Monday, 4 October 2010

Electoral Systems - part 1 - Majority Systems

Majority systems ensure that the winning candidate will achieve more than 50% of the vote in a constituency, though they don't guarantee that - in a country as a whole - the results of general elections reflect the proportion of votes cast for each party.

We usually distinguish three best known systems:

1. the Alternative Vote system
Under the AV, as it's often called, the voters rank all the candidates (whose name appear on the ballot) in order of preference. As in FPTP, candidates stand for election in constituency and one MP is elected in each area.
If any candidate receives more than 50% of first preferences in the initial ballot, then that candidate is elected.
If, however, no one gains majority of votes, the candidate with the lowest number of first preferences is eliminated and his second preferences are redistributed to the other candidates. This process is repeated, until one of the candidates receives more than 50% of the vote after redistributions.
Of course, voters are not obliged to indicate preferences on their ballot paper, or rank all the candidates, however in marginal seats second preferences might be crucial.
The AV is used in elections to the Australian House of Representatives.

2. the Supplementary Vote system

In this variation of AV system, voter have only two preferences - they can mark a cross in the first preference column for one candidate and a cross in second preference column for a second candidate. Candidates who win more than 50% of first preferences are automatically elected.
If this doesn't happen, every candidate is eliminated, but the top two (with highest number of first preference), who remain in the race. The second preferences from the losing candidates are then redistributed. Second preferences for eliminated candidates are discarded and those for the two remaining candidates added to their total. After this, whichever of the two remaining candidates has the greatest number of votes wins the seat. Which means that the winning candidate does not necessarily need to win more than 50% of the votes cast.
This system was used during London Mayoral elections i 2000 (won by Ken Livingstone, who received 38,96% of the vote in first preference vote, but has held 57,92% of the vote in final result. )

3. the Second Ballot system

As the name implies, in the Second Ballot system, the provision of voting takes place on two separate occasions. In other words, elections often have two rounds.
In the first ballot, voters vote for their favourite candidate on the list. If any candidate wins more than 50% of the vote, then he is elected. If not, a second ballot is held, usually few weeks later.
In some variations of this system, only the top two candidates (with the highest number of votes in the first ballot) are allowed to stand for the second ballot. In other, either all candidates are allowed for the next round or only those who crossed the threshold (by winning more than 20% votes, for example).
This system is in no sense proportional. It does, however, allow qenuin choice and encourages pacts between parties.
A version of the Second Ballot system is used in France and in Polish Presidential Elections.


A special election held between general elections to fill a vacancy, as for a parliamentary seat. In other words, by-elections are called whenever a sitting MP dies or retires from the Commons before Parliament is dissolved). They may also take place if the High Court rules that election law has been broken.
Once a by-election has been called, the same procedural rules apply as in a general election - with the exception that candidates are allowed a higher rate of expenses (with the limit of 100,000£, regulated by the Electoral Commission).
National interest in by-elections tends to be quite high since they are regarded as public opinion meters between general elections.

By-elections in UK since the 2005 General Election

John Cleese on Proportional Representation

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Resources & Reference

Politics (UK): News and Political Bloggers: "Adrian Michaels • Alex Singleton • Alex Spillius • Andrew M Brown • Andrew Gilligan • Andrew Osborn • Benedict Brogan • Bryony Gordon • Ceri..."

Greetings from under the fake palm tree!

Joanna Rajkowska on her new project for Guardian

Great news for Joanna Rajkowska fans! She's working on a new installation that will undoubtedly make Polish people do a double take on our approach to culture and public space. I love her grasp on the absurds of Polish reality - how she forces us to gain more self-distance, questions our tolerance, and brings humour to our streets (just by planting a single, fake palm in the center of one of Warsaw's biggest roundabouts).
Good luck with the minaret, Miss Rajkowska. I, for one, surely cannot wait to see how it turns out! 

for more info on Rajowska's works:

4. Mass media

my past posts on politics

Theoretically, mass media is the collective name for all popular forms of communication, which channel information and ideas (via publishing, broadcating etc). But how does it apply to our lives in reality? How big is influence that mass media have on our decisions and beliefs? And finally, what is the role of media in politics and how big is its impact?

There has been many theories on this particular problem.
In the 1930s - during the Golden Age of propaganda - dictators often believed that by manipulating media they can massively change popular views.
Later on, researchers such as Lazarsefeld argued that it's rather a matter of reinforcing people's opinion. According to 'minimum effect' theory, every voter have his own preconceptions and ideas and the media can only intensify these beliefs.
Finally, in the 1970, GUMG developed a theory that the media influence the electorate by determining what is seen and heard (the so-called "agenda-setting") and how. GUMG stressed the impact of outlook and background of journalists - according to researchers, journalists presented their news in a way that was determined by their upbringing and education, which resulted in the hidden bias.
But on the other hand, as pluralists often argue, people can easily defend themselves from biased media by exposure to different and diverse sources of opinion. If this particular statement is true, we cannot assume that biased news modify the views of electorate, even if for most voters the media (television, newspapers, radio) is the main source of information.
Nowadays, however, many of us still believe that the media must have an impact on our decisions (both as society, and as electorate). It is the common sense - more than 97% of homes have a television, some 50% of UK homes have access to Internet, nearly 60% of people over the age o 15 read a morning paper and huge majority of voters has at least basic education. Willing or not, we are exposed to a float of information, views and knowledge. We cannot ever fully escape - unless we choose to be excluded from today's society.
With such numbers, it is only sensible to assume that there must be some effect, some influence - even, if it may not be apparent in the short term. Why would we have so many different sources of information, if the news didn't have an impact? And finally, why would parties increase professional approach to media management if they were not convinced that the media fo matter in shaping the opinions of electorate?
All these factors must be taken under consideration. After all, there must be a reason for calling the media "the fourth political power".