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UK to Vote on Electoral Reform

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TEHRAN, May 5 (ICANA) – It's Britain's most important referendum in decades, a once-in-a- generation opportunity to change the country's voting system.
Thursday, May 05, 2011 11:38:42 AM
UK to Vote on Electoral Reform

Proponents of the current first-past-the-post system say it delivers clear results and leads to strong governments. But opponents say a fairer system is needed which will more accurately reflect the wishes of the British people, the Alternative Vote.

At its last big referendum rally, the “No” campaign said the Alternative Vote favoured unpopular parties, would lead to messy coalitions, and would be expensive to implement. Meanwhile, the “Yes” campaign said the first-past-the-post system unfairly favours the Conservative and Labour Parties, while the Alternative Vote would empower every single voter.

Britain's voting system is disproportionate, which means the number of votes cast for a particular party doesn't correspond to the number of seats they get in parliament. For example, at last year's general election the Conservative party got 36% of the popular vote but secured 47% of the seats in parliament.

On the other hand, the Liberal Democrats got 23% of the popular vote but only secured around 9% of parliamentary seats. So the choice is between the first-past-the-post system where the winner effectively takes all. Or the Alternative Vote, which asks voters to rank candidates in order of preference. Anyone getting over 50% of the votes is elected automatically. If that doesn't happen, second and third preference votes are taken into account until there is a winner. Thursday's referendum is remarkable because it has turned traditional party politics upside down.

Prime Minister David Cameron is backing the “No to AV” campaign while his deputy Nick Clegg is supporting the Yes vote. And Labour leader Ed Miliband is supporting the Yes campaign although the majority of his own party is opposing it. Meanwhile, the public seems somewhat bemused or disaffected by the whole affair.

Despite the fact that many people in this country think the voting system is broke, polls show that the “No to AV” campaign is likely to win. This may be due to the fact that the whole referendum campaign has failed to capture the public's attention. But a lot can change and the result is still uncertain.

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