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Parallel voting describes a mixed voting system where voters in effect participate in two separate elections for a single chamber using different systems, and where the results in one election have little or no impact on the results of the other. Specifically, it usually refers to the semi-proportional system used in Japan, South Korea and elsewhere, sometimes known as the Supplementary Member system (see below). Some political scientists call it Mixed Member Majoritarian (MMM). Parallel voting or MMM is distinct from Mixed Member Proportional voting (MMP) where there is one election, and the party vote determines what share of seats each party will receive in the legislature.

The Supplementary Member system (SM) is a parallel voting system that combines plurality voting (sometimes called "first past the post") with proportional representation.



Under SM, a proportion of seats in the legislature are filled by pluralities in single member constituencies. The remainder are filled from party lists, with parties often needing to have polled a certain amount, typically a small percentage, in order to achieve representation, as is common in many proportional systems.

Unlike Mixed Member Proportional, where party lists are used to achieve an overall proportional result in the legislature, under SM, proportionality is confined only to the list seats. Therefore, a party that secured say 5% of the vote will have only 5% of the list seats, and not 5% of all the seats in the legislature.

The proportion of list seats compared to total seats ranges widely; for example, 18.7% in South Korea, 37.5% in Japan, 68.7% in Armenia and 90.4% in Timor Leste.

Advantages and disadvantages

SM allows smaller parties that cannot win individual elections to secure some representation in the legislature; however, unlike in a proportional system they will have a substantially smaller delegation than their share of the total vote.

A criticism of proportional voting systems is that the largest parties need to rely on the support of smaller ones in order to form a government. However, smaller parties are still disadvantaged as the larger parties still predominate. In countries where there is one dominant party and a divided opposition, the proportional seats may be essential for allowing an effective opposition.

Since plurality voting in single member constituencies is likely to lead to clear majorities, and thus "strong government", the extra seats that the big parties are likely to win as well are unnecessary for strong government. The opposition, which might only win seats in the SM part of the election, might be too weak to ensure that the government is accountable, leading to less than good government.

A party that can gerrymander local districts can win more than its share of seats. So parallel systems need fair criteria to draw district boundaries. (Under Mixed member proportional representation a gerrymander can help a local candidate, but it cannot raise a major party’s share of seats.)

Countries like Japan, Russia and Thailand adopted a parallel system as a means by which incentives for greater party cohesiveness could be injected. The party is sure to elect the candidates at the top of its list, guaranteeing safe seats for the leadership. By contrast, under the MMP system a party that does well in the local seats will not need or receive any compensatory list seats, so the leadership has to run in the local seats.

Countries where used

Countries where the parallel voting system is used.


See also

External links


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