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More Than Rules: The Effects of Electoral Systems in a Multilevel Context

Democracy
Elections
Institutions
Regionalism
Party Systems
Alexander Verdoes
Universitetet i Bergen
Alexander Verdoes
Universitetet i Bergen
Arjan H. Schakel
Universitetet i Bergen

Abstract

Research on regional election outcomes rarely take into account the multilevel context in which elections take place. Very often scholars control for the effect of the regional electoral system by including a dummy variable that differentiates majoritarian/plurality rule from proportional systems. However, regional electoral systems consists of a whole of set of rules that are not applied at the national level (e.g. the national electoral system of the UK employes a first-past-the-post system with single member constituencies. Whereas in the devolved territories of Wales and Scotland a mixed member proportional system is used and to elect the Northern Ireland parliament the system of single transferable vote is employed) and which may significantly impact election outcomes. In addition, regional elections take place in a multi-level institutional context which also significantly impact election outcomes such as horizontal and vertical simultaneity with sub- and supra-national elections and rules pertaining to the timing of regional elections. This paper exploits an unique and innovative dataset that includes data on regional and multilevel electoral institutions for 392 regions in 23 European countries. The results suggest that the permissiveness of electoral systems has a huge impact on regional election results. However, the effects of regional electoral systems are conditional on the multilevel context. In order to understand the outcomes of regional elections, it is also important to account for the timing of elections, the presence of territorial cleavages and non-state wide parties, and regional authority.