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Title: Giving More Weight to Preferential Votes: Welcome or Superfluous Reform? The Case of the Local Elections in Flanders (Belgium)
Authors: Wauters, Bram
Verlet, Dries
Issue Date: 2012
Citation: LOCAL GOVERNMENT STUDIES, 38 (1), p. 91-111
Abstract: In response to a crisis of representative democracy in many Western countries, (local) governments have introduced instruments to circumvent political parties in order to establish more direct links between citizens and governments. One of these instruments is rendering electoral systems more personal, that is by giving more weight to preferential voting. Preferential voting is important since it constitutes a major element of the personal vote and it determines whether parties or voters are the main decision-makers in designating representatives. We have investigated, in relation to the local elections in Flanders (Belgium), in what kind of municipalities voters are most likely to cast a preferential vote, whether the electoral reform granting voters more power has had an effect, and if it has had an effect, in what kind of municipalities. We have put forward five groups of explanatory variables: socio-demographic, political, social capital, geographic and ballot form variables. Our analysis shows that variables from each group correlate significantly with the percentage of preferential votes, with population density and electronic voting as most important variables. A comparison between the 1994 and 2006 elections often yields the reverse picture: characteristics of municipalities that have a positive effect on the percentage of preferential votes cast have a negative impact on the evolution of preferential voting and vice versa (electronic voting being an exception). This results in the only obvious effects of the electoral reform being seen in urban municipalities, because elsewhere local politics was already to a large extent personalised by politicians being locally known. We could conclude that in these rural municipalities the electoral reform was superfluous.
Notes: [Wauters, Bram] Univ Coll Ghent, Dept HABE, Sect Govt & Policy, B-9000 Ghent, Belgium. [Wauters, Bram] Univ Ghent, Ghent, Belgium. [Verlet, Dries] Res Ctr Flemish Govt, Brussels, Belgium. [Ackaert, Johan] Hasselt Univ, Hasselt, Belgium. Bram.wauters@hogent.be
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1942/13703
DOI: 10.1080/03003930.2011.629193
ISI #: 000302293400005
ISSN: 0300-3930
Category: A1
Type: Journal Contribution
Validation: ecoom, 2013
Appears in Collections: Research publications

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