Friday, 2 November 2012

Development of Political Parties and Design of Electoral System

The establishment of state and its democratic regime will cultivate the rise of political parties and politicians and the running for elections within the national border. Electoral system provides rule-based mechanism on transforming voters’ preferences into seats in the national assembly. However, political parties are seen as the main players and a vehicle that office seekers have to integrate themselves into political parties in order to get nominations for elections. For a newly democratic state, there are a lot of works to be done such as the selection of electoral system, the establishment of electoral institution and electoral rules, and constituencies and the electorates. Furthermore states are normally troubled with the problem of ethnicity and diverse cultures, and the fragmentation of territoriality and political cleavage, all of which are affecting the process of making decisions to choose the best electoral system for the country in order to maintain harmony, ethnic representation, and national unity. Then, nationalization of politics is needed in order to integrate all issues into national standard and to ensure the success of national election.  Electoral system and political parties have become a subject of serious discussion by many scholars in designing of electoral system and conducting the nationalization of politics. Three scholars, namely Daniele Caramani, Charles Boix, and Kathleen Bawn, have made valuable contribution on these issues.

I.                   Issues of importance
1.         Nationalization of politics
2.        Choice of electoral systems in advanced democracy
3.         The logic of institutional preferences

     1.      Daniele Caramani. Nationalization of politics
-        This is to attest to a general process of national political integration, that is, an evolution toward the nationalization or homogenization of politics. The transformation of territorial structures of electoral behavior in most European countries is characterized by the progressive reduction of territorial diversity in the 19th and 20th centuries. This has led to the increasing integration peripheral electorates into national political life and the transformation of local electorates and segmented party systems into national electoral constellations.  

-  The process of political integration through nation-wide functional alignment and the development of central party organizations translate in the territorial homogenization of electoral behavior, both electoral participation and the support for the main party family. This means that the formation of national electorates and party system is not only a crucial aspect of the construction of national political spaces and of the structuring of party systems, but also the development of political democratic citizenship. The nationalization of electoral alignments and political parties pave the way for the transition from a fragmented and clientelistic type of politics, dominated by local political personalities, to national representation.

-    This process of nationalization of electorates and party systems has been the result of the hegemony of the left-right cleavage over ethno-linguistic, religious, center-periphery, and urban-rural cleavages – that is, the main pre-industrial cleavages.  

-     The structuring of the space of political systems is considered in two main dimensions (external boundaries and internal political structuring) both of which are defined in terms of territoriality and functionality:

·    (External) boundary-building: defines the external borders of the space and occur along two dimensions: (1) territorial physical boundary-building and (2) functional socio-cultural boundary-building.

·       (Internal) political-institutional structuring: the internal structuring of the political space is defined by (1) the development of institutions for the channeling of voice and (2) political cleavages.

-    In short, from territorial politics to functional politics. According to the evolution of nationalization in Europe from the 19th century, the transition from territorial to functional politics is typical of forming democratic institutional system.

     2.      Charles Boix. The Choice of Electoral Systems in Advanced Democracies
-     His main argument is that electoral systems derive from the decisions that the ruling parties make to maximize their representation according to the following conditions. As long as the electoral arena continues to be the same and the current electoral regime benefits the ruling parties, the electoral system is not altered. As the electoral arena changes (due to the entry of new parties or a change in voters’ preferences), the ruling parties modify the electoral system, depending on the emergence of new parties and the coordinating capacities of the old parties. For example, when the new parties are strong, the old parties shift from plurality/majority to proportional representation if no old parties enjoys a dominant position. However, they do not do this if there is dominant old party. When new entrants are weak, a system of non-proportional representation is maintained, regardless of the structure of the old party system. 

-     Four different phenomena may lead to transformation of the political arena: the extension of universal suffrage, the introduction of competitive elections, a massive political realignment among voters, and a high turnover in party organizations.

-         The degree to which the ruling parties decide to modify the current electoral rules depend on the extent to which the latter undermine the former’s political viability in the new electoral arena. In turn, this is a function of two main conditions: the strength of the new parties and the capacity of the old ruling parties to coordinate among themselves to block the growth of new parties.

