Explainer: The First Past the Post voting system

First Past the Post (FPTP) is the voting system used in UK General Elections.

In a General Election, following the dissolution of Parliament, the FPTP system is used to elect all the incoming Members of Parliament (MPs) forming the House of Commons. Parliamentary sessions last five years.

MPs run for office in one of the UK’s 650 constituencies. They represent political parties or stand as independents. Voters select the MP they want according to the constituency they live in. The MP with the most votes wins the seat.

There are both positive and negative aspects to the FPTP system. An advantage is it limits the likelihood of extremist parties being elected to Parliament because the chances of such groups amassing sufficient votes in any one constituency are slim.

Polling Station - Beacon Road, Lewisham Deptford from Flickr via Wylio
© 2015 RachelH_, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio

One of the main disadvantages of FPTP is that a party could win the General Election on the number of seats gained but a rival party could have a larger share of the vote.

FPTP can also lead to tactical voting, which means voting for a party that isn’t the one you would initially go for in order to prevent another party from being elected.

The government is formed by the political party with the greatest number of seats compared to all the other parties. When no party has enough seats to form an overall majority, there is a “hung parliament”.

Parties sometimes form coalitions usually as a result of a hung parliament or in order to reduce the dominance of a particular party.

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