Proportional representation

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The term proportional representation (PR) characterizes electoral systems by which divisions in an electorate  – political, religious, regional, ethnic, linguistic, or gender  – are reflected in the elected body. The core idea of PR systems is to more accurately reflect the democratic will of the population by minimizing or reducing the disparity between a party's share of the vote and its share of parliamentary seats. If 30% of the electorate support a particular political party then roughly 30% of seats should be won by that party.[1][2][3][4]

PR systems require the use of multiple-member voting districts (also called super-districts[5]). PR is not possible using single-member districts alone, because it is not possible to divide representation proportionately when there is only one winner.[2]

PR voting systems can be categorized as follows into three main types:[6][7]

  • Party-list PR systems, where political parties define candidate lists and voters vote for a list; that is, they vote for a party rather than for specific candidates (a "closed list"). The relative vote for each list determines how many from each list are actually elected. An "open list" variant allows voters to indicate individual candidate preferences. Voting districts can be as large as a province or an entire nation, in which case a high degree of political proportionality is achieved.
  • Single transferable vote (STV), where voters rank candidates in order of preference. During the count unused votes for winning and eliminated candidates (that would otherwise be wasted) are transferred to other candidates according to the preferences of the ballot. STV provides proportionality while enabling voters to choose among candidates and express their preferences in ways that can cross party lines and include independent candidates.
  • Mixed-member systems, which combine single-seat voting districts and multi-member representation at the regional or national regional level. Such systems have two (or more) "tiers." Typically, the first tier consist of single-seat ridings using nominal voting for specific candidates; the second tier consists of a multi-member region of variable size, with voting along party lines. This regional representation serves to make the system more proportional than it otherwise would be. There are two principle variants. One approach is called mixed-member majoritarian (MMM) or Parallel voting. In this system, the two tiers are disconnected, but the regional seats are apportioned proportionately. Any particular party's share of the seats will thus be the seats it won in local districts plus its proportionate share of second-tier seats. The second approach is called Mixed-member PR (MMP). Under MMP, the two tiers are linked, and the number of regional seats allocated to each party depends upon the number of single-seat districts already won. The aim is to make the final overall result (not just the regional seats, but the total of seats) as proportional as can be managed within the limitations of the system. Under MMP, voters have two votes, one for the district and one for a regional list (which may be "closed" or "open").[8]

A further method approaches proportionality by dispensing with voting altogether: the selection of representatives from the populace using random or structured random sampling, known as sortition. It was used in ancient Athens and the Venetian Republic and is still used today in the summons to jury duty. In the 21st century sortition has been used to select members for special citizens' assemblies in Ontario, British Columbia, Iceland, Belgium and elsewhere, and the concept has received academic attention.[9][10][11][12]

A majority of countries use some form of PR in national lower house elections, party-list PR being the most widely used system (35%) followed by mixed systems (15%).[2] Although STV has long been admired by political scientists,[2] it is used in only two national lower houses, Ireland (since 1921) and Malta (since 1921[13])  – political interests generally oppose its use because it so effectively transfers power from politicians to the electorate.[14]

Nonetheless, a majority of voters still vote in non-proportional elections because some very large democracies, India and the USA, use plurality voting systems. Most other countries using plurality voting systems are countries with historical links to the UK, including the UK itself and Canada.[2][15]

Advantages of proportional representation[edit]

Making meaningful comparisons[edit]

Proportional systems of representation are usually contrasted with single-winner systems such as first-past-the-post (plurality), runoff or instant runoff voting systems, the advantages and disadvantages of which are discussed in corresponding Wikipedia entries. However, the trend in the twenty-first century has been towards electoral reforms that combine elements of each approach using mixed-member systems in attempts to rid existing systems of disfunctionalities while retaining elements of the old system considered desirable.[16] This approach to electoral reform requires a more sophisticated and context-specific understanding of the options actually on the table in each case.

