I show that, contrary to Duverger’s law, three or four parties receive at least 5 per cent of the votes in most districts in British and Canadian elections. This is so because the voters and the parties are not necessarily short-term utility maximizers as the theory assumes. Still, the basic intuition that fewer parties obtain significant support under single-member district plurality elections is absolutely correct. Duverger also makes an important contribution instressing the impact of electoral formulas, a fruitful antidote to the exclusive emphasis that recent research has given to district magnitude.
KeywordsDuverger electoral formula district magnitude plurality electoral system
The author would like to thank Jean-François Daoust for excellent research assistance.
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