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Recent election results show the need for electoral reform. Discuss.

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Introduction

Robyn Ashton ?Recent election results show the need for electoral reform.? Discuss. (25 marks) Electoral reform is the change in an electoral system in an endeavour to improve the reflection of the votes to seats and to create a stronger, more stable government in the future. Currently, the United Kingdom adopts the plurality system first-past-the-post. The winning candidate in each constituency needs to obtain more votes than the candidate in second place; however, it is not necessary that they gain the absolute majority to win. Principally, parties propose a reform because the current electoral system has the tendency to produce unfair results, however, supporters of first-past-the-post argue its strength and why it should not be reformed. The alternative to first-past-the-post proposed is usually proportional representation. PR is an electoral system whereby the percentage of votes cast in an election equals the percentage of seats won in the legislature. Firstly, MPs can be elected on a minority vote with fewer than fifty per cent of the votes meaning more people voted against the candidate than they did for them. ...read more.

Middle

The theory of the mandate gives the government in power a moral right to pass into law any policy that was in its manifesto on the basis that the party was elected on the strength of the promises. However, if more people vote against the candidate more people are also voting against the policy. It is also simplistic to suggest that a vote for a party indicates support as it is likely a voter does not agree with all the promises and policies. Furthermore, the winners are always over-represented leading to a government that is too powerful and legislation is easy to pass. An example of this would be the early Blair ministry when Labour had 167 seats the party always outvoted the weaker Conservative party. However, this can be interpreted as an advantage as it allows government to get all the legislation passed that they want without dispute. The over-representation of large parties penalises small and middle sized parties and in particular third parties. ...read more.

Conclusion

However, under PR it is likely the result would be a coalition government which would not create any stability. Coalition governments are invariably weak and the partners often fall out; parties in a coalition government find it difficult to agree and how to solve a problem with different ideologies and policies. It is very likely that a party could therefore pull out of the coalition and the government would collapse. For example, under a PR system Italy had 50 governments in 47 years between 1946 and 1993. A PR government would encourage an indecisive government instead of a decisive one like FPTP does. Furthermore, the plurality voting of first-past-the-post is very easy to understand whilst PR presents many complexities. For example, the Single Transferable Vote (STV) in Ireland requires voters to vote in order of preference and to gain election it is necessary to get a particular quota of the votes. If a candidate is then elected their surplus is redistributed according to the second preferences of voters. If necessary, the bottom candidates are eliminate and their second preference votes are redistributed. More complex systems means that are many more spoilt ballots. ...read more.

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