First Past the Post System (FPTP)

The First Past the Post System is also known as the simple majority system or plurality system. In this voting system, the candidate with the most votes in a constituency is declared elected. Examples of FPTP in India include direct elections to the Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies. In the electoral race, the candidate who is ahead of others and crosses the winning post first is the winner. An overview of the FPTP system along with its benefits and drawbacks are given in the following section.

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Overview of the First Past the Post System (FPTP)

In the FPTP system, the entire country is divided into small geographical units called constituencies. Every constituency elects one representative, where a voter votes for one candidate. A candidate who gets more votes than other candidates is declared the winner. The winning candidate need not get a majority, i.e. 50%+1 of the votes. Some examples of countries that follow the FPTP system include India, UK, Canada etc. 

In the case of FPTP, a party may get more seats than votes in the legislature. In the 1984 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress party came to power winning 415 of the 543 Lok Sabha seats –more than 80% of the seats, but got only 48% of the votes in elections. Therefore, the Congress party won a greater share of seats than its share of votes. Moreover, this system generally gives the largest party or coalition some extra bonus seats, which is more than their share of votes would allow. 

Benefits of First Past the Post System (FPTP) System

Some benefits of the FPTP system are listed below:

  • Simple and familiar voting method: 

It is simpler than other voting methods like the Proportional Representation (PR) method, which is followed in countries like the Netherlands, Israel etc. India follows the Proportional Representation system to indirectly elect the president, vice president of India. 

  • Easy and Convenient:

It is easier to conduct the FPTP system than PR in a large country like India. Proportional representation is a complicated system and is suitable for small countries. Moreover, FPTP is easy to understand by common voters who may not possess specialized knowledge about politics and elections.

  • Choice:

The FPTP system offers voters a choice to not only select between parties, but also specific candidates. In a PR system, voters are often asked to choose a party and the representatives are elected on the basis of party lists.

  • Voters know their representatives: 

In FPTP, candidates know their own representatives, unlike in the Proportional Representation system. Therefore, in FPTP, candidates can hold the representatives responsible.

  • Smooth functioning of the Parliamentary government:

The parliamentary system requires that the executive has a majority in the legislature. The makers of the Constitution felt that the PR system may not be appropriate for giving a stable government in a parliamentary system like India’s. Therefore, the FPTP system helps the parliamentary government to function smoothly by facilitating the formation of a stable government.

  • Encourages voters from different social groups to come together:

The FTPT system encourages voters from different social groups to come together to win an election in a locality. In a large and diverse country like India, a PR system would encourage each community to form its own nationwide party. 

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Drawbacks of the First Past the Post System (FPTP) System

Some of the drawbacks of the First Past the Post System (FPTP) System are given below:

  • FPTP is not truly representative:

First Past the Post System (FPTP) System is not truly representative, as a candidate who gets less than half the votes can also win the election. For example: In 2014, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) led by the BJP won 336 seats with only 38.5% of the popular vote. 

    • Smaller parties have lesser chances of winning in the FPTP system. Moreover,  smaller parties are forced to align with the interests of national parties, which beats the purpose of local self-government and federalism.
  • Communal division of votes:

Due to the nature of the  First Past the Post System (FPTP) voting system, it may lead to the communal division of votes.

Generally, the working of the FPTP system results in a two-party system, but India’s FPTP experience is slightly different. After India’s independence, a one-party dominance emerged and after 1989, India has witnessed the functioning of multi-party coalitions. But the important feature of India’s party system is that the rise of coalitions has made it possible for new and smaller parties to enter into electoral competition despite the FPTP system.

To know more about other  Election of Government: Methods, go through the linked article.

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