Sunday, May 08, 2005
ELECTORAL REFORM: PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATIONS VS FIRST PAST THE POST?
This is inevitably brought up: should we scrap the FPTP voting system? Combine the two systems? There are two reasons that count against PR:
FPTP ensures a strong and effective Government, which has its downsides too, but is probably desireable in the long-run compared to highly consensual systems such as Germany where government can too easily be bogged down and reform-paralysed. This is in part achieved by keeping out smaller parties, which may be a little undemocratic, but it does help keep down extremists and loons. My impression from election night was that the BNP and National Front would probably have got seats, and the Greens and UKIP definitely would have.
Another problem with PR is the question: Who will MPs who owe their seats to party lists be accountable to? Which voters? How can we know which MP is in Parliament due to our vote? Will MPs always have to obey the party leadership? Or will they just go off and vote as they personally wish, with no regards to party line, election promises or constituents? The actualy practice of PR suggests that such a system makes for unaccountable MPs and a lack of transparency.
Nonetheless I think the current system could do with some changes, to maintain FPTP’s advantages.
Transparency should be an issue. It would definitely be worth considering whether votes in the Commons should be made entirely public so that voters know what their MPs have been up to, and can conduct proper accounting at the ballot box. This would probably result in less tactical voting, horse trading and party line obedience. For better or for worse this would be a cost that would have to be taken into account..
Another idea might be an adoption of the French system. If memory recalls correctly there are normally two election run-throughs. In the first there’s the full list with all possible candidates. The two most highest scoring then go head to head a little after the first round. That way the eventual winner will end up having secured more than 50% of a constituency’s votes, and will thus diminish the unfairness of seats being won by candidates with mere fractions of the vote.