Introduction: Evidence for Duverger's Law from Four Countries
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[T]he simple majority single ballot system favours the two party system
Maurice Duverger (1954: 217)
This seemingly straightforward statement, made over 50 years ago, has become perhaps the most famous theoretical generalization in political science. It is a statement that ties the electoral system to the party system in a way that has been used to explain important features of the democratic process in the world's largest, longest lived, and most successful democracies of Britain, Canada, India, and the USA. Over the years since then the relationship between seats and votes has been expanded and elaborated upon in much greater detail and sophistication, but the central insight remains: electoral systems shape party systems. It is an insight that forms a central foundation upon which our understanding of electoral systems and their consequences has been built. But it is also an insight that has limitations even in those cases in which it should apply most clearly. In this volume we...