Friday 7 May 2010

The UK: The evidence for radical electoral reform

A difficult poll

Even the mother of all parliaments and one of the world’s oldest democracies is fraught with problems, issues and irregularities.

Yesterday, the citizens of United Kingdom of Northern Ireland and Great Britain went to the polls to elect representatives for their parliament called the House of Commons, however, the people did not give a clear majority mandate to any one political party and with that comes what is know as a hung parliament.

Sadly, there are people who did not get to vote because of the poor logistics of not anticipating the possible turnout such that there were long queues and polls had to close at 22:00 hours leaving hundreds disenfranchised.

Certain councils catered for students quite differently from residents even though all were selecting representatives whose work would affect them locally and nationally – there is no doubt that the system is broken.

Change and reform required

Balloting has to move from papers but electronic ballots must have a paper trail for verification and confidence in the system and there should be more flexibility to extend times of the polls if voters have arrived at polling stations before the deadline.

The most disturbing part of this election is the discrepancy between votes cast and seats won – the leading party polled 36.1% of the votes and will take 47.2% of the seats whilst the third party which polled 23% of the votes 8.8% of the seats.

This is manifestly wrong and does not reflect the clear and express wishes of the electorate; it calls for a radical reform of how our votes are translated to representation with a proper correlation between votes and the acquisition of power.

An expired system

The first-past-the-post system might have worked for past but there is no way how this can be the system for the 21st Century.

Today the Liberal Democrats have the opportunity to demand a change that allows for the people have their wishes fully expressed when they form a coalition with whatever party can garner the support and will to run the country after this election.

Dividends of democracy

In the graphic that shows the rewards of proportional representation, the UK Independence Party and the British National Party weigh in with a possible 32 Members of Parliament between them.

Whilst they constitute a right-wing of almost unsavoury politics, the people who voted for them are part of our democracy and as I did say in comments I made on Facebook, having these parties with representation in the House of Commons is enough a price to pay to ensure that the voice of the majority is heard loud and clear.

All the dividends of a democracy cannot all be profitable but any other system that takes better account of the percentage of votes polled nationally must be better than what we have now – electoral reform is inevitable, the people must demand it and get it.

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