Date of Award

2013

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Political Science

Abstract

The record of democratization in the postcommunist states indicates that there is a relationship between the type of electoral system they adopted and the success of their democratic development--countries which instituted proportional representation (PR) elections have achieved greater success than have those countries which instituted single member district (SMD) elections. The record also shows a second relationship existing between type of election method used and the development of political parties as important political actors--PR methods promote party politics whereas SMD methods do not. A third phenomenon--significant numbers of ambitious office seekers who have no party affiliation competing in SMD elections--strongly suggests that political parties are the key intervening variable in the equation.

My thesis is that the institutional incentives produced by the electoral system affect whether office seekers form parties in order to pursue their ambition, and that in turn affects how constrained they are in pursuing their self-interest as opposed to the common good. PR elections require that office seekers compete in groups. Parties develop collective interests, goals, and objectives which their members need to adhere in order to pursue their own interests; party competition makes politics more coherent and transparent to the electorate which facilitates effective voting and government accountability; parties provide the cooperation and collaboration necessary for a legislature to function effectively and independently; and parties strive to guard against one group gaining permanent control over the political system. SMD elections emphasize individual competition without incentives to form into parties which does not constrain pursuit of individual self-interests, and it does produce a political landscape that is incoherent to the electorate, incapable of functioning collectively, and is susceptible to manipulation by powerful interests and elites. The study performs a large-N quantitative analysis and qualitative case studies of Moldova, Kyrgyzstan, and Russia.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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