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Electoral Systems for Divided Societies

Reilly, B. (2002) Electoral Systems for Divided Societies. Journal of Democracy, 13 (2). pp. 156-170.

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What kinds of electoral systems can help democracy survive in countries split by deep cleavages of race, religion, language, or ethnicity? As is well-known, politicians in such “divided societies” often have strong incentives to “play the ethnic card” at election time, using communal appeals to mobilize voters. “Outbidding”—increasingly extreme rhetoric and demands—can offer rewards greater than those of moderation. In such circumstances, politics can quickly turn centrifugal, as the center is pulled apart by extremist forces and “winner-take-all” rules the day. The failure of democracy is often the result.

Item Type: Journal Article
Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Copyright: National Endowment for Democracy and the Johns Hopkins University Press. All rights reserved
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