The Effects of Electoral Reform on Party Systems and Parliamentary Representation in Japan and New Zealand
Electoral systems influence how societal interests can be represented. With an investigation of Japan and New Zealand, this project features a paired comparison of the only two established democracies that introduced mixed electoral systems in the early 1990s and that have since then continuously used these systems.
In both comparative and national-level terms we want to know how, in the context of concurrent social change, the adoption of mixed electoral systems – a mixed-member majoritarian (MMM) system in Japan and a mixed-member proportional (MMP) system in New Zealand – has impacted on party-system development and parliamentary representation in these two countries during the past 20-odd years. More specifically, we ask whether/to what degree the predicted move to a two-party system in Japan has taken place and whether/to what degree the party system in New Zealand has become more diverse. At the intra-national level, we seek to understand how electoral system change has affected the parliamentary representation of established smaller parties in Japan and the parliamentary representation of women and ethnic majorities in New Zealand.
Contribution to International Research
The research project will talk to and build on extant research concerning a) the effects of electoral system on party systems (in particular Duverger’s laws/assumptions and its critics) and on representation of women and ethnic minorities, b) the particular consequences of mixed-member electoral systems (most prominently Shugart and Wattenberg eds. 2001), and d) recent party-system change in Japan (Schoppa ed. 2011; Scheiner 2012) and in New Zealand (Miller 2010a, 2010b). The project will reassess early studies on the consequences of electoral reform on parties and the party systems in Japan and New Zealand (e.g. Barker et al. 2001; Reed and Thies 2001; Köllner 2006) in the light of more recent evidence.
Research Design and Methods
The project features a paired comparison of the only two established democracies that introduced mixed electoral systems in the early 1990s and that have since then continuously used these systems. As Moser and Scheiner (2012) argue the effects of electoral systems are conditioned by contextual factors. We propose to study party and party system change in Japan and New Zealand by combining quantitative assessments of party-system change (as reflected in the development of the effective number of parliamentary parties) with qualitative approaches to understanding how parties have reacted to the new institutional settings in terms of representing women and ethnic minorities in parliament. In the case studies on representation of ethnic minorities in New Zealand’s parliament, we will compare the representation of Maori and New Zealanders of Asian descent. In sum, we seek to combine cross-regional and within-case analyses in this project.
In both countries, the introduction of mixed electoral systems has contributed to changes in the respective party systems in line with theoretical expectations. While Japan has moved towards an effective two-party system (with the DPJ emerging as the second main party), New Zealand’s party system has become moderately fragmented (with National and Labour remaining as vital 'anchor' parties). In New Zealand, the use of MMP has helped to increase the parliamentary representation of women and 'Asians' (significantly in both cases) and even more so in the case of Maori.