Journal of the Indiana Academy of the Social Sciences

Document Type



Why did reforming Eastern European countries adopt the electoral systems they did? Why, for example, did Poland adopt proportional representation while Hungary adopted a system of fairly strict majority rule? Often, the expectation is that new democracies will adopt electoral systems characterized by proportional representation rather than majority rule. This expectation is based on two (unwarranted) assumptions: (1) that proportional representation is better able to produce political stability and (2) that incumbent reformers care more about stability than about their own political power. Because it is reliant on these assumptions, the prevailing literature is unable to explain Hungary’s adoption of majority rule; it is also unable to explain the degree of proportional representation agreed upon in the process of democratic transition.

In this paper, I present a formal model of regime transition that explains the electoral systems that emerged from democratic transition in Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia. Aside from explaining Hungary’s majoritarian outcome, the model holds without reference to the efficacy of proportional representation. It also makes simpler assumptions about the behavior of parties to constitutional negotiation.