Majority vote

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A majority vote , in Swiss majority voting , is a principle of representation with the aim of bringing about a parliamentary government majority for a party . It describes a voting procedure for the selection of a proposal from a number of predefined alternatives by the majority of a group of voters. In this way, majority voting is a process for the direct, personal election of representatives .

The majority vote is to be distinguished from the proportional representation and is usually designed as a personality choice.


Majority elections can be held in constituencies in which only one person is elected per proposal, as well as in those in which several or all (unity) persons are elected in one proposal.

Relative majority vote

In the case of relative majority voting, the proposal or candidate who receives the most votes is elected. As a rule, parties with regional strongholds and regional parties benefit disproportionately from this. Use of this type of majority vote often gives rise to two-party systems, e.g. B. in the USA . Something similar is z. B. in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland , with the additional training of regionally strong parties.

This does not apply to selected direct candidates who are also only intended as independents, e.g. B. also for the General National Congress in Libya .

Absolute majority vote

In the case of an absolute majority vote , the proposal that receives more than half of the votes is chosen. In order to achieve the required majority in all cases, a run-off vote is often held in which only the two best candidates from the first round are allowed. This takes place e.g. B. Applies to most mayor and district elections in Germany , but not to mayor elections in Baden-Württemberg . In the second ballot, new applicants can even be nominated.

An alternative to this is the integrated runoff , in which the voters number the proposals according to preference. In this way, u. a. elected members of the two houses of parliament of Australia .

Romance majority vote

A Romance majority vote is a majority vote in which up to two rounds of voting are held. Anyone who has an absolute majority in the first ballot is elected. If this does not apply to any of the candidates, a second ballot (“new election”, “repeat election”) takes place in which the candidate with the most votes is elected. There are different rules about who can take part in this second ballot. Such a method is e.g. B. used in the elections to the French National Assembly .

The classification of this majority vote as a relative or absolute majority vote is controversial, as elements of both can be found and yet some specific properties result.

Multi-person constituencies

Several applicants can also be elected in one constituency by majority vote.

Usually the voter has as many votes as there are seats to be allocated and accumulation is not possible. In almost all cantons of Switzerland , the members of the government are elected by the people after an absolute majority, whereby the whole canton forms the constituency and the voters have as many votes as there are government members to be elected. In the case of a relative majority vote, if there are n seats to be awarded, the n applicants with the most votes are elected. In the case of absolute majority voting, the absolute majority can be defined differently in the case of multiple constituencies.

A majority vote in multi-person constituencies with just one vote is also possible. Either several applicants can be selected together, e.g. B. the electors in US presidential elections , or just a candidate is elected with the vote, in this case one speaks of non-transferable individual voting .

Relationship to proportional representation

If only one MP is elected in the constituency, the relative majority vote can also be viewed as a proportional representation. In the opposite case, proportional representation in particularly small constituencies is also regarded as majority elections, since they serve the same goal as these. The so-called factual hurdle is then often very high.

The proportional representation can become a unitary election if the threshold clause is set very high.

The use of majority voting can also be combined with that of proportional representation. In personalized proportional representation, there is an integrated majority vote, but this has no effect on the proportion of votes in parliament. In the case of the right to vote in trenches, on the other hand, part of the MPs is determined by majority vote and, independently of this, the other part by proportional representation.

The so-called minority - friendly majority voting system stipulates that the party with the strongest vote is automatically awarded a certain minimum share of parliamentary seats. Otherwise it is a proportional representation.

Situation in selected states

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom , members of the House of Commons are elected by relative majority voting. This type has its origin in the Anglo-Saxon area and is only widespread there today. Since all votes are forfeited except for the winner, this voting process is also called winner-takes-all or first-past-the-post system .


In France , a Romansh majority vote is used in national assembly elections. In order to be elected in the first ballot, an absolute majority of the votes cast and the votes of 25% of the eligible voters must have been achieved. In addition to the two best-placed candidates in the first round, anyone who has received more than 12.5% ​​of the eligible voters may participate in the possible second ballot. In presidential elections , an absolute majority vote is used.

United States

The members of the United States Congress ( House of Representatives and Senate ) and most of the state parliaments are elected in single-electoral constituencies, the precise form of which is subject to state law and the Senatorial constituency always spans an entire state. When the US president is elected by the electoral college in most states, the respective electors also fall to the highest - voting candidate in the respective state according to majority voting.


In Germany , the federal election law is a personalized proportional representation . Although in the are constituencies also direct candidates selected according to the relative majority vote (half of the Federal seats ). Non-party direct candidates have had no chance against the party-supported candidates since the 1949 federal election .

In contrast to many other constitutions, the Basic Law does not prescribe a specific electoral system . This is due to the fact that the various parties in the Parliamentary Council could not agree on a permanent solution. After the introduction of trench suffrage had already been discussed in the 1950s , the grand coalition (1966–1969) wanted to introduce majority voting. This electoral reform was one of the reform projects for which the coalition was formed. The project was particularly supported by the CDU , which wanted to become independent from the FDP , which was able to determine the direction of politics in the three-party system of that time. The SPD was initially ready to support such a reform, but later moved away from it because the FDP had brought a social-liberal coalition into play. Federal Interior Minister Paul Lücke (CDU) then resigned from his office. Helmut Schmidt (SPD), who was parliamentary group leader of the SPD in the Bundestag at the time, was one of the few in his party who did not give up the demand at the time. Political scientists Ferdinand A. Hermens and Wilhelm Hennis represented the majority vote at the universities .

