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Full Representation Around the World

Created August 2003

In the United States, where the plurality system is still by far the most widely used, full representation may seem like a somewhat abstract or theoretical idea. However, on a global scale, full representation systems are actually more common than the plurality system which we use in the US.

Of the 211 states and territories that have direct legislative elections, 68 use plurality as their primary system, while 75 use full representation. (66 use party list full representation, 7 use a  mixed member system, and 2 use choice voting). Of the remainder, 31 use a two round runoff system, 2 use instant runoff voting, 2 use single non-transferable vote (also known as the one vote system), and 20 use a parallel system which elects some seats using full representation and other seats using plurality or two round runoff. (Source: International IDEA, ESD Handbook. Also, for a handy map and table from the World Policy Institute, click here).

While all of these countries officially have elections, not all of them are widely considered to be fully democratic in practice. When one focuses on the nations that are considered to be most democratic, one sees that a much higher percentage of them use full representation.

For example, there are only 45 countries which both have a population of at least two million, and are given a high average freedom score by the widely accepted Freedom House study.

Of these 45 countries, 30 use full representation to elect their most powerful national legislature, and 7 use a parallel system that includes full representation. Of the remaining 8, Australia uses instant runoff voting, France uses a two round runoff system, and only the United States, Mongolia, Canada, and the United Kingdom use plurality as their primary system for legislative elections. For details, see table of Lower/Single House Elections in the World's Democracies.

Note on terminology: Different terms are often used to indicate the same voting system. This can be a little confusing at first, but usually it is not very hard to find out what people are talking about. The main one to keep in mind is that full representation is most commonly known as "proportional representation" outside the US. Also, choice voting is traditionally known as "single tranferable vote," or STV. Instant runoff voting is known internationally as "the alternative vote" (AV), or sometimes "preference voting." The plurality system is often referred to as "first past the post" (FPTP), as it is called in Britain.

This page brings together a number of resources that help show how full representation is actually working in the world today.


News and Opinion Articles: This is the centerpiece of the "Full Representation Around the World" page. Over 85 recent articles, covering over 35 countries. The articles offer a wide range of insights about the dynamics of full representation in practice, and they are accompanied by links that provide further information for each particular country. They are organized by country, and by category .

Links: A collection of excellent web-based resources with up-to-date information on elections systems and election results worldwide.

Reports: Featured articles, fact sheets, and reports from members of CVD.

E-news archives: CVD's own Fair Election Updates also contain a great deal of information about the global development of full representation since 1996.


Initially created by James Green-Armytage, in August 2003.

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