Advantages and Disadvantages of Fptp System
First Past The Post, like other plurality/majoriAdvantages and disadvantages of FPTP systemty electoral systems, is defended primarily on the grounds of simplicity and its tendency to produce winners who are representatives beholden to defined geographic areas and governability. The most often cited advantages are that: It provides a clear-cut choice for voters between two main parties. The inbuilt disadvantages faced by third and fragmented minority parties under FPTP in many cases cause the party system to gravitate towards a party of the ‘left’ and a party of the ‘right’, alternating in power.
Third parties often wither away and almost never reach a level of popular support above which their national vote yields a comparable percentage of seats in the legislature. It gives rise to single-party governments. The ‘seat bonuses’ for the largest party common under FPTP (e. g.
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where one party wins 45 per cent of the national vote but 55 per cent of the seats) mean that coalition governments are the exception rather than the rule.
This state of affairs is praised for providing cabinets which are not shackled by the restraints of having to bargain with a minority coalition partner. It gives rise to a coherent opposition in the legislature. In theory, the flip side of a strong single-party government is that the opposition is also given enough seats to perform a critical checking role and present itself as a realistic alternative to the government of the day. It advantages broadly-based political parties.
In severely ethnically or regionally divided societies, FPTP is commended for encouraging political parties to be ‘broad churches’, encompassing many elements of society, particularly when there are only two major parties and many different societal groups. These parties can then field a diverse array of candidates for election. In Malaysia, for example, the Barisan Nasional government is made up of a broadly-based umbrella movement which fields Malay, Chinese, and Indian candidates in areas of various ethnic complexions.
It excludes extremist parties from representation in the legislature. Unless an extremist minority party’s electoral support is geographically concentrated, it is unlikely to win any seats under FPTP. (By contrast, under a List PR system with a single national-level district and a large number of seats, a fraction of 1 per cent of the national vote can ensure representation in the legislature. ) It promotes a link between constituents and their representatives, as it produces a legislature made up of representatives of geographical areas.
Elected members represent defined areas of cities, towns, or regions rather than just party labels. Some analysts have argued that this ‘geographic accountability’ is particularly important in agrarian societies and in developing countries. It allows voters to choose between people rather than just between parties. Voters can assess the performance of individual candidates rather than just having to accept a list of candidates presented by a party, as can happen under some List PR electoral systems. It gives a chance for popular independent candidates to be elected.
This may be particularly important in developing party systems, where politics still revolves more around extended ties of family, clan, or kinship and is not based on strong party political organizations. Finally, FPTP systems are particularly praised for being simple to use and understand. A valid vote requires only one mark beside the name or symbol of one candidate. Even if the number of candidates on the ballot paper is large, the count is easy for electoral officials to conduct. Disadvantages of FPTP
However, FPTP is frequently criticized for a number of reasons. These include: It excludes smaller parties from ‘fair’ representation, in the sense that a party which wins approximately, say, 10 per cent of the votes should win approximately 10 per cent of the legislative seats. In the 1993 federal election in Canada, the Progressive Conservatives won 16 per cent of the votes but only 0. 7 per cent of the seats, and in the 1998 general election in Lesotho, the Basotho National Party won 24 per cent of the votes but only 1 per cent of the seats.
This is a pattern which is repeated time and time again under FPTP. It excludes minorities from fair representation. As a rule, under FPTP, parties put up the most broadly acceptable candidate in a particular district so as to avoid alienating the majority of electors. Thus it is rare, for example, for a black candidate to be given a major party’s nomination in a majority white district in the UK or the USA, and there is strong evidence that ethnic and racial minorities across the world are far less likely to be represented in legislatures elected by FPTP.
In consequence, if voting behaviour does dovetail with ethnic divisions, then the exclusion from representation of members of ethnic minority groups can be destabilizing for the political system as a whole. It excludes women from the legislature. The ‘most broadly acceptable candidate’ syndrome also affects the ability of women to be elected to legislative office because they are often less likely to be selected as candidates by male-dominated party structures. Evidence across the world suggests that women are less likely to be elected to the legislature under plurality/majority systems than under PR ones.
It can encourage the development of political parties based on clan, ethnicity or region, which may base their campaigns and policy platforms on conceptions that are attractive to the majority of people in their district or region but exclude or are hostile to others. This has been an ongoing problem in African countries like Malawi and Kenya, where large communal groups tend to be regionally concentrated. The country is thus divided into geographically separate party strongholds, with little incentive for parties to make appeals outside their home region and cultural–political base.
It exaggerates the phenomenon of ‘regional fiefdoms’ where one party wins all the seats in a province or area. If a party has strong support in a particular part of a country, winning a plurality of votes, it will win all, or nearly all, of the seats in the legislature for that area. This both excludes minorities in that area from representation and reinforces the perception that politics is a battleground defined by who you are and where you live rather than what you believe in.
This has long been put forward as an argument against FPTP in Canada. It leaves a large number of wasted votes which do not go towards the election of any candidate. This can be particularly dangerous if combined with regional fiefdoms, because minority party supporters in the region may begin to feel that they have no realistic hope of ever electing a candidate of their choice. It can also be dangerous where alienation from the political system increases the likelihood that extremists will be able to mobilize anti-system movements.
It can cause vote-splitting. Where two similar parties or candidates compete under FPTP, the vote of their potential supporters is often split between them, thus allowing a less popular party or candidate to win the seat. Papua New Guinea provides a particularly clear example. It may be unresponsive to changes in public opinion. A pattern of geographically concentrated electoral support in a country means that one party can maintain exclusive executive control in the face of a substantial drop in overall popular support.
In some democracies under FPTP, a fall from 60 per cent to 40 per cent of a party’s share of the popular vote nationally can result in a fall from 80 per cent to 60 per cent in the number of seats held, which does not affect its overall dominant position. Unless sufficient seats are highly competitive, the system can be insensitive to swings in public opinion. Finally, FPTP systems are dependent on the drawing of electoral boundaries. All electoral boundaries have political consequences: there is no technical process to produce a single ‘correct answer’ independently of political or other considerations.
Boundary delimitation may require substantial time and resources if the results are to be accepted as legitimate. There may also be pressure to manipulate boundaries by gerrymandering or malapportionment. This was particularly apparent in the Kenyan elections of 1993 when huge disparities between the sizes of electoral districts—the largest had 23 times the number of voters the smallest had—contributed to the ruling Kenyan African National Union party’s winning a large majority in the legislature with only 30 per cent of the popular vote.