The British National Party will call on its supporters to vote “no” in a referendum to be held next year on changing Britain’s electoral system to the Alternative Voting (AV) system because it is fundamentally unfair to smaller parties.
The AV system, as proposed by the Liberal-Democrats, is actually even a greater distortion of the democratic process than the current first-past-the-post (FPTP) system, and the BNP would much prefer a party list proportional representation (PLPR) system.
According to a description provided by the Electoral Reform Society, the AV is used to elect representatives for single-member constituencies, much like the FPTP system, except that rather than simply marking one 'X' on a ballot paper, the voter has the chance to rank the candidates.
The voter thus puts a '1' by their first-preference candidate, and can continue, if they wish, to put a '2' by their second-preference, and so on, until they don't care anymore or they run out of names. In some AV elections, such as most Australian elections, electors are required to rank all candidates.
If a candidate receives a majority of first-preference votes (more people put them as number one than all the rest combined), then they are elected.
If no candidate gains a majority on first preferences, then the second-preference votes of the candidate who finished last on the first count are redistributed. This process is repeated until someone gets over 50 per cent.
From this system it is clear that smaller parties are disadvantaged and their votes will always be “redistributed” to other parties.
A PLPR system however, is widely recognised as the fairest and most democratic way of ensuring that votes cast are properly represented in a parliament.
For this reason, the PLPR system is in fact the single most commonly used election system in the world.
Party list systems are divided into “open” and “closed” systems. In a closed system, people vote for parties rather than people, whereas in an open system, votes are cast, at least theoretically, for individual candidates.
Most countries that use a PLPR system apply a minimum threshold of votes which a party must gain to in order to be allocated seats.
Translating votes into seats within a PLPR system can happen using a number of different formulae, the most common being the D'Hondt method (used in UK European Parliament elections), theSainte-Laguë method, the Huntington-Hill method and the largest-remainder method.
The current system’s inconsistencies are revealed by an analysis of the May 2010 general election.
In that contest, the British National Party poled 563,743 votes and won no parliamentary seats.
However, the Scottish National Party polled 491,386 votes and won 6 seats in parliament.
In Wales, Plaid Cymru polled 165,394 votes and won 3 seats in parliament, and is coalition with the Labour Party ruling Wales.
The Green Party polled 285,616 votes and won one seat in parliament.
The distortions become even clearer when the Northern Ireland election results are analysed.
Sinn Fein, for example, polled 171,942 votes and won 5 seats in parliament.
The Democratic Unionist Party polled 168,216 votes and won 8 seats in parliament, while the SDLP polled 110,970 votes and won 3 seats in parliament.
The obscure Alliance Party, meanwhile, polled 42,762 votes and won one seat in parliament.
From these figures it is obvious that the current system leads to massive distortions in representation of the public will as represented in Westminster. It is therefore not surprising that the Tories, Labour, and Liberal Democrats seek to either maintain the current system or to introduce an even more unfair AV polling method.