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Members accountable to constituency concerns

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members accountable to constituency concerns. Conventional wisdom suggests thatthere is greater incentive for constituency service in single-member districts thanin large multi-member constituencies.Responsive government, and responsive members, depend upon the rate of poten-tial seat turnover, and a delicate two-party equilibrium. If substantial numbers ofgovernment back-benchers have majorities of, say, under 10 percent over theirnearest rival, a relatively modest swing of the vote could easily bring the oppositioninto power. Although governments have a parliamentary majority to take tough andeffective decisions, they knew that their power could easily be withdrawn at thenext election. By contrast, proponents argue, in systems with coalition governmentseven if the public becomes dissatisfied with particular parties they have less powerto determine their fate. The process of coalition-building after the result, not theelection per se, determines the allocation of seats in cabinet.Fairness to Minor PartiesFor advocates of majoritarian elections, responsible party government takes prece-dence over the inclusion of all parties in strict proportion to their share of the vote.In this view the primary purpose of general elections is for parliament to function asan indirect electoral college which produces an effective, stable government. The waythat the system penalizes minor parties can be seen by proponents as a virtue. Itprevents fringe groups on the extreme right or left from acquiring representative legit-imacy, thereby avoiding a fragmented parliament full of "fads and faddists." Yet atthe same time, if the electorate becomes divided between three or four parties compet-ing nationwide, the disproportionality of the electoral system becomes far harder tojustify. Smaller parties which consistently come second or third are harshly penalized.Rather than majoritarian governments, advocates of proportional systems arguethat other considerations are more important, including the fairness of the outcomefor minor parties, the need for Madisonian checks to party government, and therepresentation of minority social groups. For critics of plurality systems, the moralcase for reform is based traditionally on the "unfairness" to minor parties whoachieve a significant share of the vote, like the Canadian Progressive Conservativesin 1993, or the Alliance Party in New Zealand in 1993, or the British LiberalDemocrats in 1983, but win few seats because their support is thinly spreadgeographically. In addition, proponents argue, because fewer votes are "wasted" ina PR system there is a greater incentive for people to turn out to vote.Social RepresentationDemands for change have also been generated in recent decades by increasingconcern about the social composition of parliament. Political systems systematically305This content downloaded from137.122.8.73 on Mon, 23 May 2022 06:05:05 UTCAll use subject to

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Term
Winter
Professor
André Lecours
Tags
Voting system, Plurality voting system, Proportional representation, Electoral Systems

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