Government and Politics: Elections Revision Pack

The second quarter of the Edexcel syllabus.

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Give the three functions of elections..

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1. Governmental function- Elections are the principle way in which governments in the UK are formed. They therefore serve to transfer power from one government to the next. Governments are formed from leading members of the majority party in the House of Commons. For example in the 1997 election the Conservatives under John Major lost to Tony Blair.

2. Representative function- Elections create a link between elected politicians and their constituents. This makes sure that constituents views are fully considered. Secondly they establish a general link between the government of the day, publicly accountable and ultimately removable. For example Crispin Blunt represents Reigate and holds regular surgeries to listen to the views of constituents.

3. Legitimising function- Elections provide a mechanism where citizens give their consent to being governed. Elections therefore give the government the authority and the right to hold power and make laws. For example the labour government has the power to make laws as its in government.

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Give four differences between Elections and Refere

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1. What you are voting for- In elections you are voting for a candidate to fill a position of power and indirectly for a party to form a government whereas in a referendum you are voting yes or no to a single issue. For example voting for Crispin Blunt in Reigate.

2. Political issues and specific issues- In elections you are making a decision based on a range of political issues whilst in a referendum you are dealing with a very specific issue. For example the euro referendum where you could choose whether to stick with the £.

3. Referendums are non-mandatory- Elections must take place every five years or at the Prime Ministers will, whilst referendums in the UK are not mandatory. For example the government decided not to have a referendum on the Lisbon treaty.

4. Direct and representative democracy- Referendums are an example of direct democracy whereas elections are an example of representative democracy. For example in referendums people get to fully participate in the process.

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How do elections promote democratic participation?

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1. Provide the opportunity to participate- People can join politcal parties for a certain fee and campaign in various different ways. People can also vote at polling stations and become an MP by bidding to become elected.

2. Elections educate the public- people become more politically aware when listening to manifesto's and choosing between different parties, enhancing the health of the UK democracy. For example election broadcasts on national television.

3. Provide a means to hold the current government to account- If the current government has been weak or made unpopular decisions than they can be held to account as voters may choose to vote for the opposition or smaller minority parties in a protest vote. For example the BNP recieved two votes in the 2009 European elections despite many people regarding them as an extremist party.

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Give four criticisms of the doctrine of the mandat

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1. People don't vote rationally- There is little evidence that people vote rationally, people tend to vote for opposition parties just because they are disenhanced by the current government. For example people gave a protest vote to the BNP.

2. Never complete agreement with policies- A vote for a party doesnt indicate complete agreement with their policies. For example the conservative party want to bring back fox hunting, in addition they raised taxes just after getting elected.

3. No way of forcing the government to carry out its policies- there is no way of forcing a government to carry out its policies in its manifesto. For example the Labour government went to war in Iraq whilst promising not too beforehand.

4. Impossible for parties to forsee emergency events- Different policies may be needed in future years, bringing the need for extreme pragmatism. Many voters may not agree with the different policies. For example the first and second world wars.

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Give four advantages of First Past the Post

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1. 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.

2. 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 current Labour government used its strength in parliament to respond decisively to the banks by nationalising Northern Rock.

3. Strong MP- constituency link- FPTP uses single member constituencies which means that one MP clearly represents a single defined aea, 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 constituents disagreement.

4. Clear Winner- There is no need for private deals to be done 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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Give four advantages of a single party government.

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1. The ruling party takes responsibility- With no coalition voters can blame the party in power and there is no timewasting debate about who made the mistake. For example in 1997 everyone knew the Tories were responsible for the economy.

2. Strong united governments- Governments can carry out their mandate and do not have to spend time arguing with other parties in coalitions. For example in 2005 Labour introduced new Anti-terrorism laws prominently.

3. Voters know what party forms the government- After an election people know exaclty what party will make up the government and no private deals are made between parties. For example under PR in Germany the ruling parties took a month of private discussions before a stable government was formed.

4. Coalitions are weak- Coalitions aren't capable of providing strong leadership and are very unstable in times of emergency. For example the weak government of Germany in the 1930's led to the rise of Hitler.

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Give four advantages of multiparty/coalition gover

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1. Stronger governments are not always good- Governments with a large majority in the House of Commons can become too powerful, whilst coalitions can provide stable governments such as post Nazi governments in Germany. In addition Labour introduced controversial anti-terrorism laws restricting basic civil liberties of freedom of speech.

2. FPTP produces sharp conflict between parties- Coalition governments are about parties working together in the spirit of compromise for the good of the country, whilst FPTP conflict is bad for the country. For example taxation levels are liable to fluctuate with constant change of government- making it difficult to plan ahead.

3. Coalitions have more electoral support- The changes made by a coalition government will be agreed ones and are formed from stable administrations that can last a few years. For example a single party government usually has less electoral support.

4. Coalitions are more broadly based- The extremist tendencies of some governments follow a strong majority- whilst coalition governments make for a more consensual middle of the road government. For example Labout was only backed by 35.2% of the electorate.

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Give five arguments in favour of introducing elect

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1. It will make governments more accountable as FPTP leads to a government domination- as a single party has control over the majority of the House of Commons they can pass any laws they wish, whilst other systems would make the government more accountable. For example many were oppoed o the Iraq war, but as Tony Blair has a big majority he was able to pass it through.

2. It would produce a more proportional and fairer outcome- Fairness dictates that a party's strength in Parliament should reflect its level of support in the country. Majoritarian systems like FPTP lead to a disproportionate result. For example the Open List System produces a fairer result as voters can choose the candidates they wish to represent them.

3. It will lead to a political culture based on consensus- PR electoral systems distribute power more widely, as a wider range of parties are involved in the formulation of policy decision making in coalition governments becomes a process of consultation, negotiation and compromise. For example in N.I the parties are forced to work together.

4. It would boost representation of smaller parties

5. It would lead to a government with a majority of support

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Give five arguments against introducing electoral

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1. Clear electoral choice- FPTP aids democracy because it clarifies the choice available to voters. For example under AMS the Scottish Nationals chose to rule as a minority party- this meant they had little strength to enforce their manifesto.

2. Extremist parties would gain representation- FPTP ensures minority extremist parties do not get a foothold in power. PR systems, because of their nature would inevitably give them a platform to promote ther cause. For example under PR the BNP gained seats in 2009.

3. Constituency representation- FPTP establishes a strong and reliable link between a representative and his constituency. A PR system would mean the abolition of constituencies or the introduction of multi-member constituencies with no connection.

4. Strong and stable government- FPTP helps to ensure that a government can govern. Coalition governments are weak and ineffective and hav to seek legislative support from two or more parties. For example Labour was able to respond decisively to the C.C.

5. Too much power to smaller parties- PR governments would result in a coalition governments with a dispropotionate amount of power. For example the Lib Dems gained power in a coalition although they came third or fourth.

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To what extent has proportional electoral systems

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1. Minority/coalition governments- In Scotland their election has resulted in coalition and minority governments which is similar to Wales, this has resulted in possible independance and two classes of MSP.

2. Different policies throughout the UK- Wales voted to scrap prescription fee's whilst Scotland's students enjoy free tuition fee's in university which has meant that English students have had to pay them for this privilege. For example the West Lothian Question asks whether it is right that Scottish Mp's can influence English Parliament when English MP's can't influence theirs.

3. Multi-Party System- A party system in which more then two parties compete for power, where no single parties enjoy sufficient electoral or Parliamentrey strength to have a realistic prospect of winning Government power alone.

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