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11 May, 2010 14:22

Electoral uncertainly plagues Britain

Britain has a new prime minister - David Cameron has become the first Conservative premier in 13 years. He will lead a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats.

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has been appointed British deputy prime minister.

The ruling Labour Party and the Conservatives, who won the most votes, are now fighting to attract the third-placed Liberal Democrats to make up the numbers.

The situation has left Britain in a state of political limbo with many critics blaming the ancient electoral system for wasting votes and causing political deadlock.

That’s the great irony, as we struggle in a hung parliament situation caused by the first-pass-the-post system – everyone is getting used to the idea” political analyst Alex Stevenson said. “Of course, there is absolutely no doubt that under any other form of parliament, especially proportional representation, we would see many more hung parliaments. Personally, I am starting to get a taste for it.”

Former Conservative member of Parliament Keith Best says a flawed electoral system is to blame for this complicated situation, and polling reform must be a key task for the new government.

“Voters spoke and they decided they didn’t want any particular party to have an overall majority,” he said. “I know they wouldn’t have actually thought about it that way because it’s voting in each constituency, but that’s upshot of it. It is one of the faults of our particular electoral system that it takes a large amount of votes to elect every Conservative member of Parliament, far fewer votes to elect a Labour member of Parliament and almost a 100,000 votes to elect each Liberal Democrat member of Parliament. That’s because people vote in constituencies, and of course support for those parties is varied between the constituencies, which means about two-thirds of all the seats. You know the results before the elections was even called.”

Contrary to that view, electoral reform researcher Hywel Nelson thinks that under a system of proportional representation, the problem could have been avoided.

Under a proportional system nearly all of the votes count and help to elect somebody,” Nelson explained. “And the proportion of votes closely reflects the proportion of seats, which doesn’t happen in the current UK system.”

Meanwhile, in an attempt to end five days of deadlock, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced his resignation immediately. It will now be up to the opposition Conservatives to try and forge a coalition.