The Floating Voter in a Multiparty Systems Democracy: Does the Number of Electoral Parties Actually Matter? Cover Image
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The Floating Voter in a Multiparty Systems Democracy: Does the Number of Electoral Parties Actually Matter?
The Floating Voter in a Multiparty Systems Democracy: Does the Number of Electoral Parties Actually Matter?

Author(s): Tom Schamp
Subject(s): Politics / Political Sciences
Published by: Mezinárodní politologický ústav Masarykovy univerzity v Brně
Keywords: Belgium; party system change; proportional representation; electoral volatility

Summary/Abstract: This paper deals with the relationship between institutional, electoral and party system dynamics on the one hand, and the evolution of total electoral volatility in Belgium, on the other. Based on aggregated election data from the 1876–2010 period the paper describes how and why party system size and electoral volatility in a fragmented parliamentary democracy interrelate and how they affect the equal parliamentary representation of parties. There are three important conclusions: first of all, the national party system has become more permeable to new parties over time and, concurrently, has become more competitive. This process has impacted negatively on the supremacy of the three traditional ideologies and the distinctive electoral market leadership of the Flemish Catholic party. But more importantly, it is not the absolute number but rather the relative change in electoral competition from one election to the next that has been a prime factor in explaining the linkage between party system fragmentation and electoral volatility. Lastly, the increasingly permeable Belgian national party system seems to have impacted adversely on the equal representation of smaller parties and – somewhat counterintuitively – even after the year 2000 has primarily rewarded larger parties, the very parties that represent the main pillar-based ideologies. Added to this is that one of the main factors precluding equal representation of (new) parties is total electoral volatility.

  • Issue Year: XXI/2014
  • Issue No: 3
  • Page Range: 177-201
  • Page Count: 25
  • Language: English