General case for proportionality[edit]

The general case for proportional representation was made by John Stuart Mill in his 1861 essay Considerations on Representative Government:

In a representative body actually deliberating, the minority must of course be overruled; and in an equal democracy, the majority of the people, through their representatives, will outvote and prevail over the minority and their representatives. But does it follow that the minority should have no representatives at all? ... Is it necessary that the minority should not even be heard? Nothing but habit and old association can reconcile any reasonable being to the needless injustice. In a really equal democracy, every or any section would be represented, not disproportionately, but proportionately. A majority of the electors would always have a majority of the representatives, but a minority of the electors would always have a minority of the representatives. Man for man, they would be as fully represented as the majority. Unless they are, there is not equal government ... there is a part whose fair and equal share of influence in the representation is withheld from them, contrary to all just government, but, above all, contrary to the principle of democracy, which professes equality as its very root and foundation.[1]

Most academic political theorists agree with Mill,[7] that in a representative democracy the representatives should represent all segments of society.


PR attempts to resolve the unfairness of majoritarian and plurality voting systems, where the largest parties receive an "unfair" "seat bonus" and smaller parties are disadvantaged and may have difficulty winning any representation at all (Duverger's law). The established parties in US and UK elections can win formal control of the parliament with support from as little as 20-25% of eligible voters, due in part to low voter turnout.[citation needed] In Canada, federal and provincial governments are regularly formed by parties with support of under 40% of actual voters and hold majority power for full terms of office. Coupled with turnout levels in the electorate of less than 60%, this can lead to a party obtaining a majority government by convincing as few as one quarter of the electorate to vote for it.

Representation of minority views[edit]

PR facilitate's minority voters' access to representation, since smaller parties tend to receive less than their electoral share of seats under single-member district electoral systems. This form of inclusion can be crucial to social stability, and can help to enrich the political dialogue by exposure to different points of view.[17] In emerging democracies inclusion of minorities in the legislature can be essential for social stability and to consolidate the democratic process.[2]

Since PR allows parties to run a more balanced portfolio of candidates, countries using PR have been found to elect more women to parliament – 8% on average over a 29 year period studied by Arend Lijphart.[18] By improving representation, PR has also been shown to encourage minorities to mobilize and gain access to power.[19]

Enhanced Voter participation[edit]

Plurality systems usually result in single-party government because relatively few votes in the most finely balanced districts, the "swing seats", can transfer sufficient seats to the opposition to swing the election. More partisan districts remain invulnerable to swings of political mood. In the UK, for example, about half the constituencies have always elected the same party since 1945;[20] in the 2012 US House elections 45 districts (10% of all districts) were uncontested by one of the two dominant parties.[21]

With PR there are no "swing seats", most votes contribute to the election of a candidate so parties need to campaign in all districts, not just those where their support is strongest or where they perceive most advantage. This fact in turn encourages parties to be more responsive to voters, producing a more "balanced" ticket by nominating more women and minority candidates.[3]

Since most votes count there are fewer "wasted votes", so voters, aware that their vote can make a difference, are more likely to make the effort to vote, and less likely to vote tactically. As compared to countries with plurality voting systems voter turnout improves and the population is more involved in the political process.[2][3]

Reduced opportunities for gerrymandering[edit]

To ensure approximately equal representation plurality systems are dependent on the drawing of arbitrary boundaries of their single-member districts, a process vulnerable to political interference, that is to gerrymandering. To compound the problem, boundaries have to be periodically re-drawn to accommodate population changes. Even apolitically drawn boundaries can unintentionally gerrymander, reflecting naturally occurring diversity.[22]

PR systems with their multiple-member districts are less prone to this  – research suggests five-seat districts are immune to gerrymandering.[22] The district boundaries are less critical and so can be aligned with historical boundaries such as cities, counties, states, or provinces; population changes can be accommodated by simply adjusting the number of representatives elected. For example, Professor Mollison in his 2010 plan for STV for the UK set an upper limit of 100,000 electors per MP so that a constituency of 500,000 electors would have five seats (1:100,000). His district boundaries follow historical county and local authority boundaries, yet he achieves more uniform representation than does the Boundary Commission, the body responsible for balancing the UK's first-past-the-post constituency sizes.[20][23]

The single-seat districts used by Mixed-member PR are susceptible to gerrymandering and this can impair proportionality if the rules for awarding compensatory list seats are rigged. This has happened in Hungary where in 2014 Fidesz combined gerrymandering and a number of other tricks to contrive a two-thirds parliamentary majority from a 45% vote.[24][25] However, under normal circumstances, MMP would eliminate the advantages of gerrymandering, since any gain at the single-seat level would be offset at the regional or national level.

