Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Elections, Democracy, System, Voting, Politics, Party, People, Participation

Pages: 7

Words: 1925

Published: 2021/01/09

Democracy is a term that reflects the “rule by the people.” Ideally, democracy is a revolutionary concept in the history of the political systems. The democracy implies that the political power is vested in the public, but not kings, hierarchy, or elite. In the history of the political concept, many societies have been vested in the elite, hierarchy and kings and not the people, hence undermining the democratic rights of the subjects. This is because democracy is the government of the people, by the people and for the people. Therefore, it is presumably that all people must be included in the democracy, and it is the responsibility of all individual to participate in democracy through the electoral system. It is for this reason that different electoral systems have been established to ensure that no one is limited in the participation of democracy. This paper, therefore, provide an insight of the concept of the electoral system and how they enhance democracy. Therefore, the paper holds that if democracy is “rule by the people,” hence democracy participation should not be restricted to voting through the electoral system.
One of the electoral systems that limit the voters’ choice and power is the Single Transferable Vote (STV). The STV system fails to achieve proportionality, and hence considered as less proportional. The proportionality of this system can be detected from two perspectives. First, the system has a low level of district magnitude. Certain features of this system, such as the attitude of parties and their selectorate, had restricted the participation of women. For instance, in Ireland, the system is the focus of attention and it “constituencies are never more than five-seat” implying that STV is “quasi-proportional” (Farrell, 2011, p.155). However, the STV electoral system can be views as proportional because it is the most proportional in the Proportional Representation system. Therefore, arguing from the “theoretical aspect of how the different electoral formulas vary over proportionality,” the STV system can be viewed as proportional method that does not limit democracy. (Farrell, 2011, p.155). In additional, under the STV, the voters can choose between various aspirants on the ballot paper contrary to the list systems that allows voters to choose between different parties. Therefore, the system operates just like any other proportional representation and hence it is quite proportionally.
Contrary to many countries where women are constrained in the representation of democracy, women should have equal right to vote as men. However, in order to determine how to enhance the representation of women, it significant to consider whether electoral parties are determining factor. According to Farrell (2011, p.166), concerns has been raised on whether the electoral systems contribute to the participation of women. The political scientist argues that electoral system plays a very significant role in affecting the proportion of women representatives in the parliament. However, other factors such as region, economic development, and the trends within the political parties contribute to the proportion of women in the legislator. Therefore, in order to enhance women participation, all this factor must considered, especially developing a sound electoral system that enhances proportionality.
Some electoral systems have certain features that determines the proportional representation of women in the parliament. Such features determine the range and the number of candidates that are being fielded by political party. For this reason, where there is a large average district magnitude, greater scope of parties that allow more participation of women should be allowed. As a result, this would allow more balanced ticket without considering the views of the traditionalists. In the same way, the party list systems, especially those limit the level of preferential voting should be reformed to enhance the balance of the party ticket. According to the studies, the PR list systems and systems that integrate large district magnitudes are associated with higher proportions of women in the legislature. However, while considering the impact of the electoral systems, it is also significant to seek the solution from the party selection committees (Farrell, 2011 p.167).
Other factors have been adopted by various political systems with emphasis on the importance of abolishing restriction on the participation of democracy. Various methods are used to influence the electoral system instead of focusing on the PR system. For example, British Labour Party established a quota rule system in 1993. The system enhanced the nomination of women aspirants and forced particular party to shortlist women in their event of vacancy. As a result, the system enhanced the participation of women in the Common House in 1997. From this perspective, the quotas concept has become a commonly used concept in the contemporary world. This clearly illustrates that everyone, irrespective of gender, religion, and ethnicity should have a stake in the representation of democracy.
It is evident that the choice made by the people are restricted by the alternatives exposed to them. The party-based electoral systems also have the particular feature that limits the power the choice of the people. In such systems, the voter’s choices are constrained to parties and not the candidates, and hence have a minimum opportunity for mandating politicians. In other words, the politicians serve the mandate provided by the party and not the voters, hence limiting the individual’s participation in democracy. In this case, it is anticipated to see the politician acting as trustees because their “principal ‘Voting constituency’ of the individual politician is not the voters, but rather the ‘selectorate’. (Farrell (2011, p.171). This is contrary to the candidate-based systems such as STV where the candidates engage in competition. The voters can decide which candidate to vote, irrespective of the political party. In such case, the voter’s choice and power is not limited because the elected candidate is expected to act upon the will of the voter rather than party. Therefore, it is important to make the “electoral systems not so much from the parties’ point of view but from that of the voters” Farrell (2011, p.166). By doing so, it is possible to enhance the choice and power of the voters and hence allow them to participate in a democracy without limits.
