Roles of elections?
Elections are a main way in which most people participate in politics, for many they are the only way.
- Elections are a way in which votes are converted into representation.
- Elections of a single person, such as a mayor, have the function of granting democratic legitimacy to a single office holder.
- Other elections return representitives to representitve assemblies. This may be a local council, regional parliament or assembly, the UK Parliament or European Parliament.
- When electing a government, they grant a mandate to that government.
- They give the electorate the opportunity to call existting governments and representitives to account.
- They enable the electorate to choose between alternative political programmes and prospective leaders.
- Give opportunities for political participation.
- They are a means by which the electorate can be informed and educated about political issues.
Do elections enhance democracy?
- They are a means of granting legitimacy (Labour in 1997 won with 419 seats)
- They give a clear mandate to governments
- They are a means of calling government and representitives to account. (e.g. Blair stepped down due to public pressure due to his decisions regarding Iraq etc)
- They offer democratic choices. (e.g. Alan Duncan elected to represent the Melton Borough)
- They provide opportunities for political participation (In 2010
- They educate and inform the people on political issues. (e.g. Banking Crisis during Gordon Brown's leadership in 2007 caused him to lose power).
- They limit choice because parties produce specific manifestos but people are interested in individual issues. (However usually main 2 parties get into power, but this time Lib Dems share power)
- Elections may not be fair and proportional (FPTP 70% votes wasted in 2010)
- Elections often exclude small parties. (Lib Dems got 23% votes but only 57 seats)
- The mandate that elections grant to government may give them excessive power. (citizens couldn't vote on Iraq war decision.)
- Because of their expense, elections may help those who have the most financial resources.
Difference between elections and referendums?
- Held at regular intervals (every 5 years due to fixed term parliament). Example: 2010 election there was a 65% turnout which is an improvement on 2005 where there as a 61.4% turnout.
- Give a complex range of answers (they publish a manifesto adressing various issues such as the economy/healthcare etc) Example: In 2010, Lib Dems promised to freeze university tuition fees.
- Elect representitives (FPTP system elects local MP's to represent locals in parliament). Example: Alan Duncan represents Melton Borough.
- Concern Political Parties (Parties compete to gain public support, it is in their best interest to gain public support.) In 2010, the televised debate provided an opportunity for the leaders of the parties to win over the public and sway the votes.
- May be held at any time (Don't have fixed terms). AV Vote was held in May 2011. Manchester congestion charge was held in 2008.
- Concerned with a single issue. AV referendum was about whether the election system should be reformed. (exception Scottish devolution)
- Cut across party differences (parties leave important issues to public to stop factions) Labour & Cons were against AV reform, but Lib Dems were strongly for it.
How does FPTP operate?
- Country is divided into 650 constituencies of roughly equal size.
- Each constituency elects one MP.
- Voters choose from a list of candidates, nearly all of whom have been nominated by a political party.
- It is not necessary for the winning candidate to obtain more than half the votes, they win with a plurality rather than an absolute majority.
Characteristics and impacts of FPTP.
- Distribution of seats is not proportional to overall support for each of the parties. (Labout won 2005 election with only 35% of vote. Lib Dems got 23% of votes but only 9% seats)
- System favours parties that have concentrated support such as Lab & Cons, because parties with spread out support rarely top any ballot. (Leaders are placed in safe seats, e.g. Nick Clegg's constituency is Sheffield Hallam)
- Very small parties rarely win seats (e.g. Green Party only won 1 seat in 2010, and BNP have no seats)
- Many votes for small parties are wasted (e.g. in 2010 52.8% votes were wasted)
- Because it favours large parties, it tends to producce a clear winner with one party winning overall majority. (in 2005 Labout won with 355 seats.)
- Winner therefore has clear mandate and can govern concisely.
How does AMS operate?
- A proportion (about 2/3rds) of the seta are elected by FPTP.
- The rest of the seats are elected through a regionla list.
- In the list system, voters choose between parties, not candidates.
