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12 Comp. Pol. Stud. 3 (1979-1980)

handle is hein.journals/compls12 and id is 1 raw text is: 


                 A   Measure with Application to

                                            West Europe

                                         MARKKU LAAKSO
                                         University of Helsinki
                                         REIN  TAAGEPERA
                                University of California, Irvine

  Is  a large number of parties bound to destabilize a political system
     (Duverger, 1954) or is it not (e.g., Lijphart, 1968; Nilson, 1974)?
Before this question can be answered, the number of parties must be
operationally defined in a way that takes into account their relative size.
Such a number is also needed if one wants to detect trends toward fewer
or more numerous parties over time, or the effects of a proposed change
in electoral rules. This article presents ways to calculate this important
political variable, calculates it for 142 post-1944 elections in 15 West
European countries, and analyzes its possible effect on stability.
   We often talk of two-party and multiparty systems. We further dis-
tinguish three- or four-party systems in some countries, and even talk
(e.g., Blondel, 1969: 535) of a two-and-a-half-party system when there is
a third party of marginal size. Mexico could be viewed as a one-and-a-
half-party system because the PRI is so much larger than all other
parties. Rather than take the number of all existing parties, including
even the very smallest, one visibly has a need for a number that takes
into account their relative size. We will call this number the effective
number  of parties, using the word effective somewhat in the sense
pressure group literature uses it when talking about effective access
(Truman, 1951: 506), but even more in the operational sense physicists
give it when they talk about effective current (Richards et al., 1960: 594),
COMPARATIVE POLITICAL STUDIES, Vol. 12 No. 1. April 1979 3-27
@ 1979 Sage Publications, Inc.

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