Coalition Torn Over AV Referendum As Date For Vote Is Set

After months of political wrangling, the House of Commons has finally passed a bill confirming that a referendum on the Alternative Vote (AV) electoral system will take place on the 5th May, 2011.

Unlike the simple First Past the Post System (FPTP), in which the candidate with the most votes wins, AV is a system of ‘proportional representation’ which allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference. It is designed to prevent wasted and tactical votes, the latter of which was conspicuous at the 2010 general election where many voters supported the Liberal Democrats in some constituencies in an attempt to prevent the Conservatives from achieving a majority. While FPTP often delivers majority governments, AV is more likely to bring regular coalition.

There are huge political implications that come with this referendum. On one hand, a ‘yes’ vote from the public would see general elections in the United Kingdom completely transformed, while a ‘no’ vote could make it very difficult for the Liberal Democrats to continue as the junior partner of the coalition.

Cameron and Clegg are publicly opposed over this issue, with the Prime Minister publicly stating in a recent speech, “On this one, I don’t agree with Nick”. He reminded voters that Clegg had previously described AV as a “miserable little compromise”. Clegg, on the other hand, argued that the introduction of AV is “a small change that will make a big difference”. Speaking on the same day as Cameron, he claimed that AV would make the Commons “a less tribal, a little less partisan, a little more open minded”.

Ben McCabe

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