The Constitution Unit


Electoral Reform Around the World

Dr Alan Renwick has conducted several major studies of electoral reform in democracies around the world.

Faces on the Ballot

This project, conducted by Alan Renwick with Jean-Benoit Pilet at the Université libre de Bruxelles in Belgium, examines the personalization of electoral systems in Europe.  The 'personalization' of an electoral system is the degree to which it allow voters to express preferences among candidates as well as among political parties and the degree to which these preferences influence who actually gets elected.  This has become increasingly important as voters have disengaged from political parties and sought a more direct relationship with individual politicians.  The project shows that a wave of personalizing reforms has spread across Europe over the past quarter century.  It examines the origins of this wave and the effects of the reforms upon the performance of the political systems affected.

The principal output of the project is a book published by Oxford University Press in February 2016: Faces on the Ballot: The Personalization of Electoral Systems in Europe

This project was part of the wider Electoral System Change in Europe since 1945 project, which was co-directed by Jean-Benoit Pilet and Alan Renwick and funded by the Belgian Fonds de la Recherche Scientifique and the McDougall Trust.

The Politics of Electoral Reform

This study examined the processes through which electoral systems change.  It showed that there are two basic routes to reform.  One is the route conventionally recognized by political scientists: the politicians in power conclude that a new or reformed electoral system would serve their battle to retain power more effectively than the status quo and therefore adjust the rules accordingly.  This is reform by elite-majority imposition.  The second route - elite-mass interaction - had not previously received much attention.  Here, most politicians oppose change, but are forced to accept it by public pressure.  Interim routes to reform on the continuum between these basic types are also possible.

This project, which was the fruit of Alan Renwick's postdoctoral research fellowship at New College, Oxford, had two principal outputs:

Alan Renwick also continues to publish studies of particular electoral reform episodes in a range of countries.  A full list of these is available on his personal page