Broken system? How the UK election exposed the flaws of ‘first past the post’

Only under proportional representation will the voices of the majority be represented in parliament

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Labour has won a landslide victory in the UK general election, winning 412 seats of the 650 seats in the House of Commons.

Yet, the party has nothing to gloat about, as it won only 34% of the total votes cast.

The Conservatives with 121 seats picked up 24% of the votes, while the Liberal Democrats bagged 72 seats with 12% of the votes.

The biggest loser was Reform, which, despite winning 4.1 million votes, secured only five seats. If the UK had a proportional representation electoral system, the party would have clinched at least 91 seats with its 14% vote share. Instead, it was left with less than 1% of the total parliamentary seats under the current first-past-the-post system.

What message does this election send to not only the UK but to many other countries?

The recent election shows once again that the first-past-the-post system, where the candidate with the most votes in each seat wins, is not democratic. This system produces a result that is unrepresentative of the national voice of the people. Candidates can be elected with only a small share of the votes while all other votes cast in the constituency are wasted.

The UK and other nations should emulate Sweden and adopt the proportional representation system. Malaysia should do likewise.

Only under proportional representation will the voices of the majority be represented in parliament.

Granted, proportional representation is not a perfect system. But at least the voices of the majority of voters will prevail.

The advantages of such a system:  

  • Discourages unfair results, as seen in the recent UK election
  • Makes gerrymandering of constituencies pointless
  • Reduces money politics
  • Facilitates the representation of minorities
  • Encourages voters to come out to vote as they know every vote counts
  • Restricts the growth of political fiefdoms and
  • May reduce voter apathy. Only about 60% of UK voters turned out to vote under the present system
The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.
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Benedict Lopez
Benedict Lopez was director of the Malaysian Investment Development Authority in Stockholm and economics counsellor at the Malaysian embassy there in 2010-2014. He covered all five Nordic countries in the course of his work. A pragmatic optimist and now an Aliran member, he believes Malaysia can provide its people with the same benefits found in the Nordic countries - not a far-fetched dream but one he hopes will be realised in his lifetime
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