Issue areas[edit]

Opportunities for voters to consult with representatives[edit]

A concern about PR is that because districts are larger, the link between voters and their parliamentary representatives may be weakened or lost altogether. This concern is a particularly valid one in the case of national party-list systems such as those in the Netherlands and Israel, or for party-list systems with very large districts.

This is one of the reasons that mixed-member systems have become a popular option for consideration in larger countries such as Canada. Mixed-member systems help to ensure a connection between voters and their representatives by retaining local districts as a defining feature.[6] Mixed-member systems involving modest-sized districts offer an additional advantage, namely that voters have more than one representative with whom to consult.

Similarly, with STV, about 90% of constituents can consult a representative of a party to which they gave their first preference,[20] someone whom they might see as more sympathetic to their problem.

In plurality systems, only 48% of voters, on average, vote for the single representative, others may hesitate to ask for help from a political opponent, or someone who may even be the subject of the complaint.[26][27]

Another question is how important the link between constituent and representative is anyway. In Britain some MPs may overstate their importance to their constituents. In fact, most people do not know the name of their MP.[7] Meanwhile, under the Irish STV system, the amount of constituency work has been criticized as excessive, suggesting that the voter-representative link is effective – perhaps too effective, link.[28]

Political fragmentation and coalition politics[edit]

With smaller parties doing better under PR, elections most often give rise to coalition governments.[2][7] Whether this is an advantage or a disadvantage has been the subject of debate among supporters and opponents of PR systems. Supporters of PR see coalitions as an advantage that encourages compromise between parties to form a coalition at the center of the political spectrum, leading to continuity and stability.

However coalition politics give rise to a number of possible complications and concerns, including the following:[17][19][29]

  • political fragmentation, with the creation of new parties that would not be viable under a system of single-member districts; the dominant parties from plurality systems, often looked on as "coalitions" or as "broad churches",[30] can fragment under PR as the election of candidates from smaller groups becomes possible. Israel, again, and Brazil and Italy are examples.;[2] STV, the only PR system which does not require political parties,[31] enables independent candidates to be elected. In Ireland over the years about 10% of representatives have been independent.[citation needed]
  • difficulty forming coherent coalitions in terms of parties' policies or support base, making it more difficult to arrive at policy compromises and resulting in legislative gridlock or slowdowns in decision-making; this leads to particularly high risks in post-conflict situations, where quick an coherent decision-making required of government might be impeded;
  • with many policies compromise is not possible (for example funding a new stealth bomber, or leaving the EU), neither can many be easily positioned on the left-right spectrum (for example, the environment), so policies are horse-traded during coalition formation with the consequence that voters have no way of knowing in advance which policies will be pursued by the government they elect;
  • coalitions do not necessarily form at the centre, and small parties can have excessive influence, supplying a coalition with a majority only on condition that a policy or policies favoured by few voters is adopted; in situations where the balance between coalition formations is delicate, very small parties can thus act as "king-makers", holding larger parties to ransom during coalition discussions. The example of Israel in the 1980s is often quoted as an example of this phenomenon.[2]
  • alternatively, some centre parties may be the ones to benefit disproportionately from the system by joining in coalition with one side or the other regardless of which way the political winds are blowing; when this happens, it becomes difficult for voters to vote such a party out of power.

In a related vein, critics claim that PR can give extreme parties a foothold in parliament. This phenomenon is sometimes cited as a cause for the collapse of the Weimar government.

Risks of this sort are avoided in two-party plurality systems. Coalitions are rare, the two dominant parties necessarily compete at the center for votes so that governments are more reliably moderate, the strong opposition necessary for proper scrutiny of government is assured, and governments remain sensitive to public sentiment because they can be, and are, regularly voted out of power.[7]

That PR has led to complications in some countries is incontestable. In countries such as Israel and Italy, reforms have been adopted in an attempt to deal with these difficulties. In Italy, the solution was to adopt a mixed-member majoritarian system in which only one forth of the seats in both chambers are elected proportionately. In Israel, the principal reform was a shift to direct election of the prime minister.[29]

However, the conditions under which such complications are likely to emerge are far from universal, and are not unique to PR. As Richie and Hill point out, most mature democracies with PR are not plagued with failing coalitions, takeovers by right-wing religious parties, or gridlock. Indeed, the list includes countries such as Germany, Sweden, Netherlands and Switzerland, with very successful policy-making regimes.[19]