-       However, the choice of an electoral system in a developing country that embraces democracy for the first time or after a very long period of authoritarianism may not those conditions as stated above. So, prediction about that choice ought to change as follows. First, under the conditions of very high uncertainty about the structure of the electoral arena, the ruling elite will select the system most likely to minimize risks. Second, if parties are collections of local notables, then there may be an incentive to embrace single –member districts or multi-member districts in which voters have as many votes as seats. Third, the choice of electoral systems is likely to be affected by the type of transition to democracy. Finally, given that newly democratizing countries vote a new constitution ex nihilo, the electoral law will be shaped by the broad constitutional framework (the power of executive and assembly and the level of decentralization) finally chosen.

-    To sum up, electoral systems derive from the decisions that the ruling parties make to maximize their representation.   

3.   Kathleen Bawn. The logic of institutional preference
-    This essay develops a model in which electoral institutions result from a bargain between parties with different policy preferences. The goal of this paper is to show that political aspect of institutional choice is important. It explores the hypothesis that participants in the choice of institutions seek alternatives that favor their desired policies. This hypothesis explains both the adoption of proportional representation in 1949 and the switch to a two-vote ballot in 1953.

-     The current electoral system of Germany is the product of innovative designing of electoral law in the former West Germany. The West German electoral law is an attempt to get the best electoral system in the world. It is designed to meet the chief objections levied both against single-member constituencies and against proportional representation. This system might be adopted in terms of the common good rather than partisan politics. In designing the electoral system for Germany, two basic objectives were set. The first objective was to re-establish the system of proportional representation used during the Weimar Republic. The second objective was to construct a system of single-member districts, like those in the United States. This combination would create a strong electoral system and to ensure greater accountability of representatives to their electoral districts.  

-     The preference revealed by parties’ positions on electoral systems support Riker’s (1980) claim that disagreement over policy choices will create disagreement over institutional choices. The disagreement in society that creates the need to establish institutions creates disagreement about which alternative institutions should be established.

-   Riker (1980) argued that because institutions are themselves endogenous products of potentially chaotic social choices, they cannot be relied upon to prevent chaos in social choice situations. The chaos of the policy choice would be “inherited” by the process of choosing institutions.

-      However, Shepsle (1980) has contrast views from Riker despite supporting the logic behind his claim. Shepsle pointed out that institutional choices are decided separately from policy choices. Because institutional choices are structured by existing institutions, inheritability need not result in instability.
-   Electoral systems can be explained as a social choice, affected by the interests of the participants and by the institutions that structure the choice.

-     Therefore, institutional choices are political choices which are the logic behind of institutional preferences.

II.     Conclusion
-     Carle Boix:  has only provided the theoretical foundation on the choice of electoral systems in advanced democracy, not in the developing countries which are the new democracies. To him, the ruling party is at the centre of making decision on choice of electoral system. He did not take into account of the opposition party and the civil society. In fact, the opposition and the civil society are making the political bargaining and also putting pressure on the ruling party to correctly design a fair system which is acceptable for all, not just the ruling party itself. Without their support, democratic game is over.

-      Kathleen Bawn: unlike Carle Boix, Kathleen Bawn have broader views on who will make decision institutional choice, that is, not only the ruling parties, but other concerned parties and individuals also take part in a rational bargain with their own chances of participating in government. Nonetheless, two questions remain unsolved: how do they negotiate and how the decision is made?. Although a she has developed a model of the choice of electoral institutions, she did not mention on what constitute party’s preference besides policy consequence.  

-       Daniele Caramani: provided a theory-based research on political cleavages by including in the analysis on the sources of diversity, variation, and discontinuity among European party systems. Caramani also tried to demonstrate that national electoral behavior and party systems are also the result of parties’ competitive strategies aimed at expanding through territory in search of electoral support. Thus, his work is trying to combine a bottom-up perspective with a top-down approach with actor at the center.  However, Caramani did not discuss the pattern of nationalization as most countries in Europe have tried to develop their own electoral systems and political institutions based on their different social and political cleavages, and diverse cultures and religions. For example, the process of nationalization of politics in Great Britain might be different from that of Germany in the 19th and early 20th century.   


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