Political Handbook of the World FAQs

How do I browse the Handbook?

There are three ways to browse the Political Handbook of the World from the content page:

Browse by Country separates the countries into alphabetical categories. Select the letter of the country you’re interested or type in the first couple letters in the search bar that says, Starts with…Use the Search within Encyclopedia as a way to quickly access Handbook content.

Browse by Political & Electoral Systems organizes countries in the Handbook by seven political system types: Regime Type, Democracy Type, Freedom House Rating, Election Rules, Party, System, and System of Government. Selecting one these categories will lead to a list of countries.

Why are there entries for the Palestine Liberation Organization and Antarctica?

Political Handbook of the World elected to include one territory without a permanent population and government (Antarctica) as well as a number of states whose international status may, by choice or tradition, be somewhat impaired. In addition, we have included an article on the Palestine Liberation Organization, now no longer denied a territorial base, but whose status with regard to much of the Israeli-occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem is still evolving.

Are all political parties within a country listed in its country profile?

Many of the new multiparty systems remain in flux, with organizations frequently merging, splintering, or dissolving. Chronicling the national party systems and the individual parties has long been a strength of the Political Handbook of the World. To the fullest extent possible, given time and other constraints, the editors of the Handbook have provided a reasonably complete discussion of each country's party structure.

Why can't I find the intergovernmental organization I'm looking for?

While we are quite aware of the political significance of various nongovernmental organizations (particularly multinational corporations), we have explicitly limited this section to groups with memberships composed of more than two states, governing bodies that meet with some degree of regularity, and groups who possess permanent secretariats or other continuing means for implementing collective decisions.

How does the Handbook treat divided countries such as China and Korea?

In the case of politically divided countries (now limited to China and Korea), a discussion of matters pertaining to the country as a whole is followed by a more detailed description of the distinct polities established within its territory. For China, this means there are separate entries for the People's Republic of China and Taiwan. For Korea, there are separate entries for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) and the Republic of Korea (South Korea).

How are the political system types defined?

The Political Systems browse option in the Political Handbook of the World Online Edition draws from several sources and uses a number of terms that might be unfamiliar to some users. Below are explanations of the terms used in this browse function, along with the source locations for where to find more information on these political system types.[KS1] 

Freedom House Rating


Freedom House's rating system of "Free," "Partly Free," and "Not Free" are derived from a numerical score that measures to what extent political rights and civil liberties are present in a country. Freedom House rates each country based on ten political rights and fifteen civil liberties questions. For each question, points are awarded on a scale of 0 to 4, where 0 represents the greatest degree and 4 the smallest degree to which rights and liberties are present. These two scores are then averaged to determine the overall freedom status of the country. Those whose average ratings are between 1.0 and 2.5 are considered Free, 3.0 to 5.0 Partly Free, and 5.5 to 7.0 Not Free.

Source: Freedom in the World 2019. Available online at http://www.freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/freedom-world-2019

Democracy Type

Democracy types were originally based on Harvard University Professor Pippa Norris' adaptation of Freedom House's annual ratings produced from 1972- 2000. Norris' used Freedom House's ratings to measure the length of a country's democratic stability and then to define its democracy type. (See above for more information on Freedom House's rating system.) CQ Press now assesses democracy types internally for updated information.

Older democracy: States with at least twenty years of continuous experience of democracy from 1980-2000 and a Freedom House rating of 1 to 2.5 in the most recent estimate.

Newer democracy: States with less than twenty years' experience with democracy and a current Freedom House rating of 1 to 2.5. 

Semi-democracy: States that have been democratic for less than twenty years and had a current Freedom House rating of 3.0 to 5.0. 

Non-democracy: States with a Freedom House score in 1999-2000 from 5.5 to 7. These include military-backed dictatorships, authoritarian states, elitist oligarchies, and absolute monarchies.

Note: CQ Press reserves the right to exercise editorial discretion concerning democracy type classifications for "borderline" states, based on most recent developments.


Regime Type

Democracy: A system of government in which all adult citizens of a country are entitled to participate equally in making laws and policy through competitive and meaningful elections.

Dictatorship: A form of rule associated with totalitarian and authoritarian political systems where a single sovereign or closed set of elites dictates the policies and laws of a country.


Type of Election System

Combined (Mixed): A system in which the choices expressed by voters are used to elect representatives through two different systems, one proportional representation system and one plurality/majority system. There are two kinds of mixed system: Parallel systems and Mixed Member Proportional systems.

