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Voting power in the Bretton Woods institutions

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The Bretton Woods institutions have systems of governance based on weighted voting. Each member possesses a number of votes which depends on its quota allocation and which must be cast as a bloc. This leads to a problem of democratic legitimacy since a member's influence or voting power within such decision making systems does not in general correspond to its voting weight. This paper uses voting power analysis to show that weighted voting tends to further enhance the power of the United States at the expense of all other members in both the board of Governors and the Executive board. It goes on to investigate the proposal to increase the ‘basic’ votes to restore them to their original 1946 level and finds that the same effect occurs, although the representation of the poor countries is improved. A criticism that is frequently made is that the present constituency structure and voting weights work to enhance the power of the developed and creditor countries at the expense of the poor, and that many countries are effectively disenfranchised; when looked at from the voting power point of view there is evidence that the weighted voting system adds to this anti democratic bias and produces some unintended effects. We investigate the constituency system as a form of representative democracy and find that the system gives disproportionate power to small European countries, particularly Belgium and Netherlands.

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