Making Public Infrastructure Work: Multi-seat Majoritarian Elections as a new Institutional Approach

Reiner Eichenberger, Patricia Schafer, David Stadelmann


The wealth of nations depends on the quality of their infrastructure. Often, however, infrastructure suffers from ineffective investments and poor maintenance. Proposed solutions, such as New Public Management or Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) tend to develop into Politicians-Private Partnerships as politicians collude with private firms to exploit present and future tax-payers. Therefore, it is necessary to give citizens better control over collective decision making. While there is a significant economic literature on empowering citizens via decentralization and direct democratic institutions, the role of electoral rules has thus far been rather neglected. An interesting case in point is Switzerland, which is well known for its high-quality infrastructure, extensive decentralization, and direct democracy. However, this paper argues that there is an additional and previously neglected institution that moves Swiss politicians away from client politics towards better serving public interest: Switzerland’s unique electoral institutions which effectively combine proportional elections with multi-seat majority elections. We explain how these institutions work, how they enhance the relationships between citizens and public and private entities, and we argue that they could be implemented in other countries.


Public infrastructure; public-private partnerships; institutions; governance; multi-seat majoritarian elections; Switzerland

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