What is Political Participation?

Article by Matthew Jacob

Article by Matthew Jacob

How and why do people get elected in different countries? Although each person of good standing may have a vote, the structure of a country’s government and electoral system can drastically affect outcomes and even who has the possibility of winning. A county’s political participation often depends on how they structure their elections. Why do some countries have two parties? One party? Multiple parties? While the answer to this can lie deep within the historical perceptions of a county’s image, a large factor is how the electoral system has evolved within that specific country.

The formation of a two party or multi-party system can in part be explained by Duverger’s law. Duverger’s law states two hypotheses.  The first hypothesis is that plurality elections tend to favor a two-party political system.  The Second Hypothesis is that a double ballot and proportional representation tend to favor and help create a multi-party system. Duverger’s law specifies among three types of electoral systems, and although these systems are not exhaustive they do represent a majority of elections. They include: plurality voting, runoff majority voting and proportional representation.

A plurality voting can be described as a winner-takes-all election. The candidate who receives the most number of votes wins the election, while the second place finisher gets nothing.  This system is common in the Canadian Lowe House, India, The United Kingdom, and the United States of America. Another way to describe this system is voting is the “first past the post.” This is an allusion to horse racing, where the first candidate to pass a certain mark, such as two hundred and seventy electoral votes in the presidential election, wins.  As long as the candidate can garner more than fifty percent of the vote they will win.

The runoff majority voting entails three or more candidates with two rounds of voting. The winners of the fist ballot are the two people that receive the highest number of votes. Then there is a second round of voting between the winners of the first round, of which everyone can take part of, where the winner is decided.  In the second round of voting the voters are free to change their decision.  This type of election is common in many countries including: France, Austria, Brazil and Argentina.  The third type of election is proportional voting. In this electoral system, used to elect assemblies, the number of seats the party or candidates win is proportional to the amount of votes they receive. So if a party receives thirty percent of the vote they have won thirty percent of seats in the assembly.

These electoral systems help create the political climates that are different in every country. If a country uses plurality voting it is common for a two party system to prevail since to gain a majority every one different parties must unite so they do not split the vote.  While counties who use runoff majority voting and proportional voting create two multiparty systems because smaller parties have a greater chance of winning an elections because they can split the vote between faction parties and still have a chance to win the election or a percentage of the legislative seats. So a country’s electoral system is a determining factor in how many parties can successfully operate in the government.

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