First Past the Post: Disadvantages

First Past the Post: Disadvantages

Lack of Proportional Representation

  • The First Past the Post (FPTP) system can lead to a distortion of the proportion of seats won compared to the proportion of votes received.
  • Smaller parties often suffer under FPTP as it becomes challenging for them to win seats. This can limit political diversity and reduce the representation of diverse interests within the democratic system.
  • Parties with a geographically dispersed support base struggle to gain seats under FPTP. This can discourage national parties and promote regionalism which might not be the true representation of the electorate’s wishes.

Safe Seats and Tactical Voting

  • In some constituencies, the outcome is a foregone conclusion due to the overwhelming support for one party – these are termed ‘safe seats’. Political engagement suffers as voters feel their vote does not matter in these areas.
  • FPTP encourages tactical voting, where voters cast their vote for a candidate they feel is most likely to win rather than who they truly support.
  • The system can lead to negative campaigning where parties focus on discrediting their strongest opponents rather than promoting their own policies.

Disconnected Representation

  • It can be argued that the FPTP system promotes disconnected representation, where MPs represent their political party in the constituency rather than reflecting their constituents’ views in parliament.
  • It often results in a ‘winner takes all’ scenario, potentially leading to adversarial politics and a lack of consensus building.
  • The system can lead to the formation of a government by a party that did not receive the majority of votes, undermining the concept of democratic legitimacy.

Wasted Votes

  • FPTP can result in a large number of ‘wasted votes’. These are votes for losing candidates, or votes for the winning candidates beyond the number needed to win, therefore considered ‘wasted’ as they do not contribute to electing an MP.
  • The system can promote voter apathy and decline in voter turnout as many feel their votes do not make a difference.

Difficulty in Implementing Coalition Government

  • FPTP system tends to discourage coalition governments as it usually leads to a single party achieving majority. As a result, nuanced perspectives from multiple parties may not be adequately represented within the government.
  • Working across party lines in the interest of broader representation is less likely to occur, discouraging bipartisan cooperation and consensus building.