French philosopher Rousseau’s asked how "To find a form of association which will defend and protect with the whole common force the person and goods of each associate, and in which each, while uniting himself with all, may still obey himself alone and remain as free as before" The citizen gives his consent to all the laws, including those which are passed in spite of his opposition, and even those which punish him when he dares to break any of them. Each man, in giving his vote, states his opinion and the general will is found by counting votes. When the opinion that is contrary to my own prevails, this proves neither more nor less that I was mistaken, and that what I thought to be the general will was not so. If my particular opinion had carried the day I should have achieved the opposite of what was my will; and it is in that case that I should not have been free.”
First passed the post, has been described as “ An irrational practice where voters are unenlightened and more desirable the more enlightened they are.”
That description can also be levelled at PR.
In Britain the May 2010 election first past the post gave an indecisive result:
Votes cast % of votes seats
Conservative party 10.7 M 36.0 306
Labour party 8.6 M 29.0 258
LiberalDemocrats 6.8 M 23.0 57
UK IP 0.9 M 3.1 0
BNP 0.5M 1.9 0
Green Party 0.3M 1.0 1
It can be seen that conservatives took a majority of seats in Parliament, 47%, with only 36% of the vote. The largest two parties took 87% of seats with 65% of votes. The Liberal Democrat party received 9% of the seats but polled 23% of the vote. 3 minority parties gained 1 seat from 6% of the total vote. I point out here that 16 Million people, for whatever the reason , did not vote. More than the total of our 2nd and 3rd largest Parties !!
If we take a proportion % of votes cast to seat entitlement we find:
Conservative party 10.7 M 36.0% 234
Labour party 8.6 M 29.0% 189
LiberalDemocrats 6.8 M 23.0% 150
UK IP 0.9 M 3.1% 20
BNP 0.5M 1.9% 13
Green Party 0.3M 1.0% 7
PR is a relative novelty in British politics, although it has long been used in Europe and went through a spell of popularity in some circles in the late 19th century. There were several attempts to introduce PR voting for the UK parliament during the early 1900s and there were several more reviews of the topic. Is the principle behind a innumerable list of electoral systems, all of which attempt to ensure that the outcome of the election reflects the proportion of support gained by each competing group.
Arguments cited in favour of a change from First Past the Post to PR include:
The fairer treatment of minority parties and independent candidates. Fewer votes are ‘wasted’, as more people’s preferences are taken into account. Greater effective choice for voters. By reducing the dominance of the large parties, PR may encourage increase turn-out and reduce apathy.
Arguments cited against PR include:
PR produces ‘weak’ coalition governments rather than ‘strong’ majority governments, which can lead to indecision, compromise and even legislative paralysis. It can also reduce accountability to voters, as an ousted party of government can reinstall itself by finding new coalition partners after an election. Refer to recent Belgium election. The greater complexity and choice that PR allows can put voters off voting, by requiring them to have a greater knowledge of individual and party positions. 36% find FPTP difficult to comprehend. Finallly it provides a route for extremists into the political mainstream, who are otherwise excluded by the structure of FPTP. [ See table.]
A paradox built into the British political system, works against the adoption of P R. Any party that comes to power under FPTP is likely to appreciate the advantages that it gives to the government: a strong mandate, (usually) a lack of coalition partners, and considerable freedom of action. This paradox is found in all ‘democratic’ societies! Therefore, arrival in government under FPTP is likely to dampen any party’s enthusiasm for PR although the reverse in 2010 is more than apparent !
As Edmund Burke said, "What is it we all seek for in an election? To answer its real purposes, you must first possess the means of knowing the fitness of your man; and then you must retain some hold upon him by personal obligation or dependence” That said I am greatful I have a vote, many world citizens do not. I am greatful I have a a choice of both a candidate and of political dogma.Many world citizens have no such choice. Which is why I fail to understand those who choose to ignore the right.Do they think voting is not about ‘fairness’ or ‘democracy’ for the ‘electorate’ and that it is about maintaining power for the elite ruling class whichever country they inhabit?
Ignore your rights . . .maybe they will just go away.