The Department of Government
The Department of Government
Electoral Systems and Political Context

Electoral Systems and Political Context: How the Effects of Rules Vary Across New and Established Democracies

Rob Moser’s undergraduate courses on Russian politics and graduate courses on democratization have long been favorites at The University of Texas at Austin. His latest book, Electoral Systems and Political Context: How the Effects of Rules Vary Across New and Established Democracies, coauthored with Ethan Scheiner, a professor at the University of California, Davis, is a tour-de-force in the study of electoral systems.

Electoral Systems and Political Context illustrates how political and social context conditions the effects of electoral rules. The book examines electoral behavior and outcomes in countries that use "mixed-member" electoral systems – where voters cast one ballot for a party list under proportional representation (PR) and one for a candidate in a single member district (SMD). Based on comparisons of outcomes under the two different rules used in mixed-member systems, the book highlights how electoral systems' effects – especially strategic voting, the number of parties, and women's representation – tend to be different in new democracies from what one usually sees in established democracies. Moreover, electoral systems such as SMDs are usually presumed to constrain the number of parties irrespective of the level of social diversity, but this book demonstrates that social diversity frequently shapes party fragmentation even under such restrictive rules.

"This is the most important study to date on the most widespread electoral reform phenomenon of the 1990s and the first decade of this century – mixed-member systems. Moser and Scheiner take nothing for granted. They subject everything we thought we knew about the effects of electoral rules to renewed scrutiny. In the process, they turn much of the conventional wisdom on its head, and they set a new standard for scholarship on institutional design in new democracies." - John Carey, Dartmouth College

"Electoral Systems and Political Context makes a profound contribution to the advancement of the electoral systems literature. Moser and Scheiner adroitly take advantage of the unique natural experiment that exists within many of the world's diverse population of mixed-member electoral systems to better understand how the political context within which electoral rules operate influences their impact on key aspects of the political system such as party fragmentation and women's representation." - Mark P. Jones, Rice University

"In a series of impressive chapters, Moser and Scheiner show how political and social contexts shape the effects of electoral rules on the number of parties, the disproportionality of vote-seat representation, strategic voting, women's representation, and other political outcomes. They show that many of the generalizations in the current literature hold only in particular conditions. In other conditions we expect and find different outcomes. I expect Electoral Systems and Political Context to become a classic." - G. Bingham Powell, Jr., University of Rochester

"Moser and Scheiner force us to reconsider the conditions under which electoral system expectations to play out in practice. The book's scope is global and its quantitative analysis is at the level of individual districts and legislators – the level at which many key hypotheses about electoral systems logically should be tested, but seldom are. This book will be of interest not only to specialists in electoral systems but also to a broader readership in comparative politics." - Matthew S. Shugart, University of California, San Diego

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