Forms of Government and Elections

Siddharth Vecham
3 min readSep 15, 2020

How the rest of the world is governed:

While us Americans have grown used to America’s electoral college, the system is byzantine compared to many other countries’ electoral systems. Many countries have a prime minister, and some countries do not have districts or constituencies. Here, the different types of governments and types of electoral systems are described.

Forms of Government:

1. Parliamentary Systems

In Parliamentary systems, a prime minister serves as a head of state, similar to an American president. Some countries have different names for the position of prime ministerial such as Germany have a chancellor. The prime minister is elected by members of the legislature. Many countries following the parliamentary system will have a President, who has limited power. Other countries have a King or Queen who takes the job as President. The President’s main job is to form a government, which means to make sure the prime minister has a majority of the votes. Usually, parties have a leader, and whichever party gains a majority will elect their leader as prime minister. In the scenario that no party gains a majority, parties will usually try to group together to form a coalition to choose one of the party leaders as prime minister. There is another scenario when no party has a majority and no coalition is formed. Then the largest party or coalition will form a minority government, who is sworn in by the president. However, there are many variants inside the Parliamentary system to decide how members of the legislature are elected.

2. Presidential System

Many countries follow the presidential system, where a president is the head of state and has no prime minister. There are many ways the presidents themselves are elected, from the two-round system which is used in countries like Brazil and Chile to the electoral college in the United States. Some countries such as South Korea and Taiwan have one round and the candidate with the most votes is elected president.

3. Semi-presidential System

In the semi-presidential system, a country has both a president and a prime minister, like most parliamentary countries. However, unlike parliamentary countries where the president has little power, the president has significant power in the semi-presidential system. The semi-presidential system is used in many countries such as France, Peru, Ukraine, and many former French colonies

Ways Members of Legislative Bodies are Elected:

a. First Past the Post (FPP)

In the FPP system, there are many constituencies, similar to American congressional districts. Multiple candidates run from different parties run in constituencies and the candidate who gets the most votes win. Note that the winning candidate does not need to get a majority of the votes. The United Kingdom, the United States, and other Commonwealth countries follow the FPP System. Countries that have a parliamentary government and an FPP system are often said to follow the Westminster government.

b. Proportional System

Instead of having constituencies and voting directly for candidates, voters vote for political parties. The number of seats given to each party is decided by the proportion of votes the party received, hence the name. This is meant to combat issues such as gerrymandering and vote-splitting. 31 out of the 43 countries in Europe use a fully proportional system.

c. Two-round system

Similar to the FPP system, there are constituencies, but the method of electing the representative is different. Many candidates run, and then the two candidates who receive the most votes move on to the next round. Then voters decide between the two candidates. The system was decided to make sure the winning candidates had at least 50% of the vote. France and other countries that used to be under French rule use the two-round system.

d. Parallel Voting

Parallel Voting is a mixture of FPP and the proportional system. Voters have two ballots; one for the constituency and one for the parties. Voters vote for a representative, and they also vote for a party. Seats are allocated for both the constituencies and the proportional vote. They are usually equal seats reserved for constituencies and the proportional vote. Some countries that follow this system are Italy and Lithuania.

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Siddharth Vecham

I write about economics and public policy. I also offer my opinion on current events.