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Study Notes

Electoral Threshold

AS, A-Level
AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

A threshold is used in an electionto specify that a party must receive a minimum percentage of votes, either nationally or within a particular district, to obtain any seats in the parliament. For the London Assembly it is 5%.

Thresholds are used mainly to stop radical extremist parties from gaining seats in legislatures. It also makes it more likely that coalitions can be formed as there will not be so many different parties with, say, one seat.

This can mean that votes for parties who don’t reach the threshold can be wasted, even in a party list system where votes are not meant to be wasted. This can lead to some rather odd outcomes, such as in Russia, where in 1995 more than 45% of votes went to parties that did not reach the threshold.

This can mean some small parties find themselves in a vicious circle, because if a party is seen as having little to no chance of meeting the threshold it will not gain popular support, and it will likely not win popular support until it can meet the threshold.

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