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The Electoral System
A: The Purpose of Elections
Elections give people choice. They are the means by which authority is given to a particular political
party to provide the government for a defined period of time, which is up to 5 years in the UK.
Elections confer legitimacy on government.…

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iii) Candidates:

Any British subject, citizen of the Commonwealth of the Republic of Ireland over the age of 21 is
entitled to stand as a parliamentary candidate, provided that he/she is not disqualified (for the same
reasons that would disqualify him from voting). There are some categories of people not…

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this invitation until the defeated PM tenders his resignation. The new PM moves into No. 10
immediately and announces his government shortly afterwards.

D: Different Electoral Systems
An electoral system is more than an instrument for providing choice. The particular system a country
uses influences both the choices the voters…

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a) Advantages

Those people in favour of FPTP cite its various advantages over other systems as reasons for its
continued use:

1. Simplicity ­

The system can easily be understood by the vast majority of the population of the United
Kingdom. FPTP also produces quick election results and is cheap…

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Extremist parties can get into government

b) Disadvantages

There have been increasing demands in recent years, from some quarters, for there to be an
abandonment of the FPTP system. The Liberal Democrats have been the most vociferous in their
demands for a change. Opponents of FPTP cite its disadvantages as…

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This system is really a preferential system, which attempts to give voters a choice by enabling them
to express a preference between candidates. Features of this system include:

Candidates stand for single-member constituencies
Voters complete a ballot paper by listing the candidates in order of preference
A candidate who gains…

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This system is a cross between the Alternative Vote and the Second Ballot. If this system were to be
used in British general elections, the 646 single-member constituencies would be retained.

Features of this system include:

Voters would express a first and second preference
Any candidate with more than 50%…

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Removes unfairness to smaller parties that exists under FPTP

There are, however, a number of disadvantages to the List System:

Removes the link between constituents and their MPs (there is nobody to represent
individuals in Parliament)
Increases massively the power of the leadership of political parties at the expense of…

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The system has a number of advantages:

It allows the voter to choose between a variety of candidates offered by the same
The importance of the individual candidates is increased and the power of the local party
organisation is diminished (compared to the List System)
It allows a voter…

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It often results in coalition governments having to be formed
It is confusing for some voters to understand
`top-up' MPs are not directly elected by the voters and thus, like the List System, the
power of the party machine is increased at the expense of local activists
It creates two…


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A clear outline of the various electoral systems in use in the UK, (the London Assembly seems to have been omitted, however). This will be useful to students looking to remind or re-introduce themselves to the topic. Those looking to develop lines of argument for use in discussion will want to read more widely in order to develop some of the criticisms contained here.

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