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STV and the Representation of Women

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 September 2013

Wolfgang Hirczy*
Oklahoma State University


In an informative account of different electoral systems and their effects on representation Joseph F. Zimmerman (1994, 674) recommended the single transferable vote (STV) system on the grounds that it “provides […] broad representation with great accuracy.” Along with local jurisdictions in the United States the article mentions Ireland and Australia as countries that use STV, but fails to include Malta. This seemingly innocuous omission is not inconsequential; Malta squarely contradicts Zimmerman's conclusion that STV facilitates the “direct representation” of women.

Unfortunately, Wilma Rule did not remedy the neglect of Malta in her comparative overview of women in parliaments, which appeared in the same feature on “Election Systems and Representative Democracy” (1994, 690). Inclusion in the cross-national comparison would have revealed that this small island nation carries a dubious distinction: the lowest percentage of women in its unicameral parliament. As a result of the last elections, held in 1992, there is currently only one female MP. Nor did Prime Minister Fenech Adami's cabinet include a single woman, even though the number of ministries was expanded from 10 to 13 (Fenech 1992b, 1993). In the preceding parliamentary term, 3% of the seats (2 of 69) were occupied by women.

It may be argued that in social scientific inquiry and theory-building a single case does not warrant the rejection of a generalization that is otherwise sound.

Research Article
Copyright © The American Political Science Association 1995

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