First past the post?

What are the benefits and drawbacks of a first-past-the-post style democracy like what we have today?

In an earlier post I brought some attention to the upcoming decision of whether to change parliamentary system of Ontario, Canada from a first-past-the-post system to that of a “mixed member proportional” system.  This consideration raises some questions of why the change and is the first-past-the-post system effective?  To answer this question, lets turn to a BBC News article evaluating the UK’s own first-past-the-post system from which Bermuda’s is modeled. 

 

What’s good about the first past the post system?

Factors in favour of the first past the post system include:

Simplicity: Voters have a simple task – mark a cross in a single box which means less confusion over other systems.

Speed:  The result in each constituency – and therefore the national result – is known quickly.

Clear link between representatives and candidates:  Each MP represents a precise geographical area and thus constituents easily know who represents them.

Decisive results:  First past the post elections usually – though not always – produce clear majorities for one party or another.  This means few coalitions, which can give minority parties excessive influence compared with their support.

What’s not so good?

No electoral system is perfect and those opposed to first past the post point out the following weaknesses:

Second-place blues:  Parties which come second or third consistently tend to win large numbers of votes but few seats, meaning smaller parties are stifled and under-represented.

No government mandate: It is possible for a party to win most seats but lose the popular vote.

Wasted votes & Safe seats:  Because of their electoral make-up, some seats are so “safe” for one party that supporters of any other group have only a meaningless vote.

Forgotten Constituencies:  Constituencies who elect a candidate that is not a member of the winning party are far more likely to be neglected given that their representatives have little power and limited resources.

 

Sources:

First past the post
BBC NEWS
Sourced: Sept 11th, 2007 @ 1pm
http://news.bbc.co.uk/vote2001/hi/english/voting_system/newsid_1173000/1173697.stm

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