There should be no limits for the electoral system in the participation of democracy. In democracies, there are commonly distinct methods used to elect representatives, which frequently results in who get to run the government as the executive official. However, in the United States, the UK, and Canada this is not always. In the first electoral system, the Single-Member Plurality System and its Cousins limits democracy hence it is not prevalent in countries that practice democracy. Nevertheless, the electoral system is typical in the UK, the US and Canada. The essence of the system is that country is represented by several political districts known as constituencies. The citizens in each of the constituencies vote for their choice representatives, and the winner goes to the legislature. The winner only requires the most votes to be declared the winner but not the majority of the votes.
The system is also referred as “first-past-the-post” system (Farrell, 2011, p.21). For instance, if the first candidate gets 40% of the votes, the second gets 35%, and the third one gets 25% of the vote. The first candidate is considered to be a winner since he got the plurality of the votes, even though, the candidate did not get the majority of the votes (Farrell, 2011, p.23). Therefore, the candidate wins even though he was not the choice of the majority; the majority wanted someone else to represent them. This is not democratic since there is no “rule by the people.” The system makes minority community not to bother for voting in their respective constituencies since they know their votes would not mean a thing. It has been discovered that countries that practice SMP system, small parties often have no chance because the votes of the winning party are considered the rest are thrown away (Farrell, 2011, p.162).
That way, the small parties will never have representatives in the legislature and the country’s politics ends up as a two-party standoff, for example in United States (Farrell, 2011, p.25). “Clearly the most striking trend is that for the Liberals/Liberal Democrats. This party has consistently won few seats relative to its total vote,” (Farrell, 2011, p.25). In United States, one is supposed to vote for either the Democrats or the Republicans. If one does not believe in far right policy, then there is no alternative. Therefore, any vote for a non-far-right party simply is counted as a waste. The Single-Member Plurality System and its Cousins are non-proportional electoral systems since there is the fact that, it is more problematic for the smaller parties to win the seat under these systems (Farrell, 2011, p.162). Therefore, SMP system should be abolished because it limits the participation of the individuals hence restricting their power and choice in democracy.
Although, there are electoral systems that are undermining the participation of democracy, and there are others known to support democracy sturdily. The Proportional Representation is an international and highly democratic system. In this system, the party’s share of the votes is proportional to its seat in the legislature. For instance, if the party gets a win of 65% of the country-wide votes, it will get 65% of the parliament’s seats. The party gets what it deserves, and this make the system be used currently by democracies. The PR system gives the most political participation by voters than the Single-Member Plurality System (Farrell, 2011, p.70). The small parties also have a chance to have a voice in the political arena since their votes count yet there are larger parties. The PR system gives voice to everyone, if there is disagreement with the mainstream political ideas, there is alternatives hence having the opportunity to be heard and represented. “This system, which is seen as ‘too proportional’ is very rare” (Farrell, 2011, p.77). Therefore, many countries limit ways in which people can participate in a democracy.
In Majority Electoral Systems, there are two systems namely Two-Round Systems and the Alternative Vote. In Two-Round System (TRS) also referred as Run-off Voting is similar to Alternative Vote (AV). During voting, the voters mark their candidate of choice with an “X”, the candidate is declared to be elected when he wins 50% of the votes (Farrell, 2011, p.64). If the candidates do not make 50% of the vote, the top two candidates participate on run-off until one of the candidates attains majority votes. However, the system, on the other hand, can eliminate the preferred candidate of choice. Though the system operates in single-member districts, it can produce national and regional results with high labels disproportionality (Farrell, 2011, p.64). This is because the systems do not guarantee the distribution of votes into seats in a proportionate ratio compared to any other plurality-majority systems. Electoral systems must foster power and choices of the people are considered to making them participate in democracy. Democracy is the voice of the people therefore they have rights to choose their representative regardless of majority, ethnicity or gender.
In conclusion, it is evident that different electoral system have a different degree of how they enhance democracy. Some of the electoral systems such as proportional representation shows a substantial support to the democracy as “rule by the people,” while other non-proportional representation support otherwise. However, the main emphasis on these electoral systems is to show that democracy participation should not be restricted to voting through the electoral system. According to Farrell (2011) the effectiveness of the electoral systems is measured by the proportionality, implying that they should facilitate a certain proportion participation of people in democracy. Therefore, there should be no limits on the people’s participation in democracy in any way.


Farrell, D. M. 2011. Majoritarian Electoral Systems: Two-Round Systems and the Alternative Vote. In Electoral systems: A comparative introduction. Palgrave Macmillan.
Farrell, D. M. 2011. The Single Transferable Vote System of Proportional Representation. In Electoral systems: A comparative introduction. Palgrave Macmillan.
Farrell, D. M. 2011. The Consequences of Electoral Systems. In Electoral systems: A comparative introduction. Palgrave Macmillan.
Farrell, D. M. 2011. The List System of Proportional Representation. In Electoral systems: A comparative introduction. Palgrave Macmillan
Farrell, D. M. 2011. The Single Member Plurality System and its Cousins. In Electoral systems: A comparative introduction. Palgrave Macmillan.

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