Review of evidence[edit]

Empirical research shows that PR produces generally favorable results overall, including the following:[32]

  • what Lijphart qualifies as "kinder, gentler democracies" characterized by higher voter turnout (about 7% higher on average); government policies closer to the view of the median voter; higher levels of citizen satisfaction in the country's democracy, even when the party they supported was not in power; only a marginal increase in the number of political parties in parliament; and the election of more women to parliament (8% more on average).[18]
  • higher scores on the United Nations Human Development Index;[33]
  • more robust fiscal situations and higher economic growth;[33][34]
  • reduced levels of income inequality;[18][35]
  • improved environmental performance;[18] and
  • a somewhat higher level of political stability as measured by the number of elections.[18]

Attributes of PR systems[edit]

District magnitude[edit]

Academics agree that the most important influence on proportionality is an electoral district's magnitude, that is the number of representatives elected from the district. Proportionality improves as the magnitude increases.[2] Scholars recommend voting districts of between three and seven members.[36]

At one extreme, the Chilean Binomial system, a nominally proportional open-list system, uses two-member districts resulting in the election of one candidate from each of the two dominant political blocks, and so cannot be considered proportional.[2]

At the other, where the district encompasses the entire country, and with a low minimum threshold, highly proportionate representation of political parties can result, and parties gain by broadening their appeal by nominating more minority and women candidates.[2]

After the introduction of STV in Ireland in 1921 magnitude slowly diminished as more and more three-member constituencies were defined, benefiting the dominant Fianna Fáil, until 1979 when an independent boundary commission was established reversing the trend.[37] In 2010 a parliamentary constitutional committee recommended a minimum magnitude of four.[38] Nonetheless, despite relatively low magnitudes Ireland has generally experienced highly proportional results.[2]

In the FairVote plan for STV (which FairVote calls choice voting) for the US House of Representatives three- to five-member super-districts are proposed.[39] In Professor Mollison's plan for STV in the UK four- and five-member districts are used, with three and six as necessary to fit existing boundaries.[20]

Minimum threshold[edit]

The minimum threshold is the minimum vote required to win a seat. The lower the threshold the higher the proportion of votes contributing to the election of a candidate.[2]

All electoral systems have thresholds, either formally defined or as a mathematical consequence of the parameters of the election.[2]

A formal threshold usually requires parties to win a certain percentage of the vote in order to be awarded seats from the party lists. In Germany and New Zealand (both MMP) the threshold is 5% of the national vote but both define an alternate threshold of constituency seats won, three in Germany, one in New Zealand. Turkey defines a threshold of 10%, the Netherlands 0.67%.[2] Israel has raised its threshold from 1% (before 1992) to 1.5% (up to 2004), 2% (in 2006) and 3.25% in 2014.[40]

In STV elections winning the quota (ballots/seats+1) of first preference votes assures election. However, well regarded candidates who attract good second (and third, etc.) preference support can hope to win election with only half the quota of first preference votes. Thus in a six-seat district the effective threshold would be 7.14% of first preference votes (100/(6+1)/2).[20] The need to attract second preferences tends to promote consensus and disadvantage extremes.

Party magnitude[edit]

Party magnitude is the number of candidates elected from one party in one district. As party magnitude increases a more balanced ticket will be more successful encouraging parties to nominate women and minority candidates for election.[41]

But under STV too many candidates can be counter-productive, splitting the vote and so losing seats. An example of this was identified in a ward in the 2007 Scottish local elections where Labour, putting up three candidates, won only one seat but where they would have won two had a candidate particularly favoured by Labour voters not stood.[20] The same effect may have contributed to the collapse of Fianna Fáil in the 2011 Irish general election.[42]


Other aspects of PR can influence proportionality such as the size of the elected body, the choice of open or closed lists, ballot design, and vote counting methods.

Measuring proportionality[edit]

A number of ways of measuring proportionality have been proposed, including the Loosemore-Hanby Index, the Sainte-Laguë Index and the Gallagher Index. None of these fully support ranked voting.[43][44]

PR voting systems[edit]

Party list PR[edit]

The parties each list their candidates according to that party's determination of priorities. In closed list systems, voters vote for a list of candidates, with the party choosing the order of candidates on the list and thus, in effect, their probability of being elected. Each party is allocated seats in proportion to the number of votes it receives, using the party-determined ranking order. In a local list system, parties divide their candidates in single member-like constituencies, which are ranked inside each general party-list depending by their percentages. This method allows electors to judge every single candidate as in an FPTP system. In an open list, voters may vote, depending on the model, for one person, or for two, or indicate their order of preference within the list – nevertheless the number of candidates elected from the list is determined by the number of votes the list receives.

