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Electoral Reform

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Introduction

Electoral Reform (a) Proportional representation covers a wide range of electoral systems in which seats in parliament are more or less in proportional to the total amount of votes won. The first past the post system which is used in the UK's general elections is not proportional, the number of votes cast are not in a strong correlation to the number of seats won in the House of Commons, as the winner obtains a seat in the House of Commons if they receive more votes than their nearest rival. It is a majoritarian system. Proportional systems include the Party List system, Single Transferable Vote (STV) and the Additional Member system. In the extract it refers to proportional representation of favouring the centre-left group of New Labour and the Liberal Democrats whilst still allowing other groups which are smaller, like "old Labour and Thatcherite Conservatives" to win seats because the system is proportional. New Labour enlisted the help of Lord Jenkins to research into proportional systems but after warmly receiving the research it was later "shelved." Britain has used forms of proportional representation in elections for devolutions in Wales and Scotland and Northern Ireland, and also in the London mayoral elections, but has never replaced the First-Past-the-Post system in British general elections. (b) Proportional representation is a way of making all votes count. In the First-Past-The-Post system that is in place in British general elections many of the votes cast by the electoral are effectively wasted. ...read more.

Middle

The levels of apathy are not connected to the system used; it is just the levels of people uninterested in politics. In favour of PR, minority parties, independents and the Liberal Democrats would end up with fairer representation, if a PR system was used in the 1997 general election the Liberal Democrats could have gained a possible 106 seats instead of what they actually gained of 46 under FPTP. In support of FPTP, with PR extremists could gain large amounts of power and could cause numerous problems. Small parties can also gain power and form coalition governments. For example in Germany, the tiny Liberals (FDP) have switched from supporting the Socialists (SPD) to the Conservatives (CDU) and thereby changed the party in power without even the formality of an election. It is unfair in FPTP that a government can be formed from a minority of votes but still win a majority of the seats. Even in the 1997 Labour 'landslide' they only received 44.5% of the total vote, and with the low turnout of 71.4%, only, Labour were only supported by one in three of the people registered to vote. This poses the question; do they have the mandate to govern the nation with this lack of support? The mandate theory comes into question with the FPTP system and especially when it is combined with the declining levels of turnout in general elections. ...read more.

Conclusion

Smaller parties benefit as all votes are of equal value, and there is no need for by-elections. Those in favour of maintaining FPTP would argue that the Party List system has many weaknesses such as because the lists are made up by the parties there is less choice than with FPTP. Most powers are placed in the hands of the party and not with the voter causing a more passive and less independent-minded party. There is also no direct link between voters and an MP, and has formed a particularly weak government in Israel. PR also gives a more socially representative government, including more women and ethnic minorities a greater chance to be elected, due to preferential voting, whereas in FPTP white men form the majority of Parliament. With PR voters also have a greater choice of candidates and it is possible that those candidates may be of better quality and represent their constituents in a more profession manner. It also discourages tactical voting which has become one of the characteristics under FPTP. FPTP ensures that a stable government is in power and the nation can be represented by a government that the most people voted for. Democracy should be principally about accountability of individual politicians and governments to the people, not about mathematical exactness. On the other hand PR gives ever vote an equal value making sure that the country is not run by an elective dictator and that people get a government who has the legitimacy to run the country not one who has a minority of public support. Jo Muter 6E2 ...read more.

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