WHAT IS AN ELECTORAL SYSTEM?

According to Heywood (2013), “an electoral system is a set of rules that governs the conduct of elections.” In different countries, these set of rules vary in many different ways. However, in general, electoral systems can be classified into two broad categories depending on how they convert votes into seats: majoritarian systems and proportional representation (PR) systems.

Under a majoritarian electoral system, the candidate with the most votes in a race is declared as the winner. This system is employed in the United Kingdom, Canada, Malaysia, and India among others. Meanwhile, under a PR system, the number of seats a party gets is proportional to the votes they garnered in the elections. Some countries that use a form of PR system are Belgium, Indonesia, Luxembourg, Switzerland, and Brazil. 

However, there are also systems that seek to combine the positive characteristics of majoritarian and PR systems. They are called the mixed systems. Under mixed systems, both majoritarian and PR systems are being used to determine the winners of the elections. The most popular mixed electoral systems are parallel voting and mixed-member proportional representation. Examples of countries that use mixed systems are Germany, the Philippines, Japan, and New Zealand.

According to the International Institute of Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA), 39% of the countries around the world utilize some form of the majoritarian electoral system in electing their legislatures. This was followed by the PR system with 38% and mixed systems with 17%. The remainder were either classified as using other electoral systems (3%) or having no elections at all (3%). 

 


 

Sources: 

Heywood, A. (2013). Politics (Fourth Edition ed.). Palgrave Macmillan.

ACE Electoral Knowledge Network. (n.d.). Electoral Systems. Retrieved from http://aceproject.org/ace-en/topics/es/esd/esd03/default

International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA). (2015, November 05). Electoral Systems for National Legislation. Retrieved from https://www.idea.int/news-media/media/electoral-systems-national-legislation