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Revolution, Elite Fear, and Electoral Institutions

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We present a systemic threat theory to explain the introduction of Proportional Representation (PR). If facing a revolutionary threat, incumbents agree to enact electoral reforms such as PR to secure the stability of the parliamentary system, even if this could imply their own personal electoral loss. We argue that the theory can help explain the largest wave of PR adoptions in history, namely in the years immediately after the Bolshevik revolution in 1917. Incumbents came to over-estimate the true revolutionary threat in Europe. Simultaneously, reformist parliamentarian socialists came to push for PR to weaken the radicals within their party. Incumbents and reformist socialists could therefore support the same system. We test this using qualitative and quantitative data from Norway's adoption of PR in 1919.


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2022

This article was made available online on November 18, 2021 as a Fast Track article with title: "Revolution, Elite Fear, and Electoral Institutions".

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  • Comparative Politics is an international journal that publishes scholarly articles devoted to the comparative analysis of political institutions and behavior. It was founded in 1968 to further the development of comparative political theory and the application of comparative theoretical analysis to the empirical investigation of political issues. Comparative Politics communicates new ideas and research findings to social scientists, scholars, and students, and is valued by experts in research organizations, foundations, and consulates throughout the world.
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