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The Impact of Electoral Reform on Women's Representation


One concern about reform of the electoral system in the Netherlands is whether this would reduce the proportion of women members in the House of Representatives. What evidence is there for this expectation? This study considers these issues, with the first section summarizing the normative arguments why socially inclusive legislatures are thought to be desirable. The representation of women in the Netherlands parliament is compared against the record in other countries worldwide. The second section analyzes the impact of electoral systems on gender representation, confirming that substantially more women are usually elected in systems using party list proportional representation, especially those such as the Netherlands which have a large district magnitude, compared with majoritarian electoral systems using single member districts. Any reform that moves away from nationwide PR in the Netherlands will therefore probably reduce the proportion of women in parliament unless other compensatory actions are taken. Subsequent sections examine alternative strategies that could be adopted, including statutory quotas regulating the candidate selection process for all parties (for example, as used in Belgium), the role of reserved seats in legislatures, and the use of voluntary quotas in candidate selection rules implemented by particular parties. The conclusion summarizes the main findings and arguments surrounding electoral reform in the Netherlands.

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Norris, P. The Impact of Electoral Reform on Women's Representation. Acta Polit 41, 197–213 (2006).

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  • representation
  • women
  • gender
  • electoral systems