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To Keep or To Change First Past The Post?The Politics of Electoral Reform$
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André Blais

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780199539390

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199539390.001.0001

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Inherent and Contingent Factors in Reform Initiation in Plurality Systems *

Inherent and Contingent Factors in Reform Initiation in Plurality Systems *

(p.7) 1 Inherent and Contingent Factors in Reform Initiation in Plurality Systems*
To Keep or To Change First Past The Post?

Matthew Søberg Shugart

Oxford University Press

Electoral reform may be explained through a model that incorporates both inherent and contingent factors. An electoral system has an inherent tendency towards “systemic failure,” understood as outcomes that are inconsistent with the normative model of democracy with which it is associated. In the case of first past the post, anomalies such as plurality reversals (the largest party in votes does not win the most seats) and lopsided majorities (when the opposition wins few seats) may generate interest in replacing the system. However, processes that might lead to a change in the electoral system also require contingent factors: the coming to power of a previously disadvantaged party (“outcome contingency”) and a pro-reform vote to be cultivated (“act contingency”). This model of electoral reform is analyzed based on 191 elections in nineteen jurisdictions using first past the post.

Keywords:   electoral reform, first past the post, plurality, proportional representation

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