Political Systems, Female Representation, and Voter Turnout

Unless otherwise noted, three sources were used to compile the following graphs: CIA World Factbook, Worldpolicy.org and Nationmaster.com. In the top graph you can see the different political systems of the world organized between those nations that elect their officials collectively in districts (orange) and those nations that elect their officials based on the individual choices in proportional elections (green) as of 2005. Next, the group of proportionally elected officials is divided into two, each with a different shade of green: one shows nations with proportional elections and a prime-minister resulting from those general elections, and one shows nations that — next to proportional elections — also elect a president collectively as if the nation is one big district where winner-takes-all. Note that the former version is mainly found in Europe. Ceremonial presidents and kings and queens may preside as top figure in the darker green nations, but either have no political power or were appointed by the elected officials, not by the people directly. The mixed version (blue) applies to those nations where (part of) their representatives are elected in districts with multiple seats available. Finally, the non-democratic nations are left blank, though various nations received the benefit of the doubt (such as Pakistan). An update of the map may be in order for a few nations since this is based on data of 2005.

In this second map, the nations shown in dark green have the highest percentage of female representatives in the world. Some nations have set minimum levels for female representatives, some nations saw a diminishment of their male population due to war (Rwanda); both are reasons for a higher level of female representatives than what the system normally would deliver. However, a strong resemblance is found in general between the political system in place and the level of female representatives. Nations electing representatives from a preselected group are shown in white in this graph, such as Cuba and China, which have high percentages of females elected as representatives, but that as nations do not give the public a free choice to elect their own representatives. Again, data of 2005 was used, and the world has changed some since (Rwanda is now in top). A map with more distinctions but without the presidential distinctions: WPmap

In the next graph, the nations are set apart in their own versions of government and plotted against female distribution. Not only does the proportional version without a president have the highest level of female representatives (Sweden), this category also has the highest nation that is lowest in its rank (Hungary). The opposite is true for district elections with the highest number being the lowest of all high numbers (Rwanda), while it shares the bottom level of zero female representatives (Kuwait) together with various nations found with the non-democratic category.

The following graph shows how much of the national distribution of income ór distribution of consumption the top 10% in a nation can call their own. Please note that the distribution of consumption usually shows a lower level of inequality than the distribution of income. Various aspects on this map may therefore be further skewed than they already appear. Of great interest is the difference found between the nations with proportional elections — one with and one without a president: they show almost opposite results. Nations with proportional elections without a president all remain below the level as found in the United States, while nations with proportional elections that also elect a president show the tendency to remain above that level.

In the graph below, various well-known democracies are placed according to voter turnout over a 55 year time-span. It gives an indication which system delivers a higher enticement to participate. Of these nations, the United States has the highest number on average of elections, and voter fatigue may explain part of its low position. Nevertheless, Italy — with more national elections than any other nation — shows no voter fatigue, and is placed in top position with 92.5% voter turnout on average. A few nations require all its citizens to vote, such as Australia and Belgium, and may therefore end up higher on this list. The colors for each nation match the colors used in the map right below it.

World map political systems


Finally, one last look at the 'engines' of the two versions of democracy, district elected and proportionally elected. On the left, in district elections 40% of the eligible voters do not go to the voting booth (the example displays in this abstract the results for the averaged US Senate election), while 40% of the voters did not receive a representative (40% of 60% = 24% of the eligible voters). The majority in this example that resembles the 2006 U.S. Senate is based on 50% plus one of the elected representatives; this equals to about 18% of the eligible voters actually supporting the majority of Senators (in actuality, the result was 17%).

In proportional elections, to the right, more people turn out to vote, and half of the representatives plus one equal about 40% of the eligible voters. The abstract example shows strong similarities to Sweden's (single) House of Representatives.

What constitutes a majority in one system differs significantly from what constitutes a majority in the other system. How well politicians listen to voters is reflected in these abstract graphs, and it should be easy to understand which system puts better controls on the representatives, and which system puts more controls on what the voters really have to say. Proportional elections entice more people to vote and better ensures that representatives are more representative of the population.


Read more about the two democratic engines.


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