Israel held elections to its parliament, the Knesset, on March 28, 2006. Frequently held up as an example of why not to adopt proportional voting, Israel's election system, critics argue, tends to produce unstable, unworkable governing coalitions. But this tendency has less to do with proportional voting than the form Israel has chosen to use, in tandem with its wider political environment. This report focuses on the effects of Israel's low electoral threshold and closed party list system.
Ukraine held elections to its parliament in March 2006. It was that country's first use of a fully proportional electoral system. The 1998 and 2002 elections used a parallel system in which half of seats were elected in single-member plurality districts. This paper analyzes the proportionality of results in historical perspective as well as turnout and number of effective votes. Institutional challenges and potential remedies are described. Choices about electoral institutions have important consequences for political outcomes in a representative democracy.
Palestine held elections to its Legislative Council on January 25, 2006. In that vote, Change and Reform (Hamas) took power away from the governing Fatah movement, winning 75 of 132 seats. Some commentators declared this a sweeping mandate for Hamas, speculating especially on what the power shift means for Israeli-Palestinian relations, but the election results are not an accurate reflection of popular opinion. Instead, the election system itself is at least as important as popular opinion in determining the makeup of the Council.
Iraq's December 2005 parliamentary elections were contested by 230 parties and 21 coalitions, all vying for seats in the first full-term, four-year parliament since the beginning of the 2003 war in Iraq. Authorities conducted the election using a new proportional voting system in which parties fielded candidates for parliament in each of Iraq’s 18 provinces under 18 different ballots using regional party lists. Additionally, the parliament consists of 275 seats, with 45 elected as "compensatory seats" to parties that did not win seats under the regional list elections but won enough votes nationally to cross the threshold for a seat at the national level.
The results of Japan’s September 2005 parliamentary elections have been held up by the Japanese media as demonstrating a stunning mandate for Prime Minster Junichiro Koizumi, leader of the nation’s Liberal Democratic Party. FairVote’s analysis of the election results, however, indicates that this mandate was far from clear, with Koizumi’s party in fact winning just 38% of the popular vote. As our International Spotlight research series demonstrates, time and again, a nation’s choice of electoral system often has just as much impact on the election results, as candidate or party popularity and other factors.
The Shrinking Battleground uses a model of “state partisanship” to explain why the United States has experienced a decrease in the number of competitive battleground states in presidential elections, how these partisan divisions are hardening and what impact they have on American democracy. The fundamental reality is that fewer and fewer Americans play a meaningful role in electing the president – and that the major party campaigns act on that understanding with utter disregard for the interests and views of most voters outside of swing states. The result is a two-tiered system for voters, with damaging impact on voter turnout, racial fairness, political equality and the future of American democracy. The mounting evidence makes it clear that the solution is to establish a direct election of the president so that all votes count equally and the principles of majority rule and one person, one vote are respected.
The Electoral College is more than just an antiquated anachronism that can misfire and elect the candidate who loses the national vote; it has come to establish and entrench political inequality. If not reformed, the Electoral College will relegate two-thirds of Americans to the sidelines during presidential elections for years to come.