After the Left Party moved into a West German parliament for the first time in 2007, there were isolated requests for a majority vote for Germany. Inevitable compromises would prevent a clear, unambiguous and meaningful policy, so the arguments of the reform proponents. This is a great damage for Germany. Among other things, Ernst Benda called for the introduction of majority voting rights in Germany.

However, the majority voting system is required by law in other elections. a. in Section 14 (2) BetrVG and in Section 18a (2) No. 2 MitbestG .


After the National Council election in 2006 , some prominent politicians in Austria, including Governor Erwin Pröll , demanded the introduction of a majority vote in elections to the National Council with the aim of creating clear majorities and making large coalitions less frequent.

In an interim draft of a changed party program of the ÖVP "the party is considering the introduction of majority voting rights in its" evolutionary process "."


The majority voting system is called the majority system in Switzerland .

In Switzerland, proportional representation is the rule for representative bodies. Majority voting, when used, is Romansh style customary. It applies to the election of the Council of States (except in the cantons of Jura and Neuchâtel ), some cantonal parliaments and cantonal and communal governments (executives). In those cantons that only send one representative to the National Council , the candidate who receives the most votes is also elected.

Federal Council elections, i.e. elections to the federal government by parliament, are carried out with a modified absolute majority.


In Italy , minority-friendly majority voting was used at times for the elections to the Italian House of Representatives , with the party with the highest number of votes receiving 54% of the seats. The same applies to the election of the Senate individually in each region, which distorted the majority structure and, in turn, only accidentally resulted in more stable majorities than with a pure proportional representation.


No two-party system has emerged in India because the regional characteristics have a strong impact there.

Typical features of majority voting

Choice of people

As a rule, voting in the constituencies is possible. Voters have the opportunity to get to know candidates from their constituency personally and vote on the basis of their personality .

  • However, this applies e.g. B. not approaching the US presidential election . It depends on the majorities in the respective state, although the same candidates run nationwide.
  • MPs are less dependent on their party as they are directly elected in their constituencies. As a result, MPs in majority electoral systems vote against their own parliamentary group more often than in proportional representation systems. This is seen both as an advantage (MPs feel more committed to the region than to a party) and as a disadvantage (majority formations become less transparent).
  • The system and the counting are usually simpler and therefore easier to understand than with proportional representation.
  • One vote in a small constituency - it is practically impossible to always make all constituencies the same - weighs arithmetically more than one vote in a large constituency, since each constituency elects a representative.

Two-party system

Majority voting tends to be a two-party system ( Duverger's Law ).

  • In Great Britain, in May 2010, a coalition government was formed for the first time in generations ( Cameron I cabinet ). When there is no party with an absolute majority in the lower house, it is called a hung parliament .
  • In the US, all or almost all of the seats consistently go to two parties ( Democratic Party and Republican ). Even if there is no two-party system at the national level, it is nonetheless usually the case that at the constituency level at most two parties have a realistic chance of victory.
  • In New Zealand , until the first-past-the-post system was replaced by the mixed-member proportional electoral system as part of the 1993 election reform, the two established parties were dominant. After the introduction of proportional representation, other parties gained seats apart from the two established parties. Among other things, this led to an increased representation of the Maori.
  • In practice in other countries it is sometimes different:
  • According to the controversial median voter model , this leads to competition for the “middle” voter and thus to an orientation of the programs towards the political center . With majority voting, the two major parties tend to move towards each other politically, as they do not expect realistic competition from the other side of the spectrum. As a result, the voter effectively only has the choice between two (more or less) similar policy offers. This is seen in part as an advantage when one considers the alignment of politics to “centric positions” to be important; but also as a disadvantage (especially under democratic theoretical approaches), because the voter does not have the option of choosing between genuinely different positions.
  • A party fragmentation is unlikely as candidates of small parties rarely receive enough votes to win a constituency. The votes for candidates from smaller parties often turn into "paper basket votes" as they have no impact on the composition of parliament. Critics complain that social minorities are not adequately represented.
  • On the one hand, this affects extreme parties and lobby parties that only want to represent certain sections of society. Their non-participation in political decision-making processes is generally rated positively. But it also affects creative, democratic small parties and new parties that want to offer real alternatives to the political offerings of the large popular parties.
  • Under certain conditions, majority elections can also lead to party fragmentation: A majority vote hinders the emergence of topic-oriented factional parties, but promotes the emergence of regional parties , which then in parliament often put regional interests ahead of the common interests of the state. Canada is a good example of this. In the Canadian lower house , despite the Anglo-Saxon majority voting rights, the Bloc Québécois and the New Democratic Party (NDP) are represented in addition to the two traditionally dominant lists of the Conservative and Liberal parties . The latter two each have a strong regional power base - the Bloc Quebecois in Quebéc, the NDP in the province of Saskatchewan, among others . Thus, the majority vote can also lead to strong regional parties attaining disproportionate importance at the national level - their parliamentary groups can sometimes demand significant consideration if their votes are needed to obtain a majority for the national government (" tip the scales ").

