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Day 10 – Q.1 Discuss the merits and demerits of the ‘first past the pole’ electoral system with appropriate examples from around the world.

  • IASbaba
  • December 7, 2022
  • 0
GS 2, Indian Polity, TLP-UPSC Mains Answer Writing
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Discuss the merits and demerits of the ‘first past the pole’ electoral system with appropriate examples from around the world. 

दुनिया भर से उपयुक्त उदाहरणों के साथ ‘फर्स्ट पास्ट द पोल’ चुनावी प्रणाली के गुणों और दोषों पर चर्चा करें।


Approach

Candidates can start the answer with highlighting FPTP, and simply as question demands present both side of arguments with reference to the different world scenarios.

Introduction

In the FPTP system, the entire country is divided into small geographical units called constituencies. Every constituency elects one representative, where a voter votes for one candidate.

Body

Merits of FPTP system:

  • Simple and familiar voting method: It is simpler than other voting methods like the PR method, which is followed in countries like the Netherlands, Israel etc. India follows the Proportional Representation system to indirectly elect the president, vice president of India.
  • Easy and Convenient: It is easier to conduct the FPTP system than PR in a large country like India. PR is a complicated system and is suitable for small countries.
  • Voters know their representatives: In FPTP, candidates know their own representatives, unlike in the PR system. Therefore, in FPTP, candidates can hold the representatives responsible. FPTP is currently used to elect members of the House of Commons in the UK, both chambers of the US Congress and the lower houses in both Canada and India.
  • Broad-based political parties: In severely ethnically or regionally-divided societies, FPTP is praised for encouraging political parties to be ‘broad churches’. In FPTP Malaysia, for example, the governing coalition is a broad-based movement, and fields Chinese candidates in Malay areas and vice versa.
  • Smooth functioning of the Parliamentary government: The parliamentary system requires that the executive has a majority in the legislature. The makers of the Constitution felt that the PR system may not be appropriate for giving a stable government in a parliamentary system like India’s.

Demerits of FPTP system:

  • Communal division of votes: Due to the nature of the First Past the Post System (FPTP) voting system, it may lead to the communal division of votes.
  • FPTP is not truly representative: FPTP System is not truly representative, as a candidate who gets less than half the votes can also win the election. For example, in 2014, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) led by the BJP won 336 seats with only 38.5% of the popular vote.
  • Smaller parties have lesser chances of winning in the FPTP system: Moreover, smaller parties are forced to align with the interests of national parties, which beats the purpose of local self-government and federalism.
  • Exaggerating ‘Regional Fiefdoms’: In some situations, FPTP tends to create regions where one party, through winning a majority of votes in the region, wins all, or nearly all, of the parliamentary seats. This has long been put forward as an argument against FPTP in Canada.
  • Encouraging the Development of Ethnic Parties: FPTP can encourage parties to base their campaigns and policy platforms on hostile conceptions of clan, ethnicity, race, or regionalism. For example, Malawi multi-party elections of 1994.
  • Open to the Manipulation of Electoral Boundaries: 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 as the smallest.
  • Excluding Women from Parliament: Women made up eleven percent of the parliamentarians in established democracies using FPTP. This pattern has been mirrored in new democracies, especially in Africa.

Conclusion

The larger point is if we artificially try to make the political system fairer, the natural competitiveness gets distorted and that is why India should generally prefer FPTP, both on the grounds of voters’ convenience and a natural competitiveness being allowed in the system.

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