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How the Electoral System Matters for Electing Women

MMP Leads to More Women MPs

Why We Need More Women in Parliament

Understanding Why More Women Get Elected Through MMP

Projected Increase in Women MPs Under MMP

Understanding Party Lists

The Electoral System Matters

Academic studies have consistently shown that countries with any type of proportional representation system tend to have a substantially larger proportion of women in their national legislatures as compared to countries with single-member district systems (like the one we have in Ontario). Many studies have been conducted on this question specifically and the results are extremely clear.1 The table below speaks for itself.

The classic example of how a Mixed Member Proportional Representation system (MMP) helps elect more women is Germany. In their system, half of the Bundestag is elected using First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) and the other half is elected through a Proportional Representation (PR) system. The proportional representation part of the vote resulted in twice as many women being elected as the FPTP part of the vote.2 In New Zealand, before they instituted MMP, 20% of the seats were held by women. By 2005 election, women held 32% of the seats.

 Rank

Country

% Women

Voting System

1

Rwanda

48.8

53 Proportional Representation+ 24 Provincial Council Election+ 3 appointed

2

Sweden

47.3

Proportional Representation

3

Finland

42.0

Proportional Representation

4

Costa Rica

 38.6

Proportional Representation

5

 Norway

37.9

Proportional Representation

6

 Denmark

 36.9

Proportional Representation

7

 Netherlands

 36.7

Proportional Representation

8

Spain

36.0

Proportional Representation

9

 Argentina

35.0

Proportional Representation

10

Mozambique

 34.8

Proportional Representation

11

Belgium

34.7

Proportional Representation

12

South Africa

32.8

Proportional Representation

 13

 Austria

 32.2

 Proportional Representation

14

New Zealand

32.2

Mixed Member Proportional

15

Iceland

31.7

Proportional Representation

16

Germany

31.6

Mixed Member Proportional

17

Burundi

30.5

Proportional Representation

18

Tanzania

30.4

Plurality (First-Past-the-Post)

19

Uganda

29.8

Plurality (First-Past-the-Post)

20

 Peru

 29.2

 Proportional Representation

48

Canada

20.8

Plurality (First-Past-the-Post)

* I have removed Cuba from the list because it scored more than 5 on Freedom House’s Political Rights scale.

The Effect of PR Systems over Time

We can also see in the table below that countries which had PR systems increased their percentage of nationally elected women much more dramatically than FPTP countries over time.

* From Matland, R.E. and D.T. Studlar, The contagion of women candidates in single-member district and proportional representation electoral systems: Canada and Norway. Journal of Politics, 1996. 58(3): p. 707-733.

1 See Duverger, Maurice. 1955. The Political Role of Women. Paris: UNESCO; Lakeman, Enid. 1970. How Democracies Vote. London: Faber; Castles, Francis. 1981. “Female Legislative Representation and the Electoral System.” Politics 1: 21-26; Rule, Wilma. 1981. “Why Women Don’t Run: The Critical Contextual Factors in Women’s Representation.” Western Political Quarterly 34:60-77; Rule, Wilma. 1987. “Electoral Systems, Contextual Factors and Women’s Opportunity for Election to Parliament in Twenty-Three Democracies.” Western Political Quarterly 40: 477-498; Norris, Pippa. 1985. “Women’s Legislative Representation in Western Europe.” West European Polittcs 8:90-101; Norris, Pippa. 1987. Polttics and Sexual Equality. Boulder, CO: Rienner.

2 Lancaster, Thomas D., and Rebecca Davis. 1992. “European Electoral Structures and Women’s Political Participation: A Comparative Study in the Federal Republic of Germany.” Presented at annual meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, Chicago.

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