There is an intermediate system in countries like Uruguay, where each party presents several closed lists, each representing a faction. Seats are distributed between parties according to the number of votes, and then between the factions within each party.

This system is used in many countries, including Finland (open list), Latvia (open list), Sweden (open list), Israel (national closed list), Brazil (open list), the Netherlands (open list), Russia (closed list), South Africa (closed list), Democratic Republic of the Congo (open list). For elections to the European Parliament, most member states use open lists; but most large EU countries use closed lists, so that the majority of EP seats are distributed by those.[45] Local lists were used to elect the Italian Senate during the second half of the 20th century.

Mixed or hybrid[edit]

Mixed systems are hybrid systems combining a non-proportional and a proportional vote. The principle example is the mixed member system, which combine single seat constituencies elected by a single winner system with a compensating national or regional proportional vote, attempting to achieve some of the positive features of each.

Mixed systems are often helpful in countries with large populations, since they balance local and national concerns. They are used in nations with diverse geographic, social, cultural and economic issues. Such systems, or variations of them, are used in Germany, Lesotho, Mexico, Bolivia and New Zealand.

Single transferable vote[edit]

This system uses single transferable vote, a ranked voting system. Each constituency elects two or more representatives in constituencies equivalent in size to the sum of single-member constituencies that would produce the same number of representatives. Parties tend to offer as many candidates as they optimistically could expect to win. Major parties usually nominate more than minor parties. Voters rank some or all candidates in order of their preferences.

To be elected, a candidate must achieve a certain quota of votes. There are different ways of setting the quota, but the most commonly used is the Droop quota, calculated by "dividing the Total Valid Poll by one more than the number of seats to be filled, ignoring any remainder and then adding 1 vote."[46] Also used is the Hare quota (also known as the simple quota), established by dividing the number of votes by the number of seats.

Only by rare coincidence would all candidates reach the quota and be elected in the first count. This is where voters' second choices come in. If one candidate is elected on the first count, that candidate's votes in excess of the quota (called surplus votes) are transferred to the candidates of each voter's second choice. In the event that no candidate is elected in the first count, the least popular candidate is eliminated and that candidate's votes are redistributed according to voters' second choices.

It is possible for more than one candidate to be eliminated after the first count if it is clear that these candidates would be eliminated in the next round anyway. This could happen when eliminating only one candidate with a small number of votes would not generate enough second choice votes to ensure that any candidate would meet the quota in the second count. This means that one or more additional candidates would need to be eliminated regardless, and it would be more efficient to eliminate simultaneously the required number of candidates to potentially fill a seat.

The process repeats itself until all seats are filled, either when the required number of candidates achieve the quota or when the number of remaining candidates matches the number of remaining seats. Although the counting process is complicated, voting is clear and most voters get at least one of their preferences elected.

All deputies are answerable directly to their local constituents. Some political scientists argue that STV is more properly classified as 'semi-proportional' as there is no assurance of a proportional result at a national level. Indeed, many advocates of STV argue that preventing nationwide proportionality is one of the primary goals of the system, to avoid the perceived risks of a fragmented legislature.

This system is used in the Upper House in India, Australia (Senate, Tasmanian and Australian Capital Territory Houses of Assembly and the Legislative Councils in New South Wales, South Australia, Western Australia and Victoria), Ireland, Northern Ireland (assembly, local government and European elections, but not national), Malta, local government elections in Scotland and selected (optional) local governments in New Zealand. The system was also used in several cities in the United States in the early 20th century.[14]


One of the earliest proposals of proportionality in an assembly was by John Adams in his influential pamphlet Thoughts on Government, written in 1776 during the American Revolution:

It should be in miniature, an exact portrait of the people at large. It should think, feel, reason, and act like them. That it may be the interest of this Assembly to do strict justice at all times, it should be an equal representation, or in other words equal interest among the people should have equal interest in it.[47]

Mirabeau, speaking to the Assembly of Provence on January 30, 1789, was also an early proponent of a proportionally representative assembly:[48]

A representative body is to the nation what a chart is for the physical configuration of its soil: in all its parts, and as a whole, the representative body should at all times present a reduced picture of the people, their opinions, aspirations, and wishes, and that presentation should bear the relative proportion to the original precisely.

