AV is not PR

The No To AV campaign has been making the erroneous claim that AV will lead to more coalitions.

The deciding factor in coalitions is the number of parties gaining widespread support. If you have more than two parties gaining significant electoral support, you are likely to end up having coalitions. This has nothing to do with a non-proportional voting system (AV is not PR). The current coalition is born out of a First-Past-The-Post voting system.

However, taking the current coalition as a model, much has been made of its breaking of manifesto pledges. Well, two things are worth pointing out here:

  1. The coalition didn’t make any manifesto pledges. Manifesto pledges are made by individual parties and are applicable in the case of one individual party forming the government on its own. If you get coalition governments, manifesto pledges go out of the window. Direct accountability to one party is one of the disadvantages of coalition governments.
  2. Manifesto pledges have always been broken by previous governments. I know, because I voted in 1997 based on a key manifesto pledge on the introduction of PR. In the event, that pledge was broken by a single party in power.

Unless manifestos are legally binding (and they can’t be – they are statements of intent), all the electorate can do is vote differently in the next election to punish the party or parties which broke their pledge(s). I write as someone who supports PR and coalitions in principle.

Previous governments comprising single parties have broken manifesto pledges, when they had absolutely no case for doing so.

Given the current AV debate, there is much confusion over the issues over government accountability. I just wanted to make it clear that this has absolutely nothing to do with the choice between a FPTP and AV voting system, both of which retain the link between voter and constituency alone. There is no greater element of PR or ‘risk’ of coalition involved with AV, despite the No to AV campaign’s assertions in its campaign.

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