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Electoral Systems

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Electoral systems

There are two main types of electoral systems in the UK:

First Past the Post (FPTP)
Proportional Representation (PR)
First Past the Post (FPTP)

FPTP is the voting system used for the election of MPs to 'seats' in the UK Parliament. It is a system in which the 'winner takes all' and usually gives a clear majority both at constituency and national level. This means that a candidate in a constituency only needs one more vote than the nearest rival to win the seat. Similarly, political parties only need to win one more seat in the House of Commons to have a majority.

Advantages of FPTP
There is very little chance of extremist parties being elected to Parliament under FPTP because they are unlikely to gain enough votes in any one constituency.

Generally the results of elections using FPTP can be calculated quickly. When necessary, this makes the transfer of power from one party to another much easier.

Disadvantages of FPTP
The main criticism of FPTP is that the number of votes cast for a party in general elections is not accurately reflected in the number of seats won. An example of this was the 1997 election when the Conservatives gained 18% of the vote in Scotland but not one seat. This is mirrored at constituency level, where the winning candidate may have received only one third of the votes cast. Indeed, a government may be elected on a minority vote, as happened in 1974 when Labour won the general election on the number of seats gained but the Conservatives had a larger share of the vote across the country.

Smaller parties are not fairly treated under FPTP. Although they may have a sizeable national support across the country, they do not get a proportional number of MPs because there are not enough votes concentrated in constituencies to let them win seats.

FPTP also encourages tactical voting. This means voting for a…...

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