Majoritarian: An electoral system designed to produce an absolute majority (50 per cent plus 1) of votes.

No elections: Country does not conduct elections.

Proportional Representation (PR): An electoral system family based on the principle of the conscious translation of the overall votes of a party or grouping into a corresponding proportion of seats in an elected body. For example, a party which wins 30 per cent of the votes would receive approximately 30 per cent of the seats. All PR systems require the use of multi-member districts. There are two major types of PR system, List PR and the Single Transferable Vote.

Source: Electoral System Design Database. International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), Stockholm, Sweden. Copyright © International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance.


Election Rules

Alternative Vote (AV): A candidate-centered, preferential plurality/majority system used in single-member districts in which voters use numbers to mark their preferences on the ballot paper. A candidate who receives an absolute majority (50 per cent plus 1) of valid first-preference votes is declared elected. If no candidate achieves an absolute majority of first preferences, the least successful candidates are eliminated and their votes reallocated until one candidate has an absolute majority of valid votes remaining.

Block Vote (AV): A plurality/majority system used in multi-member districts in which electors have as many votes as there are candidates to be elected. Voting is candidate-centered. The candidates with the highest vote totals win the seats.

First Past The Post (FPTP): The simplest form of plurality/majority electoral system, using single-member districts and candidate-centered voting. The winning candidate is the one who gains more votes than any other candidate, even if this is not an absolute majority of valid votes.

List Proportional Representation (List PR): A system in which each participant party or grouping presents a list of candidates for an electoral district, voters vote for a party, and parties receive seats in proportion to their overall share of the vote. Winning 179 candidates are taken from the lists. See Closed list, Open list and Free list.

No free elections: Country does not conduct free elections.

Mixed Member Proportional: A mixed (combined) system in which all the voters use the first electoral system, usually a plurality/majority system, to elect some of the representatives to an elected body. The remaining seats are then allocated to parties and groupings using the second electoral system, normally List PR, so as to compensate for disproportionality in their representation in the results from the first electoral system. 

Parallel System: A mixed system in which the choices expressed by the voters are used to elect representatives through two different systems, usually one plurality/majority system and one proportional representation system, but where no account is taken of the seats allocated under the first system in calculating the results in the second system. See also Mixed-Member Proportional.

Party Block Vote (PBV): A plurality/majority system using multi-member districts in which voters cast a single party-centered vote for a party of choice, and do not choose between candidates. The party with most votes will win every seat in the electoral district.

Single Non-Transferable Vote (SNTV): An electoral system in which voters cast a single candidate-centered vote for one candidate in a multi-member district. The candidates with the highest vote totals are declared elected.

Single Transferable Vote (STV): A preferential candidate-centered proportional representation system used in multi-member districts. Candidates that surpass a specified quota of first-preference votes are immediately elected. In successive counts, votes are redistributed from least successful candidates, who are eliminated, and votes surplus to the quota are redistributed from successful candidates, until sufficient candidates are declared elected.

Two-Round System (TRS): A plurality/majority system in which a second election is held if no candidate achieves a given level of votes, most commonly an absolute majority (50 per cent plus one), in the first election round. A Two-Round System may take a majority-plurality form, in which it is possible for more than two candidates to contest the second round. An example is the French system, in which any candidate who has received the votes of over 12.5 per cent of the registered electorate in the first round can stand in the second round. The candidate who wins 183 the highest number of votes in the second round is then declared elected, regardless of whether they have won an absolute majority. Alternatively, a Two-Round System may take a majority run-off form, in which only the top two candidates in the first round contest the second round.

Source: Electoral System Design Database. International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), Stockholm, Sweden. Copyright © International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance.


Party System

Multi party-hyper competitive: Party system in which candidates from numerous parties compete for and have won seats in a government's elected bodies.

Multi party-limited competition: Party system in which candidates from numerous parties compete for seats in the governments, but only candidates from a few parties hold seats in a government's elected bodies.

One party: Party system in which only one party is permitted to hold seats in government offices.

Two party: Party system in which only two parties hold the vast majority of seats in a government's elected bodies.


System of Government

Federal: Political system in which power and/or sovereignty are divided between central and regional units.

Unitary: System of government in which all power is centralized in a national government, and local or regional governments are created by national government for administrative convenience.


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