Institutional factors

Having surveyed some of the relevant literature that focuses on the political and institutional factors, it is possible to identify a set of variables that I intend to test empirically. They are as follows:

Electoral system

According to Farrell (2001, p. 4), the electoral system is defined as “the means by which votes are translated into seats in the process of electing politicians into office”. A good number of comparative studies have succeeded in showing that the electoral system impacts on political participation, particularly as it relates to turnout (Franklin, 2002; Norris, 2002). The argument here is that cross-national differences in turnout can be explained by the type of electoral system that is adopted by a country. What kind of electoral system is theorised to positively affect citizens’ desire to participate? The literature suggests that proportional electoral systems (i.e. PR systems) are most likely to have a positive effect on voters’ turnout, as opposed to majoritarian or plurality systems (Blais and Aarts, 2006), with Blais and Carty (1990) proposing this is because PR systems tend to reduce distortion in the conversion of ballots into seats. Essentially, proportional systems tend to enhance the likelihood that a single vote might contribute to the election of a winning candidate, so there is a greater incentive to vote. Similarly, Ladner and Milner (1999) argue that majoritarian electoral systems tend to hinder electoral participation for two reasons: First, supporters or voters of a previously defeated party may either stay away from the election since they consider their vote to have no effect on the election.

Second, they argue that majoritarian electoral systems tend to hinder voting because previously defeated parties may reduce their mobilisational efforts. With regards to these considerations, therefore, the theoretical proposition which I will make is that we expect proportional representation to enhance people’s propensity to vote. This is supported by the fact that PR systems encourage citizens to vote since they know that votes transfer more directly into party representation and they thus perceive the system as fair (Endersby and Krieckhaus, 2008, p. 602; Stockemer, 2015). Based on this reasoning, I hypothesise a positive relationship between the level of proportionality of an electoral system and the propensity of voters to participate in elections. However, taking into consideration that a bulk of these studies were conducted in Western democracies, we cannot be sure that in new democracies we are still going to find such as strong correlation between the electoral system variable and voter turnout, given the newness of the electoral systems in these countries.27

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