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Arguments For And Against A System Of Proportional Representation For Westminister Elections

1235 words - 5 pages

For Westminster elections the present electoral system is called
first-past-the-post (FPTP) which is considered as unfair and
undemocratic in many aspects, such as giving a disproportionate number
of seats to parties for their percentage of votes received. So the
issue of electoral reform to a proportional representation (PR) system
which is used throughout Europe has arisen. Under a PR electoral
system, a party's seats in the House of Commons would be, more or
less, in proportion to the votes cast this party gets in the general
election, depending on the type of PR system used. PR electoral
systems have many supporters, and they indeed have many advantages to
replace the present system.

PR systems are seen as more representative than FPTP system mainly
because the percentage of seats in the legislature is proportional to
the votes cast, so more voters' wishes are represented, especially
with the free list system which is seen as the most representative
form of PR system, because it allows the voter to cast up a certain
number of votes to vote the candidates in different parties.

In the FPTP system, because one particular party can be virtually
certain to win regardless of the candidate in many constituencies, and
it forms "safe seats" in the House of Commons, which leads to low
turnout in a general election, and a lot of votes are wasted because
the winning party just needs one more vote than any other party. Under
a PR system, especially the Single Transferable vote form, all the
surplus votes are shared to other candidates in proportion, and this
process will be continued until all the seats are filled. Thus when
voters feel their votes will not be wasted, the turnouts will be
automatically higher, meanwhile more people's wishes are represented.

The FPTP system is unfair for small parties. For example, in the
1980s, the Liberal Democratic party got about 25 per cent of the votes
but only gained about 3 per cent of the seats in the House of Commons.
Thus the Liberal Democratics are the main advocates of a PR system,
because under PR, they can gain far more seats, and be in a better
position to bargain with the main parties. If many small parties can
gain seats in proportional to their votes, it is more likely to create
a hung Parliament in which no party has a majority of seats. From the
Liberal Democratics' view, this can be seen as a good thing, for it
may curb "elective dictatorship" (to use Lord Hailsham's phrase), and
because of the competition among parties, MPs may work harder with
high attendance in the House of Commons.

In October 1997, Lord Jenkins in his report (an Independent Commission
on the Voting System) advocated a system of AVPLUS. (Moyra Grant 1999,
P.46) Under this system, 80-85 per cent of MPs are elected in
single-member constituencies, and a top...

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