Why do we have elections?

  • Political recruitment 
  • Accountability- citizens can hold gvt to account
  • Legitimacy- gvt have mandate
  • Essential component of democracy

"The cogs which keep the wheels of democracy turning" - D.Farrell

Majoritarian- one elected candidate per constituency, not proportional, produces clear winner, e.g SV, FPTP.

Proportional- multi-member constituencies, seats in an elected assembly are proportional to a share of votes. E.g Closed List System and STV

Why does the choice of the system matter?

  • Shapes political body e.g type of parliament
  • Effects party systems e.g 2 party system
  • Leads to coalitions 
  • Reflects voters' wishes 
  • Indicates swings in public opinion
  • Produces strong government

FIRST PAST THE POST (majoritarian)

How it works?

  • Country is divided into 650 constituencies
  • Number of constituencies and size changes to make equal
  • Each constituency elects one MP
  • Voters choose from a list of candidates, nearly all of whom have been nominated by a political party. 
  • Candidate who receives the most votes is elected.

Arguments for retaining FPTP

  • It has existed for a long time and widely accepted. 
  • It is easy to understand
  • Retains strong geographical link (people know their MP)
  • Tends to produce strong, single party, decisive stable gvt with a clear HofC majority. (Though 2010 weakens this argument)

Arguments against FPTP

  • Disproportional, awards seats to parties unfairly. E.g UKIP 12% votes yet received 1 seat
  • Produces large number of wasted votes - those in safe seats or for'no hope' parties
  • Votes are effectively not of equal value, those in close marginal seats are worth more than those in 'safe seats'. 
  • Discriminates significantly against smaller parties
  • The 2010 election result gives no clear winner- hung parliament.
  • When it does produce a gvt with clear majority, it can be argued too much power is given to the party.
  • Most MPs elected on less that 50% of the vote. Leads to doubts about democratic legitimacy
  • Turnouts are low, 66% 2015, suggests system is losing support
  • Out of step with the rest of Europe, nowhere else in Europe uses FPTP.


How it works?

  • Voters rank their candidates preferentially ie. 1,2,3,4,5
  • AV= voters can rank as many as they like
  • SV= only have 2 preference votes
  • Candidates must achieve 50% of votes to win
  • 1st preference votes counted first, in AV…


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