Chapter 1: Introduction: election law - universal or particular?
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This chapter, which introduces the volume Comparative Election Law (Edward Elgar, 2022), argues that the field of election law comprises two distinct traditions, which co-exist uneasily. One tradition, derived from classical liberalism, conceives of democracy as a voluntary, consensual, and rational act of state foundation. On this view, all societies that choose democracy face a fundamentally similar set of choices about how to institutionalize their democratic commitments, and those choices can be guided by prescriptive analyses of universal applicability. A second and quite different tradition, however, conceives of democracy as the outcome of a historical struggle for dominance within a society, in which an undemocratic ancien régime is first resisted and then gradually eclipsed after a long and difficult process. On this view, a society's democratic laws and institutions are inevitably a product of that struggle, and may thus reflect historically contingent defeats, compromises, and negotiations between forces demanding democratic self-rule and those opposing it. A society's election law, according to this model, is thus, at best, the law that happens to be right for it given its historical circumstances and is in any case the best that it has as yet feasibly been able to attain. The chapter goes on to review the basic choices that every society must make in constructing its own election law - however conceived - and then lays out the organization of the volume. Each of the volume's chapters is briefly described.

Edited by James A. Gardner
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