most often used in districts with lower magnitudes (districts with less than four seats) due to the difficulty in ranking larger numbers of candidates. However, with the increasing use of computerized ballot counting this system is becoming increasingly viable and in many instances electoral reformers are advocating for STV so that the votes of women, minorities, and the citizenry will actually impact the final make up of parliament and better express their wishes.

 

In general, under proportional representation systems voter turnout tends to be higher as the electorate feels its votes are meaningful. PR also supports the formation of smaller parties alongside larger mainstream ones, which in turn supports representation of a wider spectrum of public opinion. Most importantly, in terms of the concern for gender representative political structures, PR has the potential to provide the greatest opportunities for legislative representation of women and minority groups. However, as suggested by a 1991 report of the Canadian Royal Commission on Electoral Reform, even more important than PR for women’s representation is the use of gender quotas within political parties. “In this respect, the behavior of political parties, especially in List PR systems, is crucial to women’s ability to gain seats in elected assemblies,” (O’Neal 1993). The Commission also re-affirmed findings that PR systems without gender quotas have similar or worse results for women’s representation than non-PR systems. In fact, the most effective system for ensuring women’s representation is the List PR system, with large district magnitudes that also incorporates a quota regulation; for example 30% of seats allocated to each party must go to women. Although some parties have voluntarily adopted such quotas, they can also be legislated by the state, whereby those parties that do not abide by quotas can be legally sanctioned.

 

Majoritarian/Plurality Systems

The second most common electoral system is the majoritarian/plurality system, which is often used for elections in single-member districts (SMD), with the exception of Bloc Vote (BV) which is used for multi-member districts. Under this system, the winning candidates must either receive an absolute majority vote, or a plurality of votes, depending on the country context (Rule 1994). An absolute majority vote refers to the number of votes that constitute more than half of the total of all members of a group (50% + 1 of the votes), while plurality (simple majority) refers to the highest number of votes received by the leading candidate in an election between three or more candidates. Since competition is between individual candidates rather than party lists, women are particularly disadvantaged within these systems. The primary limitations to women’s access to politics is overarching male domination in the political arena, and political parties are less willing to support women’s electoral campaigns when they have to nominate them against male contenders. These realities, plus the fact that women have less material and social capital and also face cultural and religious obstacles, mean that women are systematically disadvantaged in electoral competitions under this system. There are various forms of majoritarian-plurality systems – each of which has bearing on the levels of democracy and women’s representation. In the following section we discuss those types that have the most impact on women’s representation, which is the primary concern of this work.

 

First Past the Post (FPTP):

The simplest majoritarian system is the First Past the Post (FPTP) system, used in single-member district elections where voters cast a ballot for one candidate among the several from different parties who may be competing, and the candidate with the highest number of votes is the winner. Canada, India and United States are examples of countries that use the FPTP system for their parliamentary elections. When more than two candidates compete in a FPTP election, the winner is not required to secure majority of the votes (simply the highest amount of votes is sufficient).

 

Block Vote (BV):

When the simplest marjoritarian system is used in multimember districts, it becomes the Block Vote (BV), in which voters vote for as many individuals are there are seats to be filled. They may vote for individuals from different parties or may choose to vote for candidates from a single party. The winning candidates are those with the highest number of votes (plurality).

 

Party Block Vote (PBV):

The Block Vote system – with the modification that voters vote for party lists instead of individual candidates – is referred to as the Party Block Vote (PBV). The party with the most votes wins all the seats in the district, and its list of candidates is adopted accordingly. In these systems candidates with highest votes (plurality) will be elected (ACE Project 2008). The majoritarian electoral system includes two other voting schemes. These are the Alternative Vote (AV) and the Two-Round System (TRS), both of which intend to ensure an absolute majority for the winning candidate (50% +1 of total votes). Hence, voters vote for individuals rather than for political parties.

 

Alternative Vote (AV):

Under the Alternative Vote system, which applies to single-member districts, voters’ second preferences are utilized to produce a winner with an absolute majority if one does not emerge from the first round of voting (ACE Project 2008). Hence, under this preferential voting system, if no candidate achieves an absolute majority of first preferences, the least successful candidates are eliminated and their votes reallocated according to their second preferences until one candidate has an absolute majority. Australia and Fiji use the Alternative Vote systems for their parliamentary elections, while the president of Ireland is also elected according to this system. In 2011, UK will hold a referendum to reform its electoral system from a FPTP system to the Alternative Vote.

 

Two-Round System (TRS):

Under the Two-Round System (TRS), voters cast their first ballot by choosing one candidate among several. If a candidate in the first round of elections receives an absolute majority (50% + 1 of the vote), he or she is directly elected to the parliament. However, if no candidate receives this percentage, a second election is held between the two candidates with the best showing (O’Neal 1993). A rare variation of TRS results in plurality voting, in that more than two candidates compete in the second round of elections, and the candidate that simply receives the most votes (simple majority as opposed to absolute majority) is elected. This system can be applied either to single or multi-member districts and is used by countries like Iran, France, Cuba, and Egypt for their parliamentary elections (ACE Project 2008).

Although the main advantages of these two majoritarian systems is that voters can better present their preferences through rankings or having a second chance at voting, which in turn enhances the level of democracy, the competitive nature of this system can negatively impact women’s access to politics, due to the barriers they continue to face. As mentioned previously, these include institutional obstacles such as campaign financing and cultural obstacles including gender roles. Since majoritarian systems involve more competition between individuals than do proportional representation systems, women are disproportionately disadvantaged in such systems. Overall, while majoritarian/plurality systems are lauded for their simplicity and the governability of the specific geographic constituencies they engender, whereby elected candidates are accountable to those constituencies, women and minorities do face bigger challenges in gaining access to politics under these systems.

 

Mixed Systems

The systems described thus far have various advantages and disadvantages in terms of women’s access to formal political power, as well as in levels of democratic representation generally. For these reasons, some jurisdictions combine aspects of both proportional representation and majoritarian/plurality systems to achieve the benefits of both. In Germany, for instance, half of the seats of the Bundestag (the lower house of parliament) are filled through List PR, and the rest are filled by plurality, using single-member constituencies. Voters make two parallel marks on the ballots, one for the party list, and the other for the individual candidate (O’Neal 1993).

 

Parallel System:

This is the most common form of mixed systems. As in the German case, under the parallel system, two different elections are held in parallel but independent to each other; one according to PR system and the other according to majoritarian/plurality system. The sole purpose of parallel is to combine the benefits of the two dominant systems, and its results usually fall somewhere in between majoritarian/plurality and PR systems (ACE Project 2008). Mixed systems tend to enhance women’s access to politics through the proportionally represented seats, though it can be argued that the majoritarian/plurality elections may negatively impact women’s representation.

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