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Outline the problems of the First Past the Post system and consider whether the Alternative Vote would provide a fairer system.

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Coursework 2 British Politics Question: The Coalition Government has proposed that a referendum be held in May 2011. The question that will be asked is concerned with the changing of the electoral system used in British General Elections - the Simple Plurality System (FPTP) to the Alternative Vote. Outline the problems of the "First Past the Post" system and consider whether the Alternative Vote would provide a fairer system. Word count: 967 12/16/2010 Coursework In most of the modern societies an electoral process is an important symbol of a democracy that represents a concept of freedom of choice and fairness. The UK Coalition Government is now facing a need of reforming the process by choosing between FPTP and AV systems. As final decision can affect the whole society, it is crucial to carefully analyze advantages and disadvantages of both systems. FPTP allows a candidate to win by the majority of votes. It is a straightforward system that requires comparatively simplified procedures. In addition, it usually provides stable and strong one-party government. ...read more.


In the 2010 election Liberal-Democrats had 23 per cent of vote, but 9 per cent of the seats (BBC news 2005). Disproportional system also leads to another issue. Although this system excludes extremist parties, it also limits small parties. For instance, Green party has only one MP. In a proportional system 1% of this party should equal 6 seats and UK Independent Party's 3% should equal to 18 seats, but they actually have zero seats (Lowe et al. 2010, p.115). FPTP can also cause an "elective dictatorship" of one party. Ones a party get elected it has a power to dictate for five years. Furthermore, undeniable option calls - the power of dissolution that gives a right to the Prime Minister to ask The Queen for a general election when it is comfortable for his party - is a comparatively unfair advantage for the party with such a right (Lowe et al. 2010, p.108). Alternative Vote (AV) system is quite different from First-past-the-post. In AV system candidates have to gain more than 50% to win, candidates with fewer votes are eliminated. ...read more.


The good thing of Coalition Parliament is that it is hardly to be elective dictatorship (Coxall et al. 2003, Jones and Norton 2010). It is very important to consider other factors when deciding on which system is better. According to the research, the problem of wasted votes and disproportional allocation become more serious year by year (P. Whiteley 2010). The statistics shows that turn out in UK is increasing during 2001 - 2010 year coming to the level of 65.1%. In addition, elections require huge spending from the government and parties (UK political Info 2010a, 2010b, Jones and Norton 2010). As UK government is currently facing a need to cut the budget up to 40%, AV is not a useful method (Pollwatch 2010, J. Bingham 2010). To sum up, AV system adoption is a quite controversial question. Although AV system is solving some problems of FPTP system and providing fairer conditions for candidates and electors, adoption of this system can be quite difficult for the UK Coalition Government in term of budget and time spent. In my opinion, it is better to retain current election system as careful analysis is required. ...read more.

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Response to the question

The student answers the question very well. This is reflected in the essay's structure: they deal with FPTP in one section and AV in the next, but they subdivide both sections into pros and cons. This shows that they understand ...

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Response to the question

The student answers the question very well. This is reflected in the essay's structure: they deal with FPTP in one section and AV in the next, but they subdivide both sections into pros and cons. This shows that they understand the need to think widely about every issue and consider both sides of the argument, and it also shows they can organise their knowledge in an essay. The student stays on task for the whole piece by always talking about voting systems, which is good as it shows they have enough knowledge to answer the set question.

Level of analysis

The student shows an excellent understanding of how the voting systems work, which shows they are knowledgeable and they have the capability to understand complex systems. Before revising the pros and cons of each, spend a couple of hours making sure you can explain the main voting systems - FPTP, AV, STV, PR, others taught in class - to show that you have that key knowledge. Some of the evidence used in this essay is good: for example, the student points out that "65%" of votes were wasted, showing that they understand that this is a high number. This is better than saying "lots of votes were wasted", as "lots" could mean anything: the statistic proves that the student has knowledge. However, the level of analysis could be improved: the student doesn't actually explain what "wasted" means, so they are not showing enough understanding. It would be better to say "...65% of votes were cast in safe seats where the outcome was almost certain, so the electorate's votes were wasted", as you are getting in an explanation rather than just words or evidence. The conclusion to the essay is good as it reaches a judgement, which shows that the student can look back over what they have written and assess it to find which interpretation they think is correct. It is especially good in an essay like this to come up with a strong conclusion, as it is an issue that was recently in the news - having an opinion would show you are knowledgeable and well-informed.

Quality of writing

The quality of this essay's writing is poor. The student makes reference to "AV system" or "FPTP system" when they should always say "the AV system" or "the FPTP system", because referring to two key concepts incorrectly suggests the student isn't knowledgeable about the subject. Furthermore, there are several spelling mistakes, such as "save seats" which should be "safe seats": this also suggests to the examiner that the student can't express key concepts themselves, so always proof read before finishing your essay.

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Reviewed by lordharvey 24/04/2012

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