Faces on the Ballot The Personalization of Electoral Systems in Europe

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2016-03-20
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press

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What is included with this book?


One of the key shifts in contemporary politics is the trend towards greater personalization. Collective actors such as political parties are losing relevance. Citizens are slowly dealigning from these actors, and individual politicians are therefore growing in importance in elections, in government, within parties, and in media reporting of politics. A crucial question concerns how this new pattern could be restructuring politics over the long run - notably, whether the personalization of politics is changing the institutional architecture of contemporary democracies.

The authors show that the trend towards personalization is indeed changing core democratic institutions. Studying the evolution of electoral systems in thirty-one European democracies since 1945, they demonstrate that, since the 1990s, there has been a shift towards more personalized electoral systems. Electoral systems in most European countries now allow voters to express preferences for candidates, not just for political parties. And the weight of these voters' preferences in the allocation of seats has been increased in numerous countries.

They examine the factors that appear to be driving this evolution, finding that the personalization of electoral systems is associated with the growing gap between citizens and politics. Politicians and legislators appear to perceive the personalization of electoral systems as a way to address the democratic malaise and to restore trust in politics by reducing the role of political parties in elections. The book also shows, however, that whether these reforms have had any success in achieving their aims is far less clear.

Comparative Politics is a series for students, teachers, and researchers of political science that deals with contemporary government and politics. Global in scope, books in the series are characterised by a stress on comparative analysis and strong methodological rigour. The series is published in association with the European Consortium for Political Research. For more information visit:

The Comparative Politics series is edited by Emilie van Haute, Professor of Political Science, Universite libre de Bruxelles; Ferdinand Muller-Rommel, Director of the Center for the Study of Democracy, Leuphana University; and Susan Scarrow, Chair of the Department of Political Science, University of Houston.

Author Biography

Alan Renwick is Deputy Director of the Constitution Unit in the Department of Political Science at University College London. He was previously Associate Professor of Comparative Politics at the University of Reading. His publications include The Politics of Electoral Reform: Changing the Rules of Democracy (Cambridge University Press, 2010) and A Citizen's Guide to Electoral Reform (Biteback, 2011). His research focuses primarily on processes of electoral and broader political reform and how these are changing over time.

Jean-Benoit Pilet is Professor of Political Science at the Universite Libre de Bruxelles (ULB). He works on electoral systems, elections, institutional reforms and party politics. He has recently co-edited, with William Cross, The Politics of Party Leadership: a Cross-National Perspective (OUP, forthcoming) and is the author of several articles published in journals like Electoral Studies, Party Politics, European Journal of Political Research, West European Politics, Representation and Journal of Elections, and Public Opinion and Parties.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction: Debating the Personalization of Politics and Electoral Systems
Part 1. Are Electoral Systems Becoming More Personalized?
2. The Personalization of Electoral Systems: What Is It?
Appendix to Chapter 2
3. European Electoral Systems, 1945-2009
Appendix to Chapter 3
Part 2. What Explains Electoral System Personalization?
4. Conditions of Electoral System Personalization
Appendix to Chapter 4
5. Electoral System Personalization: The Origins of Europe's Electoral Systems
6. Electoral Reforms before the Personalization Era: 1945-1989
7. The Politics of Personalization since 1989: Flexible-List Systems
8. The Politics of Personalization since 1989: Closed-List, Open-List, Mixed, and Non-List Systems
Part 3. Do Personalizing Electoral Reforms Have Any Effects?
9. Personalization and Election Results
10. Personalization and Democratic Renewal: Anything More than Talk?
11. Conclusion

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