- Seats in the list section are awarded accoriding to the proportion of votes for each party, adjusted accordingly to the extend to which parties are discriminated against under FPTP.
How does STV operate?
- Each constituency returns several representitives, usually 6.
- An electoral quota is calculated - the number of voted, divided by the number of seats plus 1, then 1 is added to the total.
- Voters may vote for as many or as few of the candidates as they wish. They may vote for one candidate only or all the candidates.
- Candidates who reach the quota on 1st choices are automatically elected.
- Second and subsequent preferences of votes for candidates already elected are then added to the rest of the candidates. This continues until 6 candidates achieve the quota.
How do regional lists operate? (UK system known as
- Each party presents a list of candidates in its chosen order of preference.
- Voters have one vote which they cast for a party list, not an individual candidate.
- Seats are awarded to each party broadly in proportion to the votes case for that party.
How does the supplementary vote operate?
- Used to elect a single individual.
- Each voter hooses a first and second preference.
- If one candidate secures over 50% of the first preferences of voters, he or she is elected.
- If not, all but the top two candidates are eliminated.
- The second prefernce votes are added to the first preference and the candidate with the most votes wins when the first and second preference votes are added together.
AMS features/ impacts?
- Voters have 2 choices.
- Helps small parties
- Retains constituency system.
- In Scotland it produced a four party system. Two were party coalitions until 2011 where surprisingly it produced an absolute majority for scottish nationalist party.
- Wales there was a 4 party system. Always produced 2 party coalition.
- In Greater London Assembly six parties have won seats.
- Voters have a very wide choice.
- Outcome is very proportional.
- Voters may discriminate between candidates of the same party.
- Retains constituencies but most people have a representitive that represents theur own favoured party.
- In NI Assembly, five different parties gain significant numbers of seats.
- This gives rise to a power-sharing government (all large parties represented in gov)
- In local government it produces multi-party representation.
Regional List Features/Impact.
- Voters choose parties, not candidates.
- Every vote is of exactly equal value.
- The outcome is highly proportional.
- Six different parties gained seats in the European Parliament.
Supplementary vote features/impacts.
- Each voter has 2 choices.
- The winner is guaranteed an overall majority.
- It is a successful way of electing singe individuals with a clear mandate (e.g. Boris Johnson was re-elected as London Mayor in 2013.)
For and against FPTP reform?
For retaining FPTP:
- It has existed for a long time and is widely accepted.
- Easy (lead to increased political participation since 2005. However STV in NI got 70% turnout)
- Retains a strong link between Mp and her constituency.
- Tends to preduce clear-winners. (e.g. in 1997, labour won 419 seats out of 650 so it was clear. However not always clear as no clear winner in 2010 (cons had 307 seats) so coalition was formed.
- Not all votes are of equal vaue. (e.g. Lib Dems needed 113,000 votes so secure a seat, but Conservative/Labour only needed 33,000.)
- Too many votes are wasted, damaging legitimacy (safe seats meant that 70% votes were wasted in 2010. However stops extremist parties like BNP from getting seats.)
- Discriminates against small parties (e.g. Green party got only 1 seat)
- Most MP's are elected on less than 50% vote so governing parties can be elected on minority of gov vote (e.g. Labour were elected on 30% votes in 2005.)
- Turout is low, damanging legitimacy. Now 64% compared to 75.3% in 1987.
Should UK introduce proportional representation?
- Its fairer, making votes more equal an dleiminating wasted votes.
- Would produce proportional parliament and restore confidence in political process.
- Help small parties some of which who represent minorities in society,
- Preventing a singe party from winning overall control would reduce possibilities of an 'elective dictatorship'.
- Multi-party system may create ore consensus politics.
- Would bring UK in line with the rrest of Europe.
- No vote on AV referendum shows there is little appetite for change.
- Other systems may be more diffiult to understand, thus lower political participation.
- May give to many opportunities for extremist parties to be involved in politics.
- If no partu wins absolute majority, then it may make a less decisive, weak and ineffficient government.
- Some systems would weaken or destroy the MP-consttuency link.