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Proportional representation (PR) is an electoral system that looks at the interests of all citizens in an electorate or voting district. A political party that wins votes in a particular election is able to win a number of seats in the representative body. The number of seats won is directly proportional to the number of votes they got in the election.
In proportional representation, everyone is presented, and no wasted ballot. Many countries use this electoral system to ensure the interests of all are presented.
Let’s look at the pros and cons of using this electoral system.
1. Representation: It ensures all the interests and views of the public are represented in the government. PR gives room for minority parties to be represented as compared to other electoral systems where the majority wins.
2. Forms coalition government: PR forms a coalition government where more voters are represented under one government.
3. A high turnout of votes: Since all votes have a representative, many people will turn out to the polls because they know their votes count and no wasted vote.
4. Allow different voices to be heard: In PR, the independent parties get a chance to be elected and end the ruling dynasty. Their voices will be heard and more candidates will be given an opportunity to make a difference.
5. Wide popularity: Proportional representation is widely used by many countries due to its democratic nature of choosing leaders based on the interest of the public. Only a few countries like the US, Canada, India, UK, and France still conduct elections based on popularity voting systems.
6. Results in centrist policies: In PR electoral systems, one party may hold an absolute majority prompting the representatives to build a consensus through compromise. This results in reduced centrist policies.
7. Allow multiple candidate preferences: In this electoral voting system, a voter ranks the candidates on the ballot based on their preferences. The voter selects the first preferred choice, the second, and so on.
8. Common ground: Political leaders find a common ground for negotiations and govern based on the interest of the citizens.
9. Appeal to core supporters: PR ensure the parties appeal to their supporters rather than relying on a small number of voters for marginal seats.
10. Fair treatment: It ensures there is fair treatment of both the minority and independent parties in the parliament.
1. Unstable government: Having a coalition government is good but letting every individual’s views and opinion count can create discord which makes the government unstable. This forces the government to dissolve the coalition.
2. Weak coalition government: Proportional representation results in a weak and indecisive coalition government since every party wants to act in their best interest or get their own way with things.
3. Gain seats easily: A party that receives a high enough percentage of votes has a seat in the government. This makes it easier for extremist parties to gain representation seats.
4. Not good to compromise: Sometimes it is not always good to build consensus through compromise even in countries that have encouraged proportional representation. Sometimes the majority need to push through for reforms in the government.
5. No direct representation to communities: Seats awarded to various representatives are based on the specific constituency they campaigned for. This makes it impossible to tackle specific community or local issues.
6. Forced coalition: The PR process creates a consensual government that is formed through forced cooperation and compromise.
7. A coalition formed before votes are cast on a ballot: In PR elections, the public believes that coalitions are formed based on the first-past-the-post system under the big-tent parties but the coalition is formed before the votes are cast.
8. Lack of accountability: After the elected, the expelled party can retain office by finding a new coalition partner and this affects the accountability of the new coalition.
9. Complexity of choice put voters off: Voters need to have knowledge of individual candidates and party position before they cast on a ballot. The complexity of multiple candidate preferences can put them off.
10. Affects representative constituency: PR processes can weaken the link between the representative and his/her constituency.