1st Edition

The History of Compulsory Voting in Europe Democracy's Duty?

By Anthoula Malkopoulou Copyright 2015

    Is voting out of fashion? Does it matter if voters don't show up at the polls? If yes, is legal enforcement of voting compatible with democracy? These are just a few of the questions linked to the thorny problem of electoral abstention. This book addresses the hot question whether there is a duty to vote and if this is enforceable in the form of compulsory voting.

    Divided into two parts, Anthoula Malkopoulou begins by expertly presenting the importance of compulsory voting today, situating the debate within the contemporary discussion on liberty, equality and democracy. Then, she questions the historical origins of the idea in Europe. In particular, she examines parliamentary discussions and other primary sources from France and Greece, including a few additional insights from other countries like Switzerland and Belgium. Focusing especially on the years between 1870 and 1930, the reader learns about the historical actors of the debates, their efforts to legitimate punishment of abstention through normative arguments, but also their strategic motivations and political interests. While discussions at the beginning of the century focus on introducing compulsory voting, Malkopoulou criticizes its misuse after the Second World War, exposing the contingency of relevant normative claims today and the conditionality of compulsory voting.

    From ancient times until today, you learn about the ideological debates, their political context and how the problems of equal representation and democratic moderation persist through the ages.

    Selected Contents: Introduction: Historicising Compulsory Voting Part 1: Ideas and Practices, Past and Present 1. Compulsory Voting and Contemporary Democratic Theory 2. From Ancient Greece to the French Revolution Part 2: Parliamentary arguments and constitutional reforms 3. France 1848–1946: The conservative legacy of compulsory voting 4. France 1848–1946: The moderate republican reading of compulsory voting 5. Democracy under control: Compulsory voting in twentieth-century Greece Conclusions. Index


    Anthoula Malkopoulou is a Research Fellow in Political Science at the University of Uppsala, Sweden.

    "The History of Compulsory Voting in Europe is a masterful analysis of the way in which arguments about compulsory voting have been woven through the centuries-long debates over inclusion and exclusion, rights and duties, moderation and extremism. In an era when left and right alike have been colonised by libertarian perspectives, this book provides a salutary reassessment of a key instrument of inclusive democracy."Sarah Birch, University of Glasgow

    "Compulsory voting has a long and noble provenance that stretches back to antiquity; yet, until now, there has been no systematic treatment of its use over time and place. With expertise in both political theory and history of political thought, Anthoula Malkopoulou gives us the first critical history of compulsory voting as both an idea and a practice. It is a fascinating study that is detailed, sensitive to political context and theoretically rich as well." —Professor Lisa Hill, The University of Adelaide