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Voting systems around the world

By Jenny HamrenApril 26, 2017

Voting Around the World
Voting Around the World Getty

There are many different voting systems in the world that vary in large or small ways from one another. Here are some of the most popular, explained.  These three systems make up the majority of the world’s election processes and can be used for larger and smaller elections. 

First, some vocab.

Plurality: The Candidate with the most votes wins, doesn’t need to be a majority.
Examples: United States, United Kingdom, Ethiopia, India, etc. 

Two Round System: Similar to plurality but a winner needs the majority.  If there is no majority in the first round of voting then there will be a second with the 2 leading candidates. 
Examples: France, Iran, Mali, Vietnam, etc. 

List Proportional Voting: Multi-winner system where political parties nominate candidates and electors vote for preferred party or candidate. The governmental seats are given to each party in proportion to the votes they receive.  
Examples: Spain, Morocco, Russia, Brazil, Angola, etc. 

A Deeper Look into Certain Election Processes

France

French Presidents serve for 5 year terms and are elected using a run off voting system which involves two rounds of elections.  If someone doesn’t win the majority in the first round then the top contenders run against each other in the second.  France does not have a two party system and many different parties are represented in their 3 branches of government.  This means that the French President could have a Prime Minister from another political party.  

Both the financing and spending of French campaigns are highly regulated.  All commercial advertisements are prohibited in the three months before the election.  Political ads are aired for free but on an equal basis for each candidate on national television and radio.  There are limits on donations and expenses that are regulated by an independent financial representative of the campaign.  

United Kingdom

General elections are held every five years with a large number of elections across the UK.  In 2015, six hundred and fifty people were elected into the House of Commons and this greatly changes the standing of the parties in the government.  With three major parties there is no longer a two party system.  These parties are the Conservative Party formerly know as the Tories, the Liberal Democrats formerly known as the Whigs, and the Labour Party who all make up the bulk of the government along with various independents.  

The party that wins the majority of seats in the House of Commons in the general election becomes the leading party.  The leader of the majority party is appointed Prime Minister by the Queen. The leader of the minority party is referred to as the leader of the opposition.  The Prime Minister appoints the ministries and forms the government.  There are moments where the system is adapted whether the Prime Minister calls for a special early election or there is no party with a majority in the House of Commons.  

UK elections limit how much campaigns can spend during certain elections, but there is no price limit for donations.  This is regulated by the Electoral Commission which is an independent regulatory body.  All of the parties need to keep records for the independent audit. To ensure transparency the Electoral Commission publishes party spending returns online. 

Russia

A presidential candidate can be nominated by a Russian political party or by a collection of signatures in support.  Similar to France, Russia has many political parties that make up their government and there is also a two round voting system.  The Presidential term is 6 years and though someone can hold many terms there can only be two consecutive terms at a time.  There were protests and concerns over the legitimacy of past elections.

The main political party is the United Russia Party lead by Vladimir Putin and it holds 343 seats of the 450 possible seats in their governmental body, the Duma.  Other parties are the Communist Party, the Liberal Democratic Party, A Just Russia, Civic Platform, and there are independents.  Members of the Duma are elected for 5 year terms. 

Though spending and broadcast time is monitored and regulated there are large loopholes for the party who is in control of public resources.  Opposition parties need to fund from their own resources but United Russia uses official state-funded trips, positive news reporting, and other means to avoid using personal funds.