Published on 31 Aug 2012 at 01:22
Does the way that the voting system is organised matter for the types of rules that are used regarding money in elections? Do countries that elect individual Members of Parliament in each district use different rules than countries where the voter chose a list of candidates? A recent study aimed at analysing such links at a global level.
There could be a clue in how the different electoral systems work. Electoral systems electing individual MPs through plurality systems are generally argued to be more focused on individual politicians, whereas systems based on Proportional Representation place more importance on the political parties (see more about electoral systems here).
There are many types of electoral systems, but two main “families” exist. One is often called plurality/majority systems. The most common systems include voters putting their vote for the one candidate that they like the most, and in some cases a second election is held if no candidate gets more than 50% of the vote (the first version is often called First-Past the Post and the other Two Round systems).
The main finding is however that PR electoral systems generally regulate candidate finance in more detail than those with majority/plurality systems. This goes against the idea that the relative focus of the electoral system on political parties versus candidates should impact on the focus of political finance regulations.It is also more common in majority/plurality systems to require financial reports from candidates than from political parties (56% for candidates versus 33% for regular political party campaign reports). For countries using PR electoral systems, the relationship is reversed, with 90% of countries demanding that parties submit regular financial reports, while only 59% have the same rule for candidates.To test this idea, I looked at 180 countries, comparing the electoral systems and political finance regulations.* The results are rather remarkable. In some cases there is indeed a connection between the electoral system and the type of regulations; for example, the provision of free media access is much more common to political parties than to election candidates in countries using PR electoral systems (78% versus 48%), while for countries with a majority/plurality electoral system the difference is small (53% versus 49%).This would lead us to expect that countries with plurality/majority systems should use campaign finance regulations that are more focused on the raising and spending of funds by individual candidates, whereas countries with PR electoral systems would use campaign finance regulatory systems that focus on the activities of political parties.
Bans on donations to candidates from foreign, corporate, trade union and anonymous sources are all more common in PR countries than in plurality/majority countries. In addition, donation limits to candidates are almost twice as common in countries using PR electoral systems as it is in countries with majority/plurality systems.
It seems therefore that the type of electoral system has an impact on the extent of regulation as a whole, with PR systems using more detailed regulations. Explaining this is not easy. Both older and newer democracies use PR or majority/plurality electoral systems, and both types are used in both large and small countries. More research is necessary to understand the background to this relationship.
* This research is described in more detail in a paper presented at the recent World Congress of the International Political Science Association, available at http://tinyurl.com/9tu6x7o. The regulations in different countries are taken from the International IDEA database available at http://www.idea.int/political-finance .
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