Democratic Forms of Government, Electoral Rules, and the Impact of Environmental Interest Groups

38 Pages Posted: 12 Jun 2013

See all articles by Tobias Böhmelt

Tobias Böhmelt

ETH Zürich

Thomas Bernauer

ETH Zurich

Vally Koubi

University of Bern - Department of Economics

Date Written: June 10, 2013


Environmental non-governmental organizations (ENGOs) are widely expected to influence states’ policies towards more environmental protection both at the national and international level. The authors examine this relationship for democratic systems and argue that the effect of ENGOs is contingent on the form of government and the type of electoral rule. Generally, presidential systems with plurality voting are characterized by a smaller effective number of political parties. In turn, a system with fewer parties is likely to be associated with a higher provision of public goods such as more environmental protection. This implies that the marginal effect of ENGOs may be smaller in political systems that provide more environmental public goods anyway, i.e., presidential systems with plurality voting. Conversely, the paper claims that the impact of ENGOs is likely to be higher in parliamentary systems with a proportional electoral rule. The empirical analysis focuses on the ratification behavior of states vis-à-vis more than 250 international environmental agreements, since such ratification constitutes a strong signal of governmental commitment to the provision of environmental public goods. Using data for the time period 1973-2006, the authors find robust support for the theory.

Keywords: democratic forms of government, electoral rules, environmental governance, environmental interest groups, international environmental agreements, treaty ratification

Suggested Citation

Böhmelt, Tobias and Bernauer, Thomas and Koubi, Vally, Democratic Forms of Government, Electoral Rules, and the Impact of Environmental Interest Groups (June 10, 2013). Available at SSRN: or

Tobias Böhmelt

ETH Zürich

Rämistrasse 101
Zürich, 8092

Thomas Bernauer

ETH Zurich ( email )

Center for Comparative and International Studies
Building IFW, office 45.1, Haldeneggsteig 4
Zurich 8092, 8092
+41 44 632 6466 (Phone)
+41 44 632 1289 (Fax)


Vally Koubi (Contact Author)

University of Bern - Department of Economics ( email )

Schanzeneckstrasse 1
Bern, CH-3001

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