In February 1793 the Marquis de Condorcet led the drafting of the Girondist constitution which proposed a limited voting scheme with proportional aspects. Before that could be voted on the Montagnards took over the National Convention and produced their own constitution. On June 24, Saint-Just proposed the single non-transferable vote, which can be proportional, for national elections but the constitution was passed on the same day specifying first-past-the-post voting.[48]

STV, that is an election method where voters have one transferable vote, was first invented in 1819 by an English schoolmaster, Thomas Wright Hill, who devised a "plan of election" for the committee of the Society for Literary and Scientific Improvement in Birmingham that used not only transfers of surplus votes from winners but also from losers, a refinement that later both Andræ and Hare initially omitted. But the procedure was unsuitable for a public election and wasn't publicised. In 1839 Hill's son, Rowland Hill, recommended the concept for public elections in Adelaide, but a simpler process was used in which voters formed as many groups as there were representatives to be elected, each group electing one representative.[48]

The first practical PR election method, a list method, was conceived by Thomas Gilpin in a paper he read to the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia in 1844: "On the representation of minorities of electors to act with the majority in elected assemblies". But the paper appears not to have excited any interest.[48]

A practical election using a single transferable vote was devised in Denmark by Carl Andræ, a mathematician, and first used there in 1855, making it the oldest PR system, but the system never really spread. It was re-invented (apparently independently) in the UK in 1857 by Thomas Hare, a London barrister, in his pamphlet The Machinery of Representation. This was enthusiastically taken up by John Stuart Mill, ensuring the scheme international publicity. In 1865, in the fifth edition of the pamphlet, Hare added the transfer of preferences from dropped candidates and the STV method was essentially complete. Mill proposed it to the House of Commons in 1867, but the British parliament rejected it. The name evolved from "Mr.Hare's scheme" to "proportional representation", then "proportional representation with the single transferable vote", and finally, by the end of the 19th century, to "the single transferable vote",

A party-list proportional representation system was devised and described in 1878 by Victor D'Hondt in Belgium. D'Hondt's method of seat allocation, the D'Hondt method, is still widely used. Victor Considerant, a utopian socialist, devised a similar system in an 1892 book. Some Swiss cantons (beginning with Ticino in 1890) used the system before Belgium, which was first to adopt list-PR in 1900 for its national parliament. Many European countries adopted similar systems during or after World War I. List-PR was favoured on the Continent because the use of lists in elections, the scrutin de liste, was already widespread. STV was preferred in the English-speaking world because its tradition was the election of individuals.[49]

STV was used in Tasmania in 1907. In the last Irish elections to the UK Parliament in 1919, STV was used in the University of Dublin constituency; two Independent Unionists were elected. STV has been in use since Irish independence. A mainly centrist party, Fianna Fáil, typically receives 30%-50% of the vote while opposition parties, traditionally the centre-right Fine Gael and the centre-left Labour Party, are comparatively weak. This has led to a series of coalition governments; there has not been a single-party government since 1989.

PR is used by more nations than the single winner system, and it dominates Europe, including Germany, most of northern and eastern Europe, and is used for European Parliament elections (as enforced by EU law). France adopted PR at the end of World War II, but discarded it in 1958. In 1986 it was used for parliament elections.

Proportional representation is less common in the English-speaking world; New Zealand adopted it (MMP) in 1993. STV has some history in the United States. Many cities, including New York City, once used it to break up the Democratic Party monopolies on elective office. Cincinnati, Ohio, adopted STV in 1925 to get rid of a Republican Party monopoly, but the Republicans returned the city to FPTP in 1957. From 1870 to 1980, Illinois used a semi-proportional cumulative voting system to elect its House of Representatives. Each district across the state elected both Republicans and Democrats year-after-year. Cambridge, Massachusetts (STV) and Peoria, Illinois (cumulative voting) continue to use PR. San Francisco had city-wide elections in which people would cast votes for five or six candidates simultaneously, delivering some of the benefits of proportional representation.

