Government & Politics

  • Created by: Farhana18
  • Created on: 03-02-19 15:00

Electoral Systems

First Past The Post - Plurality. Used in General Elections to the House Of Commons; Voters elect chosen candidates by ticking one candidate on the ballot paper. Winning candidates from each constituency take up their seats in the HOC and the party with an absolute majority forms the government. The leader of the governing party becomes PM and selects his/her cabinet.

Advantages of FPTP –

 ü  Strong government- Administrations with a clear overall majority can provide effective leadership for the nation- especially at times of national crisis. For example Tony Blair saw a sufficient enough threat in Iraq to invade- this decisive action made him accountable.

ü  Stable government- First Past the Post usually provides strong, stable governments with a clear overall majority and mandate to govern the country. For example the former Labour government used its strength in parliament to respond decisively to the banks by nationalising Northern Rock.

ü  Strong MP constituency link- FPTP uses single member constituencies which means that one MP clearly represents a single defined area, therefore all citizens know what to do and who to approach should they have a problem or need help. For example Oona King was held accountable after she voted in favour of the Iraq war despite the majority of her constituent’s disagreement.

ü  Clear Winner- There is no need for private deals to be done or coalitions to be formed by politicians and we know who is to form government immediately after the election. For example under PR in Germany it took a month for the leading parties to form a coalition, thus the country lacked effective leadership.

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Electoral Systems

Disadvantages of FPTP

ü  Disproportionate results - The share of seats won is not proportionate to the share of votes won. For example in 1951 Labour won 48.8% of votes, Conservatives won 48% of the votes but Conservatives won 26 more seats. In 1974 Labour won 37.2% of votes, Conservatives won 37.9% of votes but Labour won 4 more seats.

ü  Minority government - Governments are elected after winning only a minority of votes. In 2005 Labour won the election with only 35.2% of the popular vote. This threatens both the legitimacy and the theory of mandate.

ü  Smaller parties lose out - Smaller parties are unable to win seats because their votes are spread thinly instead of concentrated in one constituency; Labour voters are concentrated in North England, inner cities, Scotland and Wales. Conservative voters are concentrated in the South and South West and rural areas.

ü  Wasted votes - Many votes cast do not have any impact on final result

ü  Lack of choice - Voters only get one vote as voters cannot choose between candidates from the same party. In most constituencies, it’s a two party contest.

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Electoral Systems

Single Transferable Vote - Proportional Representation. Used in Northern Ireland Assembly and European Parliament election in Northern Ireland. Voters vote by ranking as many candidates as they want in order of preference. Any candidate which meets the quota after first preference votes are counted as elected. When they hit the quota, their second and subsequent preferences are shared among other candidates

Advantages – 

  Wider choice - Gives voters a wide choice so people may feel better represented if there is more of a variety of political candidates on offer to choose from. In 2011 Northern Ireland assembly election – South Antrim: there were 10 candidates to choose from.

ü  Internal choice - Voters are able to choose candidates from the same party so it gives voters more choice, allowing them to choose between candidates from the same party. In 2011 Northern Ireland assembly election – South Antrim: 3 DUP candidates were elected.

ü  Representation - Each constituency has several seats available/allocated so voters are widely represented as more than one party is representative of the constituency in accordance to the votes they receive – may increase turnout in the future if people feel more represented. In 2011 Northern Ireland assembly election – South Antrim: 6 assembly members were elected for the constituency from 10 candidates.

ü  Proportional - Seats won are awarded in proportion to votes won so the result seems for legitimate to the public and people may feel better represented. For example in 2011 Sinn Fein received 26% of the seats for 26% of the votes.

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Electoral Systems


ü  Complex - Complicated system that voters may not be able to understand which leads to voters feeling confused and may lead them to not respect the legitimacy of the result and potentially deter them from voting the future, affecting turnout. When STV was introduced for local council elections in Scotland, there were many spoilt ballot papers.

ü  Internal conflict - Voters are able to choose candidates from the same party meaning candidates from the same party have to compete against each other, which could cause conflict and splits in the party. In 2011 Northern Ireland assembly election – South Antrim: 3 DUP candidates were elected.

ü  Unstable - Seats won are awarded in proportion to votes won so no single party gains a majority = power sharing – takes a long time to pass decisions which could have a negative impact in events of crisis etc. In 2011 Northern Ireland assembly election – Belfast South: 5 parties each gained a good share of the seats.

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Electoral Systems

Additional Member System - Hybrid. Used in Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and London assembly elections; FPTP is used to elect two thirds of the seats, Closed party list is used for the remaining third of the seats. Voters cast two votes, one vote is for a constituency candidate, the other vote is from a choice of party lists. The seats awarded through FPTP are disproportionate – main parties win the majority of seats and small parties struggle to win seats. The seats award via Party List are the ‘top-up’ seats – these adjust total seats award to each of the parties deliberately to balance out the disproportionate FPTP results.

Advantages –

ü  Coalitions more common so it produces a more representative government. In Scottish Parliament – no single party tends to dominate. Up until 2011 and the rise of Scottish nationalism, no party had ever won a majority.

ü  Reduces disproportionate results of FPTP alone, which reflects will of the people better as it is more democratic and legitimate. In Scotland there were two-party coalitions until 2011 when AMS produced a majority for the SNP.

ü  Offers voters a better choice as they can cast two votes, giving a voter a better chance of being represented, even if their first choice fails to get elected. (Can vote tactically with their FPTP vote but with their heart with party list vote).

ü  Dominance of two parties reduced allows smaller parties to do better and win more seats. For example the SNP received more seats than the Conservatives and Labour.

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Electoral Systems

Disadvantages –

ü  Confuses voters as voters may not understand how top up seats are calculated, may feel disengaged from the political process so may not respect final result.

ü  Coalitions more common which may compromise the legitimacy of the government. In Scotland there were two-party coalitions until 2011 when AMS produced a majority for the SNP

ü  Dominance of two parties reduced so these smaller parties may not be fit to govern.

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