Electoral Thresholds and the Success of Minor Parties

Center for European, Governance and Economic Development Research Discussion Papers, No. 177-2013

44 Pages Posted: 12 Dec 2013 Last revised: 11 Apr 2015

See all articles by Thushyanthan Baskaran

Thushyanthan Baskaran

University of Goettingen (Göttingen)

Mariana Lopes da Fonseca

University of St. Gallen

Date Written: December 12, 2013

Abstract

We exploit a natural experiment to study the political consequences of explicit electoral thresholds. The natural experiment in question is an electoral reform in the German federal state of Hesse. In 2001, the state parliament abolished the five percent electoral threshold for local elections. The abolishment of the threshold had, on average, a stronger effect on municipalities with larger councils since implicit electoral thresholds are inversely correlated with council size. Using a dataset that includes all 426 Hessian municipalities over the period 1989 to 2011 and exploiting discontinuities in a state law that exogenously maps population to council size, we implement a difference-in-discontinuity design for identification. Our results show that the seat and vote shares of small parties increased in municipalities affected more strongly by the reform. These political effects are primarily due to the reform’s psychological rather than the mechanical consequences. We also find that the reform had no effect on voter turnout. These findings suggest that abolishing an existing threshold improves the electoral prospects of smaller parties. It does, however, not increase voter participation.

Keywords: electoral rules, electoral thresholds, voting

JEL Classification: D70, D72, D78

Suggested Citation

Baskaran, Thushyanthan and Lopes da Fonseca, Mariana, Electoral Thresholds and the Success of Minor Parties (December 12, 2013). Center for European, Governance and Economic Development Research Discussion Papers, No. 177-2013, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2366735 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2366735

Thushyanthan Baskaran (Contact Author)

University of Goettingen (Göttingen) ( email )

Platz der Gottinger Sieben 3
Gottingen, D-37073
Germany

Mariana Lopes da Fonseca

University of St. Gallen ( email )

Bodanstrasse 8
SIAW-HSG
St.Gallen, 9000
Switzerland

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