Electoral system design? Assessing the evidence for the standard advice
Loeb, Brian S.
- Submitted in partial fulfillment of the degree of Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. A country_ï¿½_s electoral system guides how its citizens vote and how those votes are translated into political power, specifically through the allocation of seats in parliament. Many scholars and practitioners of democratization and development promote certain ... read moremodifications of electoral systems as means to reduce internal conflict, increase women_ï¿½_s political participation, and deepen democracy. At the same time, though, some of these very scholars and practitioners recognize the endogenous nature of electoral system change: like any set of rules, these reforms are the outcome of elite bargaining, public pressure, and societal constraints. Unfortunately, this contradiction goes largely unaddressed, and is certainly unresolved, in the literature on electoral systems. In this paper I make an attempt _ï¿½ï¿½ and I encourage other attempts _ï¿½ï¿½ to fill this gap. After reviewing the literature on electoral systems, I focus on one supposed outcome of electoral reform, increased women_ï¿½_s political participation. Using a System Dynamics computer model, I illustrate the many factors identified by scholars as intermediaries of the effects of electoral systems. Then I turn to an econometric methodology: I replicate the approach of a prominent scholar, and I find both the social science assumptions and the dataset used across the field to be flawed. Finally, I perform a case study of the recent and ongoing electoral reform in Nepal. I find what my earlier theoretical and quantitative research suggested: electoral systems are but a small part of the political process and unlikely to be determinative for any purported outcome. This paper urges caution by both scholars and practitioners against generalizing knowledge about electoral systems and applying it uncritically in each new context.read less