The Electoral System, the Party System and Accountability in Parliamentary Government

Forthcoming, American Political Science Review

78 Pages Posted: 2 Apr 2020

See all articles by Christopher Kam

Christopher Kam

University of British Columbia (UBC) - Department of Political Science

Anthony M. Bertelli

Bocconi University - DONDENA - Carlo F. Dondena Centre for Research on Social Dynamics; Pennsylvania State University

Alexander Held

Trinity College Dublin

Date Written: March 9, 2020

Abstract

Electoral accountability requires that voters have the ability to constrain the incumbent government’s policy-making power. We express the necessary conditions for this claim as an accountability identity in which the electoral system and the party system interact to shape the accountability of parliamentary governments. Data from 400 parliamentary elections between 1948-2012, show that electoral accountability is contingent on the party system’s bipolarity, i.e., with parties arrayed in two distinct blocs. Proportional electoral systems achieve accountability as well as majoritarian ones when bipolarity is strong, but not when it is weak. This is because bipolarity decreases the number of connected coalitions that incumbent parties can join to preserve their policy-making power. Our results underscore the limitations that party systems place on electoral reform and the benefits that bipolarity offers for clarifying voters’ choices and intensifying electoral competition.

Keywords: accountability, political parties, elections, parliamentary democracy, representative government

Suggested Citation

Kam, Christopher and Bertelli, Anthony M. and Held, Alexander, The Electoral System, the Party System and Accountability in Parliamentary Government (March 9, 2020). Forthcoming, American Political Science Review, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3551137

Christopher Kam

University of British Columbia (UBC) - Department of Political Science ( email )

Vancouver, V6T 1Z1
Canada

Anthony M. Bertelli (Contact Author)

Bocconi University - DONDENA - Carlo F. Dondena Centre for Research on Social Dynamics ( email )

Via Roentgen 1
Milan, 20136
Italy

Pennsylvania State University ( email )

University Park, PA 16802-3306
United States

HOME PAGE: http://tonybertelli.com

Alexander Held

Trinity College Dublin ( email )

D2
Ireland

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Downloads
88
Abstract Views
290
rank
321,482
PlumX Metrics