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Who voted for that idiot
PR vs 'first past the post'
Member Name: freediveheaven
PR vs 'first past the post'
Advantages: Good to debate
Disadvantages: I'm always right
Traditionally it has always been the Liberal party in its various guises that have been in favour of a proportional representative (PR) system of voting which is understandable as under the traditional first past the post system (FPTP) they have had little chance of ever gaining power having to rely on a hung parliament (no one party with an overall majority) to stand any chance of getting power and having a say in the government of the country. It is no real surprise that the other two parties do not entertain thoughts of changing as the current system serves them well as ultimately both parties know that they will be in power at some point in time even if they may have to wait a few years the “time for a change” voter attitude will surface as Labour may find out at either the next election or the one after that.
So what are the different voting systems and what are the key benefits and disadvantages of each?
FPTP is the voting system that has been in place in the UK and also in the USA whilst it is more common to find PR systems in operation on the continent.
In a FPTP system the electorate is typically split into a number of constituencies based upon geographical and population demographics with candidates standing for election in one particular constituency. The winner is simply the person who gets the most votes; a one vote win is as good as a ten thousand vote win for the elected member who will take their place in the legislature until the next election. The party with the most elected members is typically the one who will form the government provided they have an overall majority in the house.
Benefits of FPTP
It is simple to understand. This is one of the big benefits of this system.
Once the votes have been added up the winner is announced therefore it tends to produce quick results and allows the elected government to get on with the business of governing the country.
Votes are cast for one individual member so effectively you are voting for the person you want to represent you. Often these people will be identified with a particular party so indirectly you are also voting for that party to run the country and you know who that party has as its leader.
Historically FPTP produces a clear cut electoral winner on a national scale allowing for a party to rule without the need for compromise and can get through the agenda on which it has been elected.
Disadvantages of FPTP
A candidate will often be elected to parliament without a majority of their electorate voting for them. There will have been more votes cast for the other candidates rather than the eventual winner.
If you live in a traditionally strong area for one particular party where they always have a large majority if you support one of the other parties your vote is effectively meaningless as it has no influence on the outcome.
Electoral systems that produce clear winners often lead to government without consensus and as such you can find that one party spends much of their time repealing the legislation of the previous government. This occurred a lot in the 60’s and 70’s but is less common now as all parties have merged in the centre ground.
With FPTP small parties are marginalized on the outside of the system of government making parliament less representative of the population.
So what is a PR system then?
Well there are a number of PR systems in operation however fundamentally the number of elected members in a parliament is related to the percentage of votes received by a particular party. One of the easiest systems to explain is the simple List System.
Each party will publish a list of the candidates it wants to stand for election. If there are a hundred seats in the parliament and the party gets 40% of the vote then it will have 40 members in that parliament and these will be allocated from the published list. This system works equally well on a national scale or again the voters can be split into constituencies each providing a number of elected members each with a number of candidates from each party being put forward in each area so that there is at least some local identity for the elected members and the voters.
There are other more complicated systems of voting where electors put forward their first second and even third choice and these votes are then allocated to arrive at a number of winners. Typically you will find this method of voting to be used when electing company directors to the board at the time of annual shareholder meetings with shareholders casting multiple votes.
Most of the advantages and disadvantages are the opposite of the FPTP system.
One of the main advantages is that every vote counts as it contributes to the percentage of vote gained which has a bigger influence on the outcome.
Smaller parties tend to get a voice in parliament and therefore Green issues are better represented in some European parliaments.
The fact that such a voting system tends to promote more government by consensus. There is a tendency for parties not to get an overall majority and hence they form coalition governments which can generally be more moderate.
One of the reasons both Italy and Germany have PR systems in place is to reduce the chance of another dictator rising to power following the Second World War. If only America would have the same approach.
Even though a party will stand on an election manifesto the fact that they have to negotiate with other parties means that often you get a political agenda that actually no one voted for.
Extremist parties can have a disproportional influence on the direction of a government as effectively they hold the balance of power, examples of this can be found in Israel at various times in history and also in post war Italy.
There can be a constant state of flux with little actual government going on. It is not uncommon for governments to fall apart resulting in elections taking place on a regular basis. In the end voters become fed up with the process.
The outcome of an election need not be clear for some time after votes have been cast. The last election in Germany saw a number of weeks pass before a Government was formed under Merkle; this is time when the country is effectively without direction and treading water.
In conclusion I have not set out to say definitively which system is best as there is no definitive answer. The voting system that is best will depend on the objective of the vote and ultimately will be influenced by a persons own political agenda. PR has produced a system of political chaos in Italy while FPTP elected George Bush twice.
Personally I want my own little island where I rule with absolute power, all hail King Freediveheaven.
Thanks for reading and rating my review.
Summary: Voting systems