Can Quota Systems in Governments Achieve Equality?

Cate Pollini


Political parties based on gender, race, and ethnicity are linked to “cross-cutting” cleavages rather than “social stratification,” which means that they are able to represent multiple “cleavages” or ideals. Quotas are instituted in countries to guarantee minorities representation. Candidate quotas are best for crosscut cleavages and reservations, for groups that coincide. Reservations introduce group-specific means with separate electoral roles and special electoral districts that limit competition to group members. However, granting these quotas or reservations can undermine common citizenship and substantive representation.


In 1991, Argentina became the first country to invoke a quota that requires women to be nominated in political elections. Since then, 17 out of the 18 Latin American countries, including Mexico have a similar variation of this quota for women. However, these quotas rarely receive any of their intended results. As female friendly bills increase with new quota representation, they are rarely ever passed. They will only be passed if an abundant amount of females are able to back it. This means that quotas do not always provide assimilation in politics. Critics of these quotas believe that it deprives voters of desirable candidates even under proportional representation governance.


Are quota systems the best way to promote minority rights in government and give access to other high positions of power and even education?


According to Lijphart, quota systems are best instituted in a government with a PR system like in Mexico. However, even with quotas, Mexican female politicians are rarely ever elected or given true political authority. Chandra, on the other hand, believes that when a state creates institutions to mobilize different ethnic identity by language or tribe, it dilutes democracy. This is similar to Nigeria and their quota system that seeks to make sure Igbo, Hausa Fulani, and Yoruba have equal representation which in turn, diminishes their democracy.



  1. Tyler J. Dickovick and Jonathan Eastwood, Comparative Politics: Classic and Contemporary Readings:  Is Gender Like Ethnicity? The Political Representation of Identity Groups, (New York, Oxford University Press, 2017), 255-264. 
  2. The Americas, “Latin America has Embraced Quotas for Female Political Candidates.” .

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