FPTP has the advantage of simplicity and the tendency to produce representatives with an obligation to safeguard the interest of a particular geographical area. It usually provides a clear-cut choice for voters between 2 main parties. It tends to give rise to single party governments and to a coherent single party opposition which can provide a critical checking role on the government of the day. It is also sometimes argued that FPTP by encouraging broadly based political parties discourages parties based on ethnic or regional divisions which are potentially damaging in a country with ethnic or regional tensions. It also tends to exclude extremist parties from parliamentary representation as unless their support is very geographically concentrated they cannot win seats. This contrasts with the situation under strict proportional representation, where a party with a fraction of 1% of the vote can secure Parliamentary representation.
FPTP retains a link between constituents and their Member of Parliament, who know who their representative is and have the ability to re-elect that representative or throw them out at election time. FPTP allows voters to choose between people rather than just between parties. Finally, FPTP is simple to use and easy to understand.
The disadvantages of FPTP are firstly that it can exclude minority parties from fair representation. An example was the 1983 British General Election in which the Liberal Social Democratic party won 25% of the vote but only 3% of the seats. FPTP has been shown also to lead to under representation of women and of ethnic minorities as compared with proportional systems. It can create whole regions of a country where only one party is represented in the legislature. It can also be unresponsive to changes in public opinion as a pattern of geographically concentrated support can mean that one party can maintain exclusive executive control in the face of a substantial drop in popular support. FPTP systems can also be vulnerable to gerrymandering i.e. unfair delineation of constituencies boundaries to give one party an unfair advantage.
PR systems faithfully translate votes cast into seats won and thus avoid unfair and potentially destabilising results which can be thrown up by first past the post systems. They give rise to very few wasted votes as almost all votes cast go to elect someone.
PR systems facilitate the representation of minority parties. They also encourage parties to nominate representatives lists, multi-racial, multi-ethnic, and with both men and women candidates, in order to maximize their overall support.
Because PR systems reward minority parties with a minority of the seats they prevent the development of single party domination of large regions of country as can occur under FPTP.
It has been argued that Governments elected by PR are more effective, as Government is not subjected to regular switches between ideologically polarised parties as can occur under FPTP systems.
The two main claimed disadvantages of PR systems are that they tend to encourage coalition governments, which are often regarded as weak and/or unstable ( although this is not necessarily the case as the example of Germany shows); and that they break or reduce the link between the member of parliament and the constituency. A further disadvantage of coalitions is that some parties are almost permanently in power, which encourages corruption.
PR systems can also give a platform to extremist parties, although this can be avoided by the requirement of a threshold such as 5% before a party gains seats in the legislature.
Australia is the only country in the world to use a system known as the alternative vote (AV). This is similar to FPTP in that elections are held in single member districts. However voters do not vote for a single candidate but rank the candidates in their order of choice. If no candidate has an overall majority the votes the candidate with the lowest number of first preferences is eliminated and the ballots cast for that candidate is examined for their second preference. The process is repeated until an overall winner emerges. This system appears to work well in Australia, encouraging a constructive process of bargaining “ preference swapping “ which tends to mean that parties must have a broad appeal to attract the second preferences of other parties’ voters. However it is as yet very unclear whether it would work equally well in societies with a less literate and sophisticated electorate. The system was used for 11 years in Papua New Guinea from 1964 to 1975 but was abandoned.
There are respectable arguments for both PR and FPTP systems, while the AV system also appears to work acceptably. However as indicated above a key feature of PR is that it is designed to increase the fairness of the election in accurately reflecting the popular will. In Hong Kong the introduction of PR has been done with the intention of increasing the unfairness of the election, as it has the effect of reducing by 2 or 3 the number of seats won by the pro-democracy parties, which would already be grossly under-represented without PR because of the large number of seats which are not directly elected. If movement towards a fully democratic legislature is continued this unfairness will gradually diminish, but under present official plans it will not be eradicated for many years.
Hong Kong Island 596,244 309,814 51.96
Kowloon East 483,876 263,300 54.41
Kowloon West 411,466 206,682 50.23
NT East 595,341 332,694 55.88
NT West 708,444 377,215 53.25
TOTAL: 2,795,371 1,489,705 53.29
SHARES OF THE VOTES:
Liberal Party 3.4 ----
* The first past the post voting system applies to the Election Committee, and an elector/voter is entitled to vote for as many candidates as there are vacancies and no more. In the case of the Election Committee, that would mean a maximum of 10 votes. The candidate who obtains the greatest number of votes will be elected, followed by the next candidate who has the next greatest number of votes, and so on, until all the vacancies are filled.