Electoral Systems Design in Power-sharing Regimes

Published in Powersharing: New Challenges for Divided Societies (ed. by Ian O’Flynn and David Russell, Pluto Press, 2006), this chapter focuses on electoral systems design as a key mechanism in the broader institutional design approach to the resolution of conflict in multi-ethnic societies. As such, it is closely connected with a long-standing debate on what design of political institutions is best suited to channel inter-communal conflict into peaceful democratic competition. The two predominant schools in conflict resolution today — integrative and consociational power sharing — take very distinct views on which electoral systems stand the best chance of contributing to the successful management of conflict. These two interlocked debates on institutional and electoral system design are the focus of this chapter. In exploring the arguments put forward by integrationists and consociationalists and by advocates of different electoral systems, I examine their theoretical merits and empirical manifestations and argue against rigid divisions between the two approaches to power sharing.


October 2005