Imact of electoral systems on the will of the people: mexico, 1950-2003

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Impact of the Electoral Systems on the Will of the People: Mexico, 1946-2003

Clemente Quinones
Assistant Professor of Political Science
Georgia Gwinnett College
1000 University Center Lane
Lawrenceville, GA 30043


Department of International Affairs
University of Georgia
Candler Hall 303
Athens, GA 30202

The paper analyzes the impact of the Mexican electoral system, 1940s-2003, on the institutional representation, which implies that “the parliament should reflect the party system and/or the political context that exist within the country.” The argument is that the permissiveness of the system period after period was generating better institutional representation, which is measured by theseat-vote disproportionality index, the effective number of both electoral (NE ) and legislative (NL ) parties, and the “NE - NL” subtraction. A downward trend of the LSq, a rising inclination of the effective number of both the electoral and legislative parties, and a positive but diminishing trend of the “NE - NL” subtraction will indicate improvement in the institutional representation. Theanalysis was divided into four sub-periods corresponding to the electoral reforms carried out in Mexico during the 1940s-2003 period. Results confirmed our hypothesis: the permissiveness of the electoral system generated a better institutional representation during the period, other the effective number of both electoral and legislative parties followed an upward trend from one period to the next.The disproportionality index observed a downward trend in general from the first to the last period, although we observed an upward trend from the second period and on. This increase was due to the fact that small parties failed to win seats. But in general, the tri-party system (based on the effective number of parties) reflects the sociopolitical diversity of the country.

Impact ofthe Electoral Systems on the Will of the People: Mexico, 1946-2003

I. Introduction

In his classic study, Duverger (1954) introduced the thesis that electoral systems affect the party systems. He concludes that the plurality rule tends to produce a two-party system, while the proportional representation formulae are associated with “more than two party” systems. In 1960s, “the politicalparty-electoral systems” relationship started been analyzed more systematically. Beginning with the seminal work of Rae (1967), for example, numerous studies have focused specifically on explaining the effect of electoral systems on party systems often concentrating on the number of parties and the degree of vote-seat proportionality (see e.g., Amorin-Neto and Cox 1997; Herron and Nishikawa 2001;Lijphart 1994; Molinar-Horcasitas 1991; Moser 1999; Pappalardo 2007; Riker 1982; Sartori 1968 and 1976; Taagepera and Shugart 1989). Connected to the “electoral systems-political parties” link is Farrell’s (2001) concept of institutional representation, which implies, he argues, that “the parliament should reflect the party system and/or the political context that exist within the country. Forexample, if half the voters cast their vote for one political party but that party wins no – or hardly any – seats in parliament, then that system cannot be said to adequately represent the will of the people…” (Farrell 2001:11). In 1976, the Mexican government introduced the most significant reform intended to “widening the possibilities of political representation in such a way that thecomplex national ideological mosaic get included in the different representation bodies…this way, the diverse forces, both major and minor, become also a part of our democratic unity” (Paoli-Bolio 1985: 155 and Aziz-Nassif 1984: 173). A way to know if the system in fact represented (represents) the will of the people, as Farrell argues, is to see the presence of the political parties in the national...
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