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Does a PR system produce weak governments ?

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Introduction

How far do you agree with the view that electoral systems based on proportional representation inevitably produce weak governments? Proportional Representation (PR) as a title covers a wide variety of electoral systems where seats in parliament are more or less in proportion to votes cast. British Politics has used forms of proportional representation in elections for devolution in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. A form of proportional representation was used in the London mayoral election as well. But it has never replaced First-Past-The-Post in British national elections. PR, in one form or another, is used throughout Europe, has long been advocated by the Liberal Democrats and support for it has grown in Britain since the 1970s. This is partly because the first-past-the-post system (FPTP) failed in the 1970's to produce strong majority governments, and partly because the increasing third-party vote since the mid-1970s has highlighted the distortions of the present voting system. The 1997 Labour government promised a referendum on the issue, but the referendum itself was delayed and the amount of choice which might be offered to the electorate could be very limited ...read more.

Middle

They came 2nd in 2003, but worked their way up to 1st in 2007. However, their lead was tiny, only by a single seat, and so the government formed was weak from the very beginning, with heavy opposition from within the parliament from pro union parties like Labour and the Conservatives, who strongly oppose the intentions of nationalist parties like the SNP in terms of overall Scottish independence. The situation is similar in Wales, where in 1999 again there was a Labour LibDem Coalition, as neither party had a majority. Labour just managed to create its own government in 2003, but once again with no outright majority, and faced a tough time in office, and just like the SNP in Scotland, Wales's nationalist party, Plaid Cymru were the biggest gainers of a PR system, coming second in 2003 and narrowing the gap even further in 2007, gaining an additional 3 seats, all at the expense of labour. The single transferable vote system (STV) is another proportional voting system, this time used in northern Ireland, and once again has a history of creating weak governments. ...read more.

Conclusion

Parties like UKIP gained a significant 17% of the vote in 2004, accounting to 16% of the seats, as opposed labour's 22% of the vote and 25% of seats. Another significant benefactor of the PR system used are more extreme nationalist parties such as the BNP, who gained their first 2 MEP's in 2009 at labours expense. In essence protest voting lead to high percentages of the vote for "minor" parties, who under a FPTP system like in the Westminster elections would remain minor, ended up securing increasingly significant amounts of seats, further weakening the position of the parliament as a whole. In conclusion, and including the Greater London Assembly, which also uses a PR system and shows similar results, we can see that all the proportional systems used in the UK have consistently failed to produce a strong government, and in some cases have been forced into creating coalition governments made up multiple parties in order to create at least a reasonably efficient party, something that has not happened in Westminster since 1945 under a FPTP system. It is thus that we can conclude that electoral systems based on proportional representation inevitably produce weak governments. ...read more.

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