Moving to an alternative vote (AV) electoral system could lock extremist candidates out of office and ensue that the least popular politician has the least chance of winning according to an analysis by University of Warwick researcher Professor Dennis Leech.
He says: “AV would undoubtedly be an improvement on First Past The Post (FPTP) — which is just about the worst election method ever devised, because it does not require that the winner gain a majority. The winner can be elected on the votes of a determined minority of committed supporters even though he or she might be intensely disliked by the vast majority of voters. AV avoids this problem by requiring the winner to have a majority, if not on first preferences alone, then once the second, third and so on of the weaker candidates have been counted after they are eliminated.”
“FPTP has allowed extremist candidates to win local government seats in some areas. For example the BNP candidate was elected to represent a Burnley ward with only just over 30 percent of the votes because of a three-way split among the three main parties. A majority of those voters would probably have preferred any one of the main parties to the actual winner.”
Professor Leech points out that there is a very graphic example of how AV works, in the French presidential election of 2002.
“This was conducted under a runoff system somewhat similar to AV. The runoff was between the right wing Jacques Chirac and the extreme right winger Jean-Marie Le Pen (who had the support of a fanatical minority but was detested by the majority). The result was an apparently 80% landslide win for Chirac.”
Professor Leech also examines the view that changing to the alternative vote (AV) will be a move towards proportional representation — resulting in more hung parliaments and coalition governments. He says
- A voter’s guide to the alternative vote (telegraph.co.uk)
- How a Yes vote to AV could lead Britain to proportional representation (economist.com)