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Under the current electoral voting system general elections are decided using the first-past-the-post system (FPTP) and Members of the House of Commons are elected in single-member constituencies. The first-past-the post system is known for its simplicity, because under this system voters simply put a cross next to the box of one candidate on their voting forms and the candidate that accrues the most votes wins.
Candidates are elected by simple majority voting and such a majority constitutes more than half the votes cast in an election. FPTP keeps extremist parties like UKIP which is considered to have an extremist xenophobic, homophobic, sexist ideology by the vast majority of British people out of power an example of this is UKIP getting 3.8 million votes in the 2015 general election but only 1 seat in Parliament because their voters are dispersed not concentrated.
Critics of the FPTP system argue that the system undermines the legitimacy of elected representatives, because MPs can be elected on the basis of minimal amounts of public support. The Electoral Reform Society shows, for example, that “in 2005, George Galloway polled the votes of only 18.4% of his constituents, yet ended up in the House of Commons”. This lack of legitimacy is put into further focus when you realise that “only three MPs elected in 2005 secured the votes of more than 40% of their constituents” (Electoral Reform Society). The lack of public legitimacy carries with it two fundamental problems. Firstly, it allows for the election of governments with minimal public support and in some cases such governments can have radical agendas that are at odds with the majority of public opinion. The second problem with the FPTP system is that it wastes an astonishing number of votes. Due to the fact that the only votes that count are those that lead to the election of the winning candidate and due to the fact that the winning candidate almost always polls below 40% of the total vote, this means that a majority of the total vote is actually wasted.
The government recently put a proposal before MPs in order to amend the electoral system and move it from a FPTP to an alternative vote (AV) system. The government received the backing of MPs to put a referendum on the alternative vote system before the general public in the form of a referendum in the autumn of 2011. Under an alternative vote electoral system, voters would have marked the candidates on the ballot paper in order of preference instead of simply placing a cross next to their preferred candidate, as is currently the case under the FPTP system. This means that voters would have to place a 1 next to their first choice candidate, a 2 next to their second choice candidate and so on.
If a candidate received more than 50% of the vote they would be elected in exactly the same way as the under the present system, but if a candidate received less than 50% then the second choice preferences would be redistributed and this process would be repeated until one candidate ascertains an absolute majority.
Despite the fact that the alternative vote system is different from the FPTP system, AV similarly falls under the category of majoritarian electoral systems. Prime Minister Gordon Brown advocated this reform on the basis that it offered the electorate more choice and gives candidates a stronger mandate whilst simultaneously retaining the link between an MP and their constituency. “In short it offers a system where the British people can, if they so choose, be more confident that their MP truly represents them, while at the same time remaining directly accountable to them” (BBC 2010).
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