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Electoral System Change in Belgium 2003: Party Strategies and Voter Responses

Thomas Gschwend ()

No 08-29, Sonderforschungsbereich 504 Publications from Sonderforschungsbereich 504, Universität Mannheim, Sonderforschungsbereich 504, University of Mannheim

Abstract: The paper addresses two points: First, what is the effect of changes to the electoral system in Belgium and second, how do voters respond to the new electoral rules? If seat-maximization is the key link then this would lead to the prediction that parties that supported the change of the electoral system particularly the parties of the incumbent governing coalition (before the change took place for the 2003 election), should expect to fare better under the new rules than the old rules that translate votes into seats. The mechanical effects of the new electoral rules for 2003 when applied to the number of votes cast in 1995 and 1999 do have a small effect in the direction predicted by the theory. The governing parties together, particular the rancophone ones, can expect to fare better under the new rules than under the old rules. Regarding the second question, the number of Strategic Voters in a given district is typically predicted by the district magnitude, i.e. the number of seats that are awarded at the primary electoral district level. Contrary to previous studies there is strong evidence of strategic voting particularly within the small Belgian districts. This analysis further demonstrates that even the new incentives to cast a strategic vote through the need for every party to overcome 5% of the district vote share before gaining representation has already a systematic impact on the decision-making process of Belgium voters.

Pages: 12 pages
Date: 2008-12-17
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-cdm and nep-pol
Note: Financial support from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, SFB 504, at the University of Mannheim, is gratefully acknowledged.
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