There is no such thing as a perfect electoral system Discuss.

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‘There is no such thing as a perfect electoral system’ Discuss.

An electoral system is the way in which the electorate choose or ‘elect’ a candidate to represent them in their country’s government. In the UK we see lots of different electoral systems such as FPTP, STV, the List system and AMS. Other electoral systems include SV, and while AV has been suggested it has never been used. All the electoral systems have different strengths and weaknesses; this essay will look at the strengths and weaknesses of some of these electoral systems while evaluating them against the Jenkins criteria, to see if there is such a thing as a ‘perfect electoral system’.

FTPT is the main electoral system used in the UK, used at local and national levels for the general election. It’s a simple plurality system which means the candidate only needs one more vote than their competitors to win. Evaluating this system against the Jenkins criteria we see that FPTP isn’t proportional and this is because the system is favourable to larger parties as their support is concentrated in more areas, whereas smaller parties’ support is almost scattered across the country. This is shown in the 2010 general election results as UKIP received 919, 546 votes but didn’t win any seats whereas SNP received 491, 386 votes and won 6 seats. The term ‘winners bonus’ is used to show the exaggerated performance of the most popular party and this is where a relatively small lead over a party is often translated into a bigger lead in seats. An example of this is the 1983 general election results in which Labour won 209 seats with 27.6% of the vote, while the Liberal Democrats won 23 seats with 25.4% - therefore FPTP isn’t proportional. As well as this, FPTP doesn’t offer a lot of voter choice, this is due to the two-party politics that the system encourages. There are two main parties with strong nationwide support, giving them a good chance of winning a parliamentary majority; this is in part due to the disproportionality. The lack of voter choice can be seen in the election results since 1945, as for the last 65 years there has only been a Labour or Conservative, single-party government. Due to these reasons, FPTP can be seen as an imperfect electoral system because it is not proportional and doesn’t offer a lot of voter choice, therefore it doesn’t meet the Jenkins criteria fully.  

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However the fact that FPTP has caused a single-party government in every election from 1945-2010 meets the Jenkins criteria of an electoral system creating a stable government. A stable government can be seen as a positive thing because it gives a party a large mandate which allows them to support their manifesto fully. This shows that FPTP can be considered a perfect electoral system in certain situations or places where there are lots of unsuccessful coalition/minority governments, for example Greece. As well as this, FPTP offers a strong MP-constituency link and this is because under this system a constituency has ...

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