Clear majorities in parliament

The majority vote often leads to a clear majority in parliament.

  • Coalitions are generally not required to achieve a majority.
  • The party with the highest number of votes is usually disproportionately strong in parliament (compared to the election result), while the others are disproportionately represented. In most cases, the formation of a government is simple and predictable for the voters, and a stable, strong government .
  • The overall result in Parliament is given distorted.
    This postcard compares the results of the British House of Commons 2005 election (How you voted) with the composition of Parliament (What you got). Charter88 is campaigning for a change in the electoral system.
  • It is possible that the second strongest party in terms of votes will have the largest parliamentary group or even get an absolute majority of the seats. For example, the latter was the case in Great Britain in 1951 , New Zealand in 1978 and 1981, and Québec in 1998 . This is possible if the election winner achieves tighter results in densely populated electoral districts and therefore the summation of the votes cast gives a different picture than the count according to current electoral law. In extreme cases, it can happen that a party wins almost half of all votes and the relative majority and still receives nothing in the distribution of seats. Regional parties can be represented far more strongly than national parties with far more votes.
  • It can happen that only one party is represented in parliament and that there is no longer any parliamentary opposition. This happened z. B. in the Canadian province of New Brunswick in the 1987 elections and regularly in Mexico until the 1970s .
  • The majority vote can also lead to a tight overall result, although one camp in the population had a clear majority.

Constituency geometry

It is possible to influence the election result by "clever" drawing the constituency boundaries (" Gerrymandering ", "constituency geometry"):

Part of the population can de facto be deprived of their right to vote if they live in a constituency or district that is firmly in the hands of one of the two parties and thus has no chance of influencing the election results. So live z. B. in the US 80% of the population in a state assigned to a camp.

Selection dilemma

One characteristic is the dependence of the election outcome on irrelevant alternatives. The 2000 US presidential election is seen by many as an example of this. It is argued that Democrat Al Gore lost the election to Republican George W. Bush because many left-wing voters voted for Ralph Nader , a Green- nominated candidate with no prospect of success. Without this alternative, they would probably have preferred Gore to Bush and helped the former to victory.

The dependence of the majority vote on irrelevant alternatives leads to strategic voting behavior.

Depending on the mode of choice

In elections where there can only be one winner and he is directly elected (e.g. the American or French president), which candidate wins can depend heavily on the counting mode. The following example according to Michel Balinski should illustrate this:

Actual population preferences for candidates [A, B, C, D, and E]
Percent of voters 33 16 3 8th 18th 22nd
Order of popularity: 1st place A. B. C. C. D. E.
Order of popularity: 2nd place B. D. D. E. E. C.
Order of popularity: 3rd place C. C. B. B. C. B.
Order of popularity: 4th place D. E. A. D. B. D.
Order of popularity: 5th place E. A. E. A. A. A.
  • A wins in a pure majority vote without a 50% rule
  • B wins a Borda election and a Coombs election
  • C wins according to the Condorcet method
  • D wins in a preferential election (e.g. Australia and Ireland)
  • E wins in a majority election with a second ballot, e.g. B. the French presidential election system

For a counting after the election by consent and the choice of rank, further decisions would have to be requested from the voter. Assuming that in an election, each voter would vote in favor of their first two candidates, at least after a first ballot, Candidate B with 49 points would be just ahead of Candidate E with 48 points.

See also


  • G. William Domhoff : Changing the Powers That Be. How the Left Can Stop Losing and Win . Rowman & Littlefield, New York 2003.
  • Richard M. Scammon, Ben J. Wattenberg: The Real Majority. The Classic Examination of the American Electorate . Plume, New York 1992.
  • Ingar Solty: Why is there no Left Party in the United States? In: Das Argument 264, 2006, Issue 1, pp. 71–84.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ↑ Non- party on
  2. ^ Kristin Lenz: 65 years ago: First federal electoral law passed. Article in the text archive of the Bundestag , May 5, 2014. Retrieved on December 14, 2019.
  3. Germany needs a majority vote
  4. Ex-constitutional judge demands majority voting . In: RP Online , February 4, 2008.
  5. ^ Democracy-History-Switzerland: Majority suffrage against proportional representation
  6. Majorz in
  7. Patrik Köllner: New Zealand under the mixed electoral system with German characteristics: a balance sheet on aspects of the party system, the formation of a government and parliamentary representation . Journal for Parliamentary Issues, 46, 2015, 3, 505–517 (publication as part of The Effects of Electoral Reform on Party Systems and Parliamentary Representation in Japan and New Zealand, German Institute of Global and Area Studies, 2014-2016 )
  8. ^ Michel Balinski: Symmetry, Voting, and Social Choice . In: The Mathematical Intelligencer . Vol. 10, 1988, issue 3, p. 32.