Rules, Choice and Strategy

Rules, Choice and Strategy

The Political Economy of Italian Electoral Reform

The Locke Institute series

Ram Mudambi, Pietro Maria Navarra and Giuseppe Sobbrio

This topical book analyses the change of electoral rules in Italy from proportional representation toward plurality. While Italy is used as the illustrative case, the analysis has far-ranging theoretical and practical implications, and will therefore be of interest to academics and researchers of political economy, constitutionalism and public choice.

Chapter 1: Overview

Ram Mudambi, Pietro Maria Navarra and Giuseppe Sobbrio

Subjects: economics and finance, public choice theory, politics and public policy, public choice


The design of an electoral system, as it affects the shape of political party structures and the rhythm of governmental change, is fundamental to any democracy. It is through elections that members of a polity have the opportunity to express the acceptance of party decisions and to endorse the formal structure of the political system as a viable method for making acceptable decisions. It is through the electoral system that the commitment of a society to the political system is achieved. This commitment is expressed through the mobilisation and representation of the electorate and its level of political control. The peculiarities of an electoral system assume significant importance in periods in which democratic polities seem caught between a crisis of confidence in their representative systems and mass apathy over the product of government. An electoral system has to balance multiple objectives: establishing the legitimacy of the winner, encouraging participation, discouraging the formation of a large number of political parties and assuring a representative political system, although the very definition of ‘representativeness’ is part of the problem. Probably no electoral system will satisfy all these dimensions and the choice will always be between flawed alternatives. Despite the virtually unlimited range of voting schemes which have been proposed and used in political systems with ‘democratic credentials’, two partially conflicting aims are at the heart of most electoral engineering projects. The first aim is ‘to secure an assembly whose membership will be, so far as possible, proportional to...

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