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First Past the Post (FPTP)
This is our current electoral system (for general elections within the UK)
Features of FPTP:
o The country is split into 650 constituencies. Each constituency returns one
Member of Parliament (MP)
o Only one candidate can be nominated per party, although independents can run
o Voters have one vote each, they chose their preferred candidate by putting a
cross in the box next to their name on the ballot paper.
o Whichever candidate receives the largest number of votes is elected. They only
have to get one vote more than the next highest candidate which is known as
gaining a simple majority or plurality. They don't need to get over 50%.
o What this means is that the majority of MPs have been voted in by a minority
of total votes, more of their constituency have voted against them than for
them!…read more

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First Past the Post (FPTP)
What is the effect of FPTP?
· It does not award seats in proportion to the number of votes cast. The winning party usually
receive a far higher proportion of seats than votes.
For example:
- in 1997 Labour won 43.3% of the vote but 63.4% of the seats!
- in 1951 the Labour had more votes than the Conservative party but 26 less seats!
· It favours the two main parties, penalising the third party which nowadays is the Liberal
Democrats. For example, in 2005 the Lib Dems got 22% of the votes and 9.6% of the seats.
Shockingly, in 1983 the Alliance Party (which was the 3rd party at the time)got 25.4% of the
votes but only 3.5% of seats!
· This is arguably highly unfair as it effectively means that people's votes aren't of equal worth.
On average it took 27,000 votes to elect a Labour MP in 2005 but 97,000 votes to elect each Lib
Dem MPs. Votes for smaller parties such as UKIP are also effectively wasted.
· Apart from the last election, FPTP produces strong, single-party governments. Aside from the
2010 election we have not had a non-majority government since the 1978 Lib/Lab Pact and
havent had a coalition for over 60 years. Single party governments can be stronger and more
decisive and are not produces as often with other electoral systems…read more

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First Past the Post (FPTP)
Is FPTP a good system?
Yes! No!
- There are strong MP- - Votes are not equal which
Constituency links undermines democratic
- It produces strong, decisive values. This is `unfair'
governments which are what - It does not proportionally
is needed during difficult reflect the votes and choices
times of the electorate
- It delivers a government - Governments are elected on a
which has a mandate to minority of the total votes
govern because the majority cast which means they lack
of the electorate have voted legitimacy.
for them and their policies as - Votes e.g. those for smaller
outlined in their manifesto. parties are wasted.
They can stick to these - Voters have only one vote,
promises as they don't have their choice is narrow
to compromise. - Hard for new parties to enter
the political system…read more

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Other systems...
There are many other electoral systems used throughout the world and we need to
know the main types and their basic features for the exam.
You may well be asked to speak about alternatives to FPTP. This means you can
learn all of these in outline or some of them in detail ­ up to you.
Electoral systems are split into 3 categories:
1) Plurality system ­ FPTP is the only real example. Only a plurality is needed to
win, that is more votes than any other candidate
2) Majority system ­ such as the Supplementary vote, second ballot and AV.
Ensures the winning party/candidate has a broad majority of support from the
electorate. They must receive over 50% of votes.
3) Proportional Representation ­ like list systems and STV. Tries to convert votes
into seats in a proportional way.…read more

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Supplementary vote
The basics:
· Majority system
· Tends to be used to elect individuals, not parties.
· Each voter has two votes, a first and second choice. They will place a 1 next to their
first choice candidate and a 2 next to the other. If one candidate has secured 50% of the
first choice votes they are elected. Failing that the top two candidates go on to the next
round . The 2nd choice votes on all the other candidates ballots are added to the
remaining contenders totals. One of them must now have a majority.
· Used in the London Mayor Elections
A very similar system is used to elect the French President although this is often called
Second Ballot. Voters show their second preference on a separate date, normally a week
later, when the candidates have been reduced down and only the two most popular remain.…read more

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Old Sir

A concise and useful outline of various electoral systems (including FPTP) that form the basis of debate around the issues of representation and participation. A good starting point, but students looking to discuss these issues in detail (to address assessment objective 2, - evaluation and analysis), might want to look for evidence in greater depth.

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