Switzerland has the largest use of proportional representation, which is the system used to elect not only national legislatures and local councils, but also all local executives.

List of countries using proportional representation[edit]

Countries by type of PR system

This is a list of countries using proportional representation for central government.

Country Type
Albania Party list
Algeria Party list
Angola Party list
Australia For Senate only, Single Transferable Vote
Austria Party list, 4% threshold
Argentina Party list
Aruba Party list
Belgium Party list, 5% threshold
Bolivia Mixed member proportional
Bosnia and Herzegovina Party list
Brazil Party list
Bulgaria Party list, 4% threshold
Burkina Faso Party list
Burundi Party list
Cambodia Party list
Cape Verde Party list
Colombia Party list
Costa Rica Party list
Croatia Party list, 5% threshold
Curaçao Party list
Cyprus Party list
Czech Republic Party list, 5% threshold
Democratic Republic of the Congo Mixed member proportional
Denmark Party list
Dominican Republic Party list
Equatorial Guinea Party list
Estonia Party list, 5% threshold
Finland Party list
Germany Mixed member proportional, 5% (or 3 district winners) threshold
Guinea-Bissau Party list
Guyana Party list
Hong Kong Party list
Hungary Mixed member proportional
Iceland Party list
India For Upper House (Rajya Sabha) only, Single Transferable Vote by State Legislatures
Indonesia Party list
Iraq Party list
Ireland Single Transferable Vote (For Dáil only)
Israel Party list, 2% threshold
Italy Party list, 4% threshold
Japan Mixed member proportional
Latvia Party list, 5% threshold
Lesotho Mixed member proportional
Liberia Party list
Liechtenstein Party list, 8% threshold
Luxembourg Party list
Macedonia [1][dead link]
Malta Single Transferable Vote
Mexico Mixed member proportional
Moldova Party list
Montenegro[2] Party list
Morocco Party list, 6% threshold
Namibia Party list
Nepal Party list
Netherlands Party list
New Caledonia Party list
New Zealand Mixed member proportional, 5% threshold
Nicaragua Party list
Northern Ireland Single Transferable Vote
Norway Party list
Paraguay Party list
Peru Party list
Poland Party list, 5% threshold
Portugal Party list
Romania Mixed member proportional, 5% threshold
Russia Party list, 7% threshold
San Marino Party list
Sao Tome and Principe Party list
Serbia Party list
Sint Maarten Party list
Slovakia Party list, 5% threshold
Slovenia Party list, 4% threshold
South Africa Party list
South Korea Mixed member proportional, 3% (or 5 district winners) threshold
Spain Party list, 3% threshold in small constituencies
Sri Lanka Party list
Suriname Party list
Sweden Party list, 4% national threshold or 12% in a district
Switzerland Party list
Taiwan Mixed member proportional
Thailand Mixed member proportional
Tunisia Party list
Turkey Party list, 10% threshold
Uruguay Party list
Venezuela Mixed member proportional
Wallis and Futuna Party list

Further reading[edit]


  • Amy, Douglas J. (1993). Real Choices/New Voices: The Case for Proportional Representation Elections in the United States. Columbia University Press. 
  • Denis Pilon (2007). The Politics of Voting. Edmond Montgomery Publications. 
  • Colomer, Josep M. (2003). Political Institutions. Oxford University Press. 
  • Colomer, Josep M., ed. (2004). Handbook of Electoral System Choice. Palgrave Macmillan. 
  • Pukelsheim, Friedrich (2014). Proportional Representation. Springer. 
  • Jess; Mary Southcott (1998). Making Votes Count: The Case for Electoral Reform. London: Profile Books. 
  • Forder, James (2011). The case against voting reform. Oxford: Oneworld Publications. ISBN 978-1-85168-825-8. 


  • John Hickman and Chris Little. "Seat/Vote Proportionality in Romanian and Spanish Parliamentary Elections" Journal of Southern Europe and the Balkans Vol. 2, No. 2, November 2000


See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b Mill, John Stuart (1861). "Chapter VII, Of True and False Democracy; Representation of All, and Representation of the Majority only". Considerations on Representative Government. London: Parker, Son, & Bourn. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q "Electoral System Design: the New International IDEA Handbook". International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance. 2005. Retrieved 9 April 2014. 
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