Implementing Gender Quotas: Spotlight on Sudan
Comparison of PR and Majoritarian Electoral Systems
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Lessons Learned From Other Countries

Proportional Representation (PR)

Majoritarian, plurality-based “First Past the Post” (FPTP)

  • Tend to have a larger district magnitude (the number of seats in one district) and this enables a greater number of contestants and parties to compete, because seats are allocated proportionally, the larger the number of possible seats to allocate, the greater the chances are for minorities, (particularly women candidates) to win seats.
  • Multiparty system
  • PR electoral systems with low electoral thresholds enable more parties to participate in parliament, creating a large party system. With a greater number of parties participating, achieving consensus and coalition building can be a challenge, and larger parties may have to make concessions to minority fringe parties to form and preserve coalitions. This can encourage greater extremism and instability.
  • Slower decision-making with multiple parties could lead to infighting, deadlock and political instability.
  • Multi-party systems can serve as a check against the abuse of political power by any one faction.
  • Research on the practical application of quotas shows that it is easier to implement quotas in  countries with a PR electoral system because the political costs for nominating a woman candidate would be lower in PR systems given that the party would have several slots from which it could find room to do so.

 

  • Duverger’s Law: usually two parties dominate the party system.
  • The winner-take-all aspect of the electoral system discourages voters from “wasting” their votes for third parties that are unlikely to win the plurality necessary. Instead voters resort to tactical voting in which individuals vote for the largest, more successful party. This poses an unfair disadvantage to smaller, or minority parties
  • Since the number of cleavages tends to parallel the number of political parties in a system, this system would not be ideal for a divided society that has many divergent cleavages
  • The presence of the “swing voter” or the moderate middle tends to moderate parties’ ideology, pushing them towards the center. This prevents extremism, and tends to produce more stable governments.

 

Sources:

Reilly, Ben (2002). “Electoral Systems for Divided Societies.” Journal of Democracy. 13, 2

 

Lijphart, Arendt (1999). Patterns of Democracy. New Haven: Yale University Press

 

Powell, Bingham (1982). Contemporary Democracies. Cambridge: Harvard University Press

 

Shepsle, Kenneth and Mark Bonchek (1997). Analyzing Politics. New York: W.W. Norton and Company

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