Uncontested Seats and the Evolution of Party Competition

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8 Citations (Scopus)


Representative democracy presumes competitive elections at which voters have a choice of candidates. This is consistent with the current nature of electoral campaigning, which is system-wide and embraces every opportunity for partisan competition. From this perspective, uncontested seats in parliamentary systems are associated with earlier stages of representative government before modern parties emerged. Yet a survey of Australian state and federal general elections since 1890 shows that uncontested seats persisted in most systems well after the establishment of the current party system and, in two states, until the 1980s. In examining various explanations for the existence of uncontested seats in parliamentary systems, the article finds that the nature of the electoral system, the characteristics of the party system and party organization are key factors. Given a single-member district electoral system, the pattern of uncontested seats can be used as an indicator of the evolution of the party system and the structure of partisan competition.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)679-702
JournalParty Politics
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2003


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