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29 Cards in this Set

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Define election

An election is a device where popular votes are converted into seats awarded to representatives or parties, or used to elect single office holders/political leaders

Define mandate

A mandate is the authority granted to a candidates/party to implement its manifesto commitments. Normally granted via election

What are the main functions of elections?

- Votes are converted into representation


- Elections of a single person (e.g. a mayor) grant democratic legitimacy to a single office holder


- Other elections return representatives to representative assemblies


- Elections can grant a mandate to a government


- the electorate can call existing governments/reps to account


- the electorate chooses between different political programmes and leaders.


- citizens can participate actively in the political process, ensuring their consent.


- the electorate can be informed and educated about political issues

How do elections enhance democracy?

- Means of granting legitimacy- clear mandate given to governments- means of calling govt and reps to account- offers democratic choices to the people- they provide opporunities for participation in politics- they educate and inform the people on political issues

How do elections potentially harm democracy?

- They limit choice because parties produce specific manifestos, but people are interested in individual issues


- Elections might not be fair or proportional


- elections can exclude small parties


- the mandate granted to governments might give them excessive power


- elections might help those with most financial resources

compare elections with referendums

Elections: wide range of issues, elect representatives, held at regular intervals, complex range of answers, concern political parties.


Referendums: single issue, do not elect anyone, may be held at any time, one simple yes/no answer, cut across party differences

How does FPTP operate?

- the country is divided into 650 roughly equal constituencies


- each constituency elects 1 MP


- voters choose from a list of candidates, most nominated by a political party


- most votes = elected


- no need to win more than half of the votes cast (only need plurality vs absolute majority).

Main characteristics of FPTP

- The disribution of seats isn't equal to overall support for the parties


- The system favours those that have concentrated support


- Small parties usually can't win any seats. This means that extremists can't get in, but neither can minority parties.


- many 'safe' seats are created


- voters in safe seats have less influence. votes are of unequal value.


- votes for small parties are effectively wasted


- since it favours large parties, a clear winner is usually produced.

What is strong government

This refers to a government that can rely upon a strong majority of support in Parliament and so is able to carry through its own legislation and proposals.

What is stable government

This refers to a government that is likely to remain in office without serious crises. Will probably not become divided or fall from power before its term of office is complete.

Where is the Additional Member System used in the UK?

Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly, Greater London Assembly

Where is the Single Transferable Vote used in the UK?

Northern Ireland Assembly, Northern Ireland local government, Scottish local government

Where is the Regional List used in the UK?

European Parliament elections

Where is supplementary vote used in the UK?

Elected Mayor elections

Define proportional representation

PR is any electoral system that distributes seats in the legislature in proportion to the popular vote cast for each party

How does the Additional Member System work?

- a proportion (usually 2/3) of seats are elected by FPTP


- the rest are elected through a regional list system


- voters choose between parties not candidates


- seats in the list section are awarded according to the proportion of votes for each party, adjusted to the extent to which parties are discriminated against under FPTP

How does the Single transferable vote work?

- Each constituency returns several members. Usually 6.


- An electoral quota is calculated


- Voters can vote for as many/as few candidates as they wish.


- Candidates who reach the quota on 1st choices are automatically elected


- 2nd and subsequent preferences of votes for candidates already elected are then added to the rest of the candidates. This continues until 6 candidates reach the quota.

How does the Regional List system work?

- Each party presents a list of candidates in its chosen order of preference


- Voters have one vote which they cast for a party list, not an individual candidate


- seats are awarded to each party broadly in proportion to the votes cast for that party.

How does the supplementary vote work?

- used to elect a single individual


- each voter chooses a first and second preference


- if one candidate secures over 50% of 1st preferences, he/she is elected


- if not, all but the top 2 are eliminated


- second preferences cast for the top 2 are added, and the winner is the one with more votes

Define majoritarian representation

Any system which guarantees that a government or single individual is elected by an overall majority of voters. This applies to SV and AV.

What is a party system?

This is a characteristic of a political system which describes how many parties win significant representation. Systems can be dominant party, two party, three party or multi-party.

Some features and impacts of AMS

- Features: 2 choices, helps small parties, very proportional, retains the constituency system.


- Impacts: In Scotland it made a 4 party system (2 party coalitions until 2011 SNP majority), Wales has a 4 party system (2 party coalitions), GLA has 6 parties w/ seat.

Some features and impacts of STV

- Features: voters have a very wide choice, very proportional, voters can discriminate between candidates from the same party, retains constituencies and ensures that most people will have a rep from their favourite party.


- Impacts: Northern Ireland Assembly (five different parties gain significant numbers of seats), power sharing govt, local govt has multi party representation

Some features and impacts of the Regional List system

- Features: voters choose parties not candidates, each vote is of equal value, highly proportional outcome.


- Impacts: Six different parties gained seats in the European Parliament election

Some features and impacts of supplementary vote

- Features: each voter has two choices, winner is guaranteed an overall majority.


- Impacts: successful way of electing single individuals with a clear mandate

Arguments for retaining FPTP

- existed for a long time, widely accepted


- easy to understand


- strong MP-constituency link


- tends to produce single party, decisive government with a clear HOC majority

Arguments for abandoning FPTP

- unfair system which awards seats disproportionately


- large number of wasted votes (in safe seats/for smaller parties)


- votes not of equal value. those in marginal seats = very influential, those in safe seats = not


- discriminates significantly against small parties


- 2010 election result, clear winner not guaranteed


- clear majority = too much power to a party w/o majority of the votes


- MPs often elected on under 50% of the vote, govt always elected on minority


- turnouts are low = lack of support?


- out of step with the rest of europe

Arguments for introducing PR

- Fairer, votes are more equal, less wasted votes... higher turnout?


- proportional parliament... restored confidence in the political system?


- helps small parties. these probably represent minorities


- preventing a single party from overall control = reduces possibility of elective dictatorship


- multi party system = more consensus politics


- UK brought into line with the rest of Europe

Arguments against PR

- No vote on AV, little appetite for change?


- other systems more difficult for the electorate to understand/accept?


- too many opportunities for small extremist parties to gain a foothold in politics


- no party with majority = less decisive/weak/inefficient govt


- weakened/destroyed MP-constituency link