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Study Notes

Proportional voting

AS, A-Level
AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

A proportional voting system is where the percentage of seats won in an election is roughly the same as the percentage of votes received. So, for example, in the 2015 General Election under a proportional voting system, UKIP, having received 12.6% of the vote, would have received around 12.6% of the seats in the House of Commons (82 seats).

The nearest we have to proportional voting systems used in the UK is the regional party list system used in the European Parliament elections and Single Transferable Vote (STV), which is used in elections to the Northern Irish Assembly. In fact, all EU countries apart from the UK and France use Proportional voting for their National elections.

Advantages of proportional voting systems argue that there are fewer wasted votes, helping smaller parties and making governments more legitimate, that Parliaments are likely to be more sociologically representative and less regionally based than under FPTP, and also that PR can reduce the dominance of an over-mighty executive as more coalitions and negotiations are necessary.

Disadvantages include that it can undermine strong and stable government as no party is likely to receive a majority, it can give disproportionate influence to small parties, can break the link between MPs and their constituencies, the coalition formed between parties may not mean those parties’ voters approve of the coalition, it can let extremists into Parliament, it is harder to hold by-elections, and it isn’t as simple to understand and operate as First-Past-the-Post.

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