Today’s democratic societies practice representative democracy but the ideal of a true representative democracy, where those elected to power mirror the population of a given society is inconsistent with reality. The reality is that, there is an underrepresentation of different minority groups both in terms of their presence in the political assemblies and in terms of their substantive representation. History has shown that minority groups have been continuously underrepresented in most of the world’s democratic societies, and while there have been small improvements in some countries, for the most part minorities in general have yet to make any impressive gain towards more effective political representation.
In the existing literature, the under-representation of minorities in countries across the world and the potential impact of the Single Member Plurality and “pure” Proportional Representation systems on that representation have been studied extensively by authors and social scientists such as Norris (2004), Lijphart (1994), Blais (2008), Pitkin (1997), Reynolds and Reilly (2005) and Diamond (2008). While those studies have shown that minorities are better represented under “pure” proportional representation (PR) than under Single Member Plurality systems, little is known about the propensity of Mixed Member Proportional systems to provide minority groups with access to power and or better representation. If a pure PR system is conducive to the political representation of groups and majoritarian systems discourage it, the big question concerns the effects of mixed systems. By combining the two basic election principles, how do mixed systems contribute to fair representation of societal interests? And secondly, do they improve on the way the “pure” methods represent citizens?
It is very important to note at this point that the aim of the paper is not to discredit the workings of “pure” PR systems and their ability to protect and represent minority rights and interests; It is instead geared at proving that a mixed system is just as effective, or even better in representing the interests of minorities by combining the advantages of both the SMP and PR system and thus avoiding the anomalies of both.
Another gap in the existing literature is the failure to show an interconnection between electoral systems, minority representation and civic engagement. This research will attempt to bridge that existing gap by arguing that electoral systems, the political representation of minorities and civic engagement are interrelated, critical elements of modern democratic societies and that a study of one cannot be complete without an understanding or acknowledgement of the others.
Studies have shown that the type of electoral system is the single most important variable in explaining cross-national differences in the level of electoral representation of minorities. A country’s electoral system stipulates how representatives are elected; it can affect the...