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LIMA JUNIOR, Olavo Brasil de. Electoral system reforms: changes, contexts, and consequences. Dados [online]. 1999, vol.42, n.1, pp.17-61. ISSN 0011-5258.

This analysis of the reform processes that have occurred in New Zealand’s, Italy’s, Japan’s, and Mexico’s electoral systems begins by examining the initial context of each reform. It then describes the changes put in place and observes subsequent effects on party systems. Reform took a common route in these four countries, that is, some type of mixed system was adopted, where each voter casts two ballots in the Lower House: the first is cast for candidates who run in single-vote districts under the plurality system; the second is cast for a proportional closed list, which may be national or state/provincial in scope. The article strongly questions the thesis that the effects of institutional changes can be controlled, since relatively similar electoral reforms have had different consequences in the cases analyzed. In New Zealand, such changes brought significant improvements to existing institutions. In Italy, the only evident effect was the breakdown of the previous party system. In Japan, one sole party no longer dominated the system, which developed instead into a moderately fragmented one. Lastly, in Mexico, one could not say the system is effectively democratic but one can detect a trend towards party diversification and less manipulation of the polls.

Keywords : electoral system; political